Last August, Prince protégées LiV Warfield and Shelby J. tore up City Winery with a week of hot shows with the New Power Generation and the NPG Hornz, including one extremely late night in which they joined their mentor for a rip-roaring set. More recently, Warfield has been making a name for herself on the talk-show circuit in support of her brand-new solo record, The Unexpected (Kobalt, February 2014), knockin’ ’em dead performing “Why Do You Lie?” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, “Soul Lifted” on The Arsenio Hall Show, and “BlackBird” on Sway’s Universe. (She’s also scheduled to appear on Late Show with David Letterman on April 4.) The Peoria-born singer takes a giant step forward with the explosive new album, the follow-up to her soulful, intimate 2006 debut, Embrace Me, the horn section lifting her to new levels on ten songs bookended by brief instrumentals. On the title track, which was written for her by His Most Royal Purpleness — Prince also cowrote the seven-minute “Your Show” with his former backup singer and serves as the album’s executive producer — Warfield and the NPG Hornz channel Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company; the record is also highlighted by the bold hooks of “Why Do You Lie?,” the foot-stomping blues of “BlackBird,” the pure funk of “Lena Blue,” and the jazzy grandeur of “Freedom.” Warfield will be headlining B. B. King’s on April 6 with the NPG Hornz in what promises to be an electrifying evening. She’ll also be sticking around after the show to meet fans and sign copies of her CD.
twi-ny: You were born and raised in Peoria, went to college and recorded Embrace Me in Portland, Oregon, and are now based in New York City. How has place made a difference in your life and career?
LiV Warfield: Every place that I have been has been so instrumental in who I am as an artist. Peoria provoked interest in music but Portland allowed me to free my talent and discover who I was musically. Now that I live in New York it has opened up so many doors for me and people have welcomed my music and artistry.
twi-ny: It’s been eight years between your first solo record, Embrace Me, and The Unexpected. Why so long?
LW: What took so long is that I had to learn a lot. I was given the opportunity to work with Prince not long after Embrace Me and he has taught me so much. I learned how to write, arrange, and really become a better artist. The wait was worth it to me and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.
twi-ny: How has it been going from backup singer to being the central attraction again?
LW: Going from a background singer to the central attraction is definitely a different experience but I am now better prepared for what’s to come.
twi-ny: You have a justly celebrated powerhouse voice; why do you open the new record with an instrumental? Is that just a tease?
LW: I wanted to do something unexpected with the open and close. I also wanted it to be very musical and allow you to go on a journey with me.
twi-ny: In “Fly,” you sing, “People don’t define me / I need to be who I need to be.” As your career takes off, has it been difficult to break out of conventional categorizations, especially since your music embraces so many different genres?
LW: Yes, it has been difficult because people do want to box you in. I want to make good music for all to enjoy. I understand that people need categories but my hope is that people will be open and just enjoy it. There is something for everyone on The Unexpected.
twi-ny: What’s the coolest thing about working with and getting to know Prince?
LW: The coolest thing about working with Prince is that I can call him my mentor and I can talk to him whenever I want. I am so thankful for him and sometimes it’s hard to believe.
twi-ny: Is there a specific meaning behind why you capitalize the “V” in your first name (LiV)?
LW: There is significance to it. I work with an amazing group of musicians and I am part of a collective unit. It’s not just about me . . . it’s about the unit. The small “i” reminds me to keep things in perspective.
Blue Note Jazz Club, 131 West Third St., 212-475-8592
Highline Ballroom, 431 West 16th St., 212-414-5994
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., 212-997-4144
Smalls Jazz Club, 183 West Tenth St., 212-252-5091
Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Ave. 718-963-3369
The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd St., 212-997-1003
IFC Center, 212-924-7771
The Blue Note has been bringing the sweet sounds of jazz to Greenwich Village for more than three decades, but this month is merely the third year of the Blue Note Jazz Festival, which spreads the American musical form across the city. More than one hundred events are taking place at such venues as the Highline Ballroom, Brooklyn Bowl, B.B. King’s, Smalls Jazz Club, Town Hall, and the Blue Note itself, with a wide range of performers that includes rock, pop, and folk in addition to jazz and blues and even spoken word, comedy, and film. The lineup is once again impressive, from old-timers to young up-and-comers, from legendary names to lesser-known groups worthy of more attention. Here is just a mere sprinkling of the talent involved: Gato Barbieri, the Joshua Redman Quartet, Jerry Douglas, Willie Colón, Saul Williams, Delbert McClinton, the Rebirth Brass Band, McCoy Tyner & the Latin All-Stars, Paul Mooney, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Buffy Sainte-Marie, John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension, Buddy Guy, Wyclef Jean, Leon Redbone, Yasiin Bey, Willie Nile, Roy Haynes, and Garland Jeffreys. On June 22, Magic Man Sam Waymon will pay tribute to his sister, Nina Simone, with a free show at Lucille’s. On June 24, the IFC Center will host a screening of Bertrand Tavernier’s ’Round Midnight in honor of what would have been Dexter Gordon’s ninetieth birthday, followed by a panel discussion with Ashley Kahn, Maxine Gordon, Bruce Lundvall, Michael Cuscuna, and Jimmy Heath. On June 28, Wayne Shorter will celebrate his eightieth birthday at Town Hall with his quartet (pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade) in addition to such friends as ACS: Allen Carrington Spalding and Sound Prints (consisting of Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas). And that’s just a small taste of what will be going on all month.
