The Jazzcat

All Hail the Queen! Latifah at the Hollywood Bowl!

by on Jul.16, 2007, under News


Can you imagine that the queen of hip hop soul and

television could rock the Hollywood Bowl with jazz standards? Well, I wondered

as well. I went to go hear Walter Smith III earlier in the week and he told me

that he was in Latifah’s band along with musical director Christian McBride and

quite a few other cats that I know can blow so I decided to go and see for

myself and check it out. Actually, Dianne Reeves who just recently performed at

the Bowl herself for the Playboy Jazz festival said that she was really interested in going so off we went!


 Opening up for the Queen was this lovely little young lady

from Pasadena

who now claims the Bay area as her home. She goes by the one word name Goapele.

She was so sweet and there is a genuine honesty and a bit of nervousness

fueling her sound which makes our encounter with her warm and welcoming. People

seem so willing to embrace an artist who comes to deliver her craft and stays

grounded in the essence of her true self.


Goapele is a laid-back love song, groove and soul singer

with a soft peaceful spirit about her warm voice and her person. She sang a few

tunes and gave birthday blessings to one of her people who came out to support

her. I was waiting for her to soar after she opened up with some of her more

mellow material, but it was all mellow. I wanted so much more, I wanted to feel

her dig in, play with my emotions and ease me back down to earth. I did not get

that. I am not saying she does not have a nice voice, all I saying is that is

if she were a plane, she got me from LA to the Bay with not turbulence and a

safe landing.


Before the end of the set we went backstage to say hello to

Christian McBride, Laura Connelly, Dorothy Chan and a few other folks floating around

backstage. Christian was making some last minute changes in the music before

the performance. Got to get it right, get it tight! This was band that was hand

picked by the Queen and there was quite a bit of rehearsal time for this

engagement but, I heard that the rehearsals were a breeze. It was getting close

to show time so we made our way back just in time for the big intro and hit!


I was so pleasantly pleased by what happened next. I have

been to many performances and have witnessed many singers make their entry but,

there was something very special and different about this one. I have never

seen such a bright beaming glow of the perfect degree of confidence as she made

her way to the microphone. In just an instant before any words were spoken or

sung, you knew that you were in confident, competent hands and that you were

really going to be entertained.


Now let me say something about jazz and entertainment.

Usually, I am not fond of the combination and that is because the artist doing

the entertaining is like a salesperson, or a juggler or someone spinning plates

on sticks. We as lovers of this art form believe in the true essence of letting

the performance speak to you and for it self. We don’t need to be tricked,

fooled, hyped or set up to make sure we enjoy what we are about to witness.

That shows a lack of respect for an audience and an air of insecurity about the

person’s own ability to believe in the power of their own talent.


And then there was the Queen; beautiful, happy, graceful and

steeped in so much honesty along with the integrity in which it is presented

leaves you 100% satisfied. You really had the feeling of personally knowing her

as if she where one of you dearest friends. Queen Latifah made the Hollywood

Bowl her living room and all were more that welcome to make their selves at

home and comfortable for the next hour.


Queen Latifah took control of the bowl and made is seem like

she has been doing this for years and quite frankly, she has. Singing is how

she began her road to stardom and now she using those skills to enhance her

roles in movies and touch on other genres of the music. Her foundation has

already been set in place. She is not trying to convince you that she is the

next to be on the top of the jazz charts, she is just sharing all the talents

of Dana Owens, the one with the dreams and courage to make all the things in

her life come true.


When you listen to her voice you do hear her charming

qualities and characteristics all well within a more than palatable range. Her

delivery and communication with the audience is outstanding. I must admit, I

did have a big question mark floating around my dome before I was enlightened

by her charm but, now I see why she is so entertaining! It is her big ass

personality that is so wonderfully captivating.


She takes songs like “I Put a Spell on You” and you know that she listened to Nina but, makes them

expressly Dana and it works. Usually when you have more than one talent, people

tend to relegate you to the one that pleases them the most and not allow you to

thrive or blossom in multiple categories. Many times they are correct but,

certainly not in this case. Tonight we all hail the Queen for being a strong,

black, full figured fox spreading talent and love in all categories.


Everybody likes movies so a little cross promotion preview

of the song “Georgia Rose” from her July 20th release of her new movie

“Hairspray” was a nice way to sing and say go check out the movie. The song is

about a young black woman being proud of who she is and “Teef”, you know we are

proud of you! The girl is producin’ great content and getting paid from every

corner of the artistic universe. The Queen said, “Thick girls know how to put

it on your ass”. Ching Bling!


Many have approached the standards with their cheesy torch

renditions of the traditional classics trying to get you to buy the facade but

the Queen handles the standards with no fear, class and in a manner that says,

“I have always loved this music and I am going to sing, be myself and have some

fun!” Talent, confidence and honesty win every time!





For her encore, she performed Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life”

which she also sang impeccably for the film “Living Out Loud”. Queen Latifah

has one of those extraordinary careers and she not only deserves the world, she

is taking it!


LeRoy Downs


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