JANE BUNNETT with ZAKI IBRAHIM , AMANDA MARTINEZ , MUNA MINGOLE , TANYA TAGAQ GILLIS and KELLYLEE EVANS as part of GLOBAL DIVAS at Kool Haus, March 30. Tickets: $30. Attendance: 1,000 Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A slightly stuffy vibe permeated the Kool Haus last Thursday - prob'ly a natural symptom of fundraising (for a worthy cause, St. Stephen's Community House , mind you).
There was a silent auction of artwork, a glossy sponsor-logo-heavy program, bubbly hosting courtesy of Garvia Bailey, punctuated by reminders to donate, and, most importantly, a wealth of talented musicians performing some pretty sophisticated stuff.
Widely respected, multi-award-copping Jane Bunnett , musical director of Global Divas , got her Ron Burgundy on, demonstrating her virtuosity with the flute all night. She seemed quite content to use the playful meanderings of her instrument as garnish for the robust lineup of guest performers.
World-travelling South African singer Zaki Ibrahim caught the vibe. Commenting on how thrilling it was to be working with these wonderful ladies and joking about the atmosphere (and backrubs) backstage. Then she took patrons a little by surprise by the music that followed.
Backed by Bunnett's seven-piece Spirits of Havana band, the Digable Planets/Rascalz collaborator used her stunningly deep, husky voice for scatting, soulful belts and sung rap flows, moving from rap to samba to who knows what. A more varied Zap Mama, or a less shrill Nelly Furtado came to mind as Ibrahim danced and bebopped to Bunnett's gleaming gold flute.
Amanda Martinez , composer, performer and host of Jazz FM 91.1's Café Latino, who for her busyness and music-industry moving and shaking had Garvia calling her "the Oprah of Latin music," was a hit with the audience.
Were I Paula Abdul, I might say that even after Ibrahim's dynamite set, Martinez still managed to "make it her own." Her hypnotic originals - including the mesmerizing Diciembre - boosted an already solid voice/stage presence. Traversing several Latin styles, she moved from emotive depths to a tickling lounge-like lightness. Heavy piano chords, glowing coronet and fluttery flute solos iced the cake.
Sadly, it looked like about a hundred people left before or during the performance by final diva Muna Mingole ' - "the blue flame of Cameroon." I'm guessing it was due to lateness and unfamiliarity, since her penetrating voice and rousing dances didn't lower the night's quality for a second.