Kandace Springs at The Sun Rose

Upon what was my long-awaited first visit to The Sun Rose, the elegant and upscale, intimately neon-lit club located at the Pendry West Hollywood, I learned a fascinating, probably true fun fact. When the House of Blues, which stood at this location from 1994 to 2015, closed, its owners would only give permission for a hotel to be built if it included a music venue. Clearly, musically uplifting, spiritually transformative nights like the ones April 4-5 celebrating the release of jazz and soul singer/songwriter and pianist Kandace Springs’ magnificent fifth album Run Your Race were exactly what they must have had in mind when making a continuation of great music a requirement.   

Throughout the singer’s generous 90-minute set, the enthusiastic crowd had a lot of amazing elements of her artistry to focus on – soothing caramel voice, hip phrasing, keen and insightful storytelling, ability to swing her vocals and the room’s grand piano and create a warm retro vibe via the old school keyboard she occasionally visited center stage. It was also mesmerizing watching and hearing her seamless and triumphant camaraderie with her trio of rising star bassist Destiny Diggs and legendary jazz/R&B drummer Camille Gainer-Jones. So it may have escaped the notice of many patrons that Springs performed literally all but one tune from the new collection.

Such was her confidence in the fresh material that rather than draw more liberally from well-known, much performed tunes from her previous four releases (dating to 2016’s Soul Eyes), the singer graced us with performances of everything from the whimsical, optimistic “We’ll Find A Way” and the poignant, easy flowing “My Poor Heart” to the lush,  vulnerability-laced romantic ballads “So Far, So Near” and “If I Had My Way.”

Of her many compelling originals, hands down the one that pierced and echoed most through the heart was the title track “Run Your Race,” a haunting, eloquent parting message to her recently departed father, legendary session singer “Scat Springs,” sung with the nostalgic bittersweet joy of an angel taking flight. As expected yet still full of unique runs, fluttering notes and sonic surprises, Springs’ dreamy, hypnotic and richly emotional rendition of Billie Eilish’s Oscar winning “What Was I Made For?” shows just how perfectly adaptable Eilish and Finneas’ music is to a jazzy setting.

The handful of tunes from Springs’ other recordings were vibrant and edge-of-your-seat engaging as well, ranging from a lively, percussive romp through “Devil May Care” to a captivating, meditative version of “I Put A Spell On You,” which she launched with dramatic ivory runs more typical of a classical pianist. Though not quite back-to-back, she also paid lovely homage to One of the Women Who Raised Me (title of her 2020 album), the legendary Roberta Flack, with a heartfelt “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and a moody, soulful version of “Killing Me Softly with His Song” – which evolved into a lighthearted singalong on the wordless chorus. It’s rare to see an artist who keeps you eagerly anticipating her next note, groove or vocal run. In this beyond wonderful show, in Springs killed us ever so softly doing just that.