Toronto jazz singer Larra Skye one of the few independent artists to strike a national distribution deal (HMV), performed two outstanding sets at The Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club in Vancouver Canada on July 28. She was backed by an ensemble consisting of Brad Turner (keys), Jon Bentley (tenor saxophone), Darren Radtke (upright acoustic bass) and drummer Bernie Arai.
Dressed in a short black sequin dress, the tall slender Skye, with her shoulder length brown hair occasionally sweeping across her face, opened with "The Only One I’ll Miss," before breaking into the fabulous "Turn Up The Stars." The later tune unveiled the prowess of sax man Bentley and offered a glimpse of what the audience could expect for much of the evening. During much of the evening, the audience broke into spontaneous applause acknowledging the many solos by the saxophonist.
Skye is at ease on the stage, performing within several different sub genres of jazz, including modern tunes reflecting traditional jazz standards, or a song such as "Comes Love," which began with a 6/8 Afro Cuban beat and progressed into more of a swing. She got down and funky with "All Or Nothing At All," a sassy song in which the singer teases her lover.
The singer’s cover of Bill Withers’ classic hit song, "Ain’t No Sunshine," is possibly the best vocal performance of the tune in the thirty-six years since Withers took it to number three on the US pop charts and number six on the R&B rankings. Skye possesses emotive vocals that suggest she is pulling from her own personal experiences. She sings with authenticity and unlike some artists who are more sedentary, Skye’s body language suggests that her very being moves within the soundscape of each song.
The deeper into the evening we went both the singer and her ensemble just seemed to be hitting their stride with songs like the ballad "You Don’t Know What Love Is." There was a hint of nostalgia in the air and one almost expected Humphrey Bogart to utter, ‘Of all the gin joints in town, she had to walk into mine.’ Bassist Radtke was so good I closed my eyes not wanting his solo to end.
During her second set Skye once again demonstrated she has many sides to her vocal personality with her romantic and impeccable phrasing on "There Will Never Be Another You," as well as her tender performance on the original composition "Everything." