« Ending Year 1 | Main | It's a blogger thang »

February 20, 2005

Odessa Harris, the lady with love

The truth of it was, we needed it. Craved it. And finally last night, we finally got it. A night up front and center at Manhatten’s in Toledo, listening to the Odessa Harris Group in an excellent four-hour escape into what went right about America.

Odessa’s quite the gal. At 68 she’s on the young side of middle-aged, with a sizzling jazz vocalist delivery that earned her a couple of years of road tours with B.B. King. Backing her, keyboardist Duncan McMillan, Keith Kaminsky simply superb on tenor sax, and the ubiquitous, indefatiguable Bob Rex on drums.

No surprise at all that Duncan was along. He’s the one who introduces Odessa as his adoptive mother, and helped her produce her long-overdue album, The Easy Life. Odessa in turn says she told Duncan’s real mother, Odessa may have Duncan as her adoptive son, but it’s okay if he visits the real mom once in a while. That’s when he's not out there on the road, at jazz places like Ann Arbor’s Firefly Club, or playing other venues in the Detroit/Toledo area. Or writing songs, three of which are on the CD.

Last night, another D.McM original, “One Hand on the Steering Wheel,” a showcase for drummer Robertus Rex. And love songs? You couldn’t count them all, from the lady who signed her CD last summer, “Love is forever!” And that right there was worth its weight in gold, in an age where all too many of these kids hammer away at negativity, in a world that’s a whole lot better than they think.

Maybe that's the appeal in the old standards, the American Songbook classics that helped shaped our musical world. Songs about love: people falling in love, out of love, wrapped up in love, suffering from it and then also consumed by it. A universal condition, told countless ways and by so many good performers — this time by a lady who says she once had to quit a temporary job because nobody could believe she was that positive. (She is.)

These are the moments which transcend mere background music. These are the good times, and four of the people who render them, standing up in front of strangers and performing because they must, it's the creative need to do so despite all setbacks. And when they succeed, as they did last night, they become the memories which sustain the soul.

Posted by Weaselteeth at February 20, 2005 12:53 PM


So true. We needed a break, and last night we got a perfect break. A reminder of the good things in life. And the Georgia Peach Teas didn't hurt! ;)

Posted by: naleta at February 20, 2005 02:10 PM

That last part refers to a drink we found there, replacing the Triple Sec in Long Island Ice Tea with Peach schnapps. The mixologist had never tried one, and swore that made it taste a lot smoother. Two Old Fashioned-size glasses of it, on the rocks, and you are very smooth yourself.

Posted by: WT at February 20, 2005 11:13 PM