Contributed by Lynette Braxton
Whenever I have the privilege of hearing Rosemary George in concert, the audience and I seem to never want to leave after the final curtain. Her shows are celebratory gatherings of skillful musicians and friends offering scholarly tributes to the stars and composers that grace the operatic, jazz, and Broadway stages.
Rosemary’s delightfully seasoned voice incites the heart to take flight with memories of yesteryear. I often find myself reminiscent when exiting the theater; humming one or two tunes. Therefore, I was especially looking forward to seeing her perform once again, this time at NYC Baha’i Center John Birks Gillespie Auditorium on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 for her show entitled Broadway and All that Jazz.
It is a balmy New York summer evening. I rush from the subway to the performance space and am particularly thankful to sit down inside where it is cool.
This is my first time visiting the NYC Baha’i Center in Greenwich Village. It is a welcoming environment. Prominently hanging on the walls are decorative pictures of families, symbols of peace, and nature scenes that create a soothing, relaxing, “chillin’ out” atmosphere. There is a sense of fusion, harmony, and excitement as guests patiently wait in the lobby for the house to open.
Many are longtime friends, former students of Rosemary, and a few new acquaintances. I overhear her rich laughter waft through the closed auditorium doors. She is obviously on stage working some things out before the house opens.
I see the enthusiasm in guests’ faces as they also listen in. Their expressions are priceless. The anticipation builds.
Jazz Tuesdays producers Dororthy and Mike Longo open the doors and invite us in. The mood within the auditorium is intimate and cozy.
Pianist Carlton Holmes and bassist Donald Byron, Sr. walk on stage in silence and take their positions. They play an introduction bathed in soft lighting. The acoustics of the hall enhance every breath, note, phrase, and nuance of the musicians.
Rosemary enters with a radiating smile and regal ease as she takes creative ownership of the stage. She wears a classic look: a flowing summer gown with opera length gloves and mauve heels.
Her opening number “Them There Eyes” popularized by Billie Holiday is a vivacious piece that sets the tempo for the rest of the evening. She sparkles with her fine-tuned approach to rendering Broadway show tunes and jazz standards honed by a lifetime of classical training and international performances.
Rosemary and her combo mesmerize and tantalize us with their ability to make their instruments pulse with every note. The playfulness in Rosemary’s delivery and sassy approach to the lyric connects directly with her audience.
Her sultry delivery of “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine” and “The Man I Love” creates a soulful portrait of yearning women. The first set ends as Carlton and Don play a breathtaking rendition of “Yesterdays” followed by Rosemary’s soaring vocals on “My Funny Valentine.”
Rosemary George becomes genuinely transparent with us at the top of the second set. She shares that her partner, multi-woodwind player J.D. Parran recently had back surgery. In helping him through his recovery and in preparing for her upcoming engagement of Stupid Cupid at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe she admits to having little time to memorize lyrics for some of the songs in the second set.
Determined, she pulls out a couple pieces of sheet music and effortlessly carries us through the second act accompanied by pianist Lloyd Arriola. Her haunting, elegant, and sincere interpretations of “Memory” and “Send in the Clowns” transport us to a faraway place or maybe even a long lost love.
Once the final note is played, Rosemary and her fellow musicians receive a lengthy standing ovation.
We all gather well after curtain, sharing congratulations, presenting flowers, and taking pictures. It is apparent that the audience does not want yet another magical evening with Rosemary George to end.
For more info on Rosemary George