Review: PAULA WEST Is Blissful and Busy at Dizzy's Club

The electric singer has two more shows tonight, and two tomorrow

By: Mar. 02, 2024
Review: PAULA WEST Is Blissful and Busy at Dizzy's Club
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When I saw that Dizzy’s, on the fifth floor of the Jazz at Lincoln Center building, would begin the month of March with an engagement by sultry-voiced Paula West March 1 to 3, I was very happy.  I hadn’t seen the splendid singer perform in a long time, so I was eager to go and, of course, picked the opening night.  And, of course, I had to wait more than usual since February lasts an extra day in Leap Year.  But she was so sublime and so well-received and so in control that she was very much worth the wait. 

Paula West was accompanied by top musicians sharing the stage and focus, with long mid-song instrumental breaks that let them stretch out and solo.  The pianist work and arrangements of John Chin were a joy to drink in.  Bassist Sean Conley was especially effective setting the mood and tempo for Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.”   Drummer Jerome Jennings’s playing was versatile with some pow endings and subtle brush work; and he took the cue (or bait) to accent the line “Seven to midnight I hear drums” in Rodgers & Hart’s “Ten Cents a Dance.”  And the superb veteran guitarist Ed Cherry is a longtime colleague of hers who is especially appropriate to have for a gig at the club named for jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, as he’d played in his band for 15 years.  

Also appropriate — or just coincidental — on the inclusion for this first day of March was the set’s second song, “The Waters of March,” and the belated arrival of a bottle of (you guessed it) water, handed to the singer for sipping, during an instrumental break.  It’s quite a feat to get through and keep up with the notoriously tricky tune’s avalanche of English words for the Antonio Carlos Jobim melody.  (Out of curiosity, I just did a word count on the lyric: the total is 239!-- that’s more than Sondheim’s packed “Another Hundred People.”)  The quick clip and clipped notes for this number contrasted with other pieces that allowed the singer a more luxurious pace and/or more sustained notes.  While some of the program and treatments were laidback, that translated as quieter confidence rather than an overdose of mellow.  Paula West’s vocal M.O. should be O.K. for those who only tentatively wade in jazz waters, too.  She doesn’t twist and re-shape melodies with six degrees of separation from their sources or indulge in swaths of scat-singing so it’s all quite accessible to the jazz-cautious.  The band, however, does some heavy lifting into densely adventurous side trips.   

Although there wasn’t much “Paula patter” delivered between numbers, she did tell us that her favorite songwriter is Bob Dylan and the two samples of his oeuvre (“Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone”) were highlights, delivered with care and passion, fitting in just fine with the old standards and jazz, rather than feeling like outliers from another world.  And the world of music can always find a corner for Paula West.  

 Find more great shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Dizzy's online here.

Follow Paula West on Instagram and visit her website for more information on her upcoming dates and where to find her.


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