Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Send Her Victorious, Happy and Glorious

I saw the Queen last night and she is, as the phrase never goes, all that, and extra plus, and then some. Toronto Downtown Jazz caringly curated her to about 6000 people to celebrate the opening of their 25th Festival. (Actually, the Festival began with the immaculate opener Jordan John singing "When You Wish Upon A Star). In return, she sang Cherokee as her opening number, along with a team of pink-faced horn players, a churchy rhythm section and a four piece choir. She sang A Natural Woman and Think perfunctorily, even briefly slipped into the "You need me" bridge instead of the "Freedom" bridge in the latter...and then, sometime during Curtis Mayfield's Something He Can Feel, she actually began to sing. Daydreaming followed, with intense work by the vocal quartet. (Aretha likes the same Aretha songs I like!) I Say A Little Prayer was delivered delightfully, allowing the crowd to echo "Forever" for her.

Time for a little break. She gathered up her foamy white train and step-walked offstage. A few pink-faced solos were passed around. Because Aretha broke her toe falling on a pile of Jimmy Choo shoes last week, she now has an even bigger pile. "Jimmy Choo is good", she joked, " they sent them over and said now don't fall on them all."

She came back after about five minutes and offered some music from her new record, A Woman Falling Out Of Love. B.B. King's Sweet Sixteen gave her the chance to sing the blues and I heard intervals and embellishments that I've never heard any other singer deliver, not even Aretha. When she sat down at the piano, (I always think of Carolyn Franklin when she does, and I bet she does too), everything clicked into place. "Don't trouble the water", chanted the ladies. And Aretha told us what to ask for when we're down and out, when we're on the street. And the ladies sang "Glory Hallelujah" and I looked around at all the women holding cameras over their heads and Muslim families and gay men hugging and noisy Haitians and old pastel jazz fans, and I thought "Here it comes", and she improvised some church lines, and she shook her head, and closed her eyes so that long Wonder Woman wig shimmered under the spotlight, and she ran up the piano with some Ray Charles filigrees and then she sang that word she'd been waiting all night long to sing: so high it was hard to even distinguish it from the other overflowing melismatic decorations: "Jeeeeeee-su-huss".

After that she was in high gear. She ran the opening piano motif of her splendid version of Sam Cooke's You Send Me, the horns took it up, the Haitians started talking excitedly about "Sam Kook", and at this point I noticed a cop dancing. Aretha announced Freeway of Love, complimented the crowd, and commenced her exit from the stage, which lasted about 15 minutes. I walked away in a blue surge of happy people in a proud city on the first Friday of summer. The true effects of authentic royalty were everywhere abundant. Video Courtesy of friendend on youtube.

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