Last year, the Blue Note celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with the inaugural Blue Note Jazz Festival. The musical celebration is back June 10-30, with more than fifty shows at various New York City venues. Things take off in a big way on June 10, with Kate Davis playing the Blue Note Brunch, the Harlem Gospel Choir hosting its regular Sunday brunch at the B.B. King Blues Club, Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio at the Blue Note, and Curumin and Céu at the Highline Ballroom. Among the plethora of exciting highlights are the Legendary Jimmy Scott at the Blue Note on June 11, Savion Glover with such special guests as McCoy Tyner, Jack DeJohnette, and Roy Haynes at the Blue Note June 12-17, Bootsy Collins at B.B. King’s on June 13, Little Richard at B.B.’s and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) at the Apollo Theater on June 14 [ed. note: The Yasiin Bey show has been moved to October 28], Kathleen Battle with Cyrus Chestnut at the Blue Note June 19, Toshi Reagon & Allison Miller Present “Celebrate! The Great Women of Blues and Jazz” at the Highline Ballroom on June 21, Africa/Brass: McCoy Tyner & Charles Tolliver Big Band at the Blue Note June 21-24, the Rolling Stones Project ft Tim Ries with Bernard Fowler & Darryl Jones of the Rolling Stones at the Highline on June 22, An Evening with Leon Redbone at the Abrons Arts Center on June 23, Stanley Clarke & George Duke at B.B. King’s on June 26, Meshell Ndegeocello at the Highline on June 28, Cassandra Wilson at the Blue Note June 28-30, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars at the Highline on June 29, and the Adam Deitch Project closing things out as part of the Blue Note’s Late Night Groove Series on June 30.
The Festival of Lights and Christmas overlap this year, so it only seems appropriate that the Maccabeats, the all-male a cappella group from Yeshiva University, will be performing a special Hanukkah concert on Christmas night. Since 2007, the Yeshiva bochers have been singing traditional songs and parodies that follow Torah u-Madda, a combination of secular and religious knowledge. This philosophy is central to their debut album, Voices from the Heights (Sameach Music, March 2010), which includes versions of such prayers as “Aleinu,” “Oseh Shalom,” and “Lecha Dodi” (set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”), the Israeli national anthem, “HaTikva,” and such English-language songs as “Go the Distance,” “Bad Day,” and a cover of Matisyahu’s “One Day.” But the college boys might be best known for their inventive reimagining of Justin Bieber’s (and Taio Cruz’s) “Dynamite,” transforming it into the Hanukkah sensation “Candlelight.” (Ever on the cutting edge, they’ve also turned OneRepublic’s “Good Life” into “Book of Good Life” and Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” into “Purim Song.”) Chanina Abramowitz, David Block, Michael Greenberg, Noey Jacobson, Josh Jay, Nachum Joel, Ari Lewis, Mordy Prus, Jeff Ritholtz, Buri Rosenberg, Meir Shapiro, and Yonatan Shefa will be at B. B. King’s in Times Square on December 25, bringing a little Hanukkah into your Christmas. As they sing on their new cover of Matisyahu’s “Miracle,” “New York City, wanna flex your muscle.”
A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS
B. B. King Blues Club & Grill
237 West 42nd St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Monday, December 19, and Tuesday, December 20, $39.50 - $99, 8:00
If you’re looking for something a little different this holiday season, you might not find anything stranger than “A John Waters Christmas,” taking place at B. B. King’s on December 19 and 20. The one and only John Waters, director of such films as Pink Flamingos, Polyester, and Hairspray and author of such books as Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste, and Art: A Sex Book, will be presenting his luridly delicious one-man show for one performance only. General admission tickets are $39.50, but if you go for the $99 VIP seats, you’ll get to meet the master himself after the show. To get in the mood, you might want to first check out the 2004 CD A John Waters Christmas, which contains a dozen of Waters’s favorite kitschy holiday tunes, and read his essay “Why I Love Christmas,” which begins: “Being a traditionalist, I’m a rabid sucker for Christmas. In July I’m already worried that there are only 146 shopping days left. ‘What are you getting me for Christmas?’ I carp to fellow bathers who haven’t even decided what to do for Labour Day. As each month follows, I grow more and more obsessed. Around October I startle complete strangers by bursting into my off-key rendition of ‘Joy to the World.’ I’m always the Little Drummer Boy for Halloween, a grouchy one at that, since the inconsiderate stores haven’t even put up their Christmas decorations yet. November 1 kicks off the jubilee of consumerism, and I’m so riddled with the holiday season that the mere mention of a stocking stuffer sexually arouses me.” Don’t say you haven’t been warned.