Live Review: Clarice Turnbull

GloriaTurnbull 2Stage 72 / The Triad
New York, NY
Contact: clariceturnbull[at]aol.com
Web: http://clariceturnbull.com
The Players:
Clarice Turnbull, vocals; Naoko Ono, piano; Christopher Hall, bass; Michael Carpenter, saxaphone; Fred Wells, drums.

Material: More accurately described as a song stylist than a straight-ahead jazz vocalist, songstress Clarice Turnbull infuses beloved standards with her own personal flavor. With more of an emphasis on phrasing and style as opposed to vocal pyrotechnics she accentuates the silver lining of the standard repertoire in stark contrast to the dark underbelly of torch singer fare. She connects with her native Virgin Islands in her medley of Bob Marley’s “One Love” and “Three Little Birds,” while capturing the crowd with her infectious renditions of “Route 66” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.”

Musicianship: Turnbull’s sultry alto voice shines best in up-tempo numbers. Her vocal strengths are served better by shorter, more clipped phrases though she does have a good working vibrato. She chooses repertoire that is a good match for her sound and technical abilities. First rate jazz pianist Naoko Ono glides effortlessly through the material (though reggae is not her forte, everything else seems to be). Each band member is given the chance to showcase individually and overall they provide strong support.

Performance: One of the more outstanding traits Turnbull demonstrated was her abundant enthusiasm for the music and audience. While her warm demeanor and obvious interest in connecting with her audience was apparent, at times the invisible line between performer and audience member became blurred. It’s important for a performer to show their human side and gratitude toward fans, but the separation between performer and spectator should be clear at all times no matter who you know in the audience. During intermission African dance troupe “Kaoka,” led by artistic director Fanzy MonguehyT., was a very entertaining and colorful respite between sets and although there was no specific tie-in to her music, the choice on Turnbull’s part demonstrated her good taste and sense of the theatrical.

Summary: Clarice Turnbull is a self-possessed and classy performer. It’s evident that she has deep respect for the material as well as her audience. Maintaining that divide between performer and spectator won’t take away from her attempt to bring listeners closer. Shaving down some of the patter and letting more of the music speak will go a long way.

– Ellen Woloshin