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Ledisi's dazzling show illuminates at Jazz Alley
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Ledisi's dazzling show illuminates at Jazz Alley

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Ledisi
December 17
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley


New Year's Eve fireworks came early to Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, in the form of Ledisi who put on a dazzling show filled with loud bangs, moments of sheer illumination, and a colorful array of original and nostalgic songs.

The four-time Grammy nominee played to a near sold-out audience on the first of four continuous nights at the intimate club, opening with "Get to Know You" from her 2007 album, Lost & Found. This girl was in control from the minute she hopped on stage, knowing how to work a crowd and knowing exactly what kind of night she wanted it to be.

"This is my show!" the Bay Area native exclaimed to everyone before the start of the second number. "I do what I want to do. I ain't afraid of any of you." With that, she glided beautifully into "Everything Changes" from her newest effort, this year's critically patted Turn Me Loose. She next performed the title track from that record, wiggling and swaying enthusiastically in front of her microphone.

Wearing a dark sand-colored long skirt, black top and matching tailored jacket with a two-toned hairdo, Ledisi physically looked the part of a unique, independently-minded musician. And when she opened her mouth, out drifted these amazing sounds and pitches that paralleled the best in her field, from Lalah Hathaway to Shirley Caesar to Gladys Knight. Her robust vocals were splendid on "Higher Than This," in which she unabashedly jerked her neck and shrugged her shoulders - she was in party mode, and that vibrant energy lifted some concertgoers off their seats to dance and clap along.

"Y'all want a show?" asked the R&B-gospel diva, and then went right into a church-like number, requesting everybody stand up and shift their bodies from side to side with their hands in the air, and then she brought it all to a close by scatting the final notes.

Not every moment was high energy - Ledisi displayed a calmer side on "Best Friend" and "Alright," a song written shortly after she'd almost given up on her dream.

"And now it's time for Christmas," Ledisi said warmly, then sang a silky version of "What a Wonderful World," reaching way up into her vocal range with ease, as her musical director Tony Walker provided a subtle keyboard backdrop. Two more offerings from her CD It's Christmas were included on the set list - a funky rendition of "Silent Night" was slightly weird, yet I enjoyed the snare drum and bass plucking in the background, and her inspirational approach to "Children Go Where I Send Thee" was quite nice.

A highlight of the evening was an acoustic delivery of "Love Never Changes," a track co-written by fellow Oakland native Raphael Saadiq that appears on Turn Me Loose. Ledisi finished her 75-minute appearance with "Goin' Through Changes," reminding the crowd that it earned her one of two Grammy nods this year (she was nominated twice in 2007, as well).

With a self-assured attitude and a bubbly-yet-bold persona, one could mistake Ledisi for being overconfident. But there's a degree of skill and precision involved in what she does, and an obvious deep love for the craft, that's seldom found in young performers today. The bottom line is this woman can strut all she wants; she has the goods to back it up.

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