BWW Reviews: Savion Glover Steals the Spotlight at ELLINGTON AT CHRISTMAS
Christmas was in the air at the Apollo Theater on Saturday during the performance of Ellington at Christmas, which was dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, with a small candle and flower memorial set up outside of the theater. In a wonderful showcase of local talent, the David Berger Jazz Orchestra took the stage, front and center, and cheerfully rung in the holiday season, with the help from a number of talented guest performers.
The first half of the show was Ellington's jazz interpretation of the Nutcracker Suite, performed smoothly by the David Berger Jazz Orchestra. This lively band took control of the stage and, along with the warm red and green lights on the stage, set a relaxing and happy mood. It was a joy to hear my favorite Christmas classics arranged by Duke Ellington played to these jazz instruments, which gave the songs a soft, smooth feel that certainly got the audience in the spirit of Christmas.
The conductor was a joy to watch, energetic and bouncing in time to the music all while snapping his fingers along to the beat. The pianist, as well, clapped and tapped his piano during rests from playing, smiling at his fellow musicians as they skillfully played the saxophone, trumpet, and trombones.
Keith David, the first of three vocal performers, had a strong voice, marvelously performing Come Sunday in Act 2. Lizz Wright was stunning in a shimmering white ball gown, and her alto Gospel voice was magnificent, making her an audience favorite as she dazzled us all. Priscilla Baskerville's beautiful high notes gave her the voice of an angel and completely wowed the audience. The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir unfortunately underwhelmed. With a strong, operatic sound, all of the singers seemed to be trying to out-sing one another. They provided good support as back-up singers to the amazing soloists, but, on their own, were hard to understand due to lack of enunciation.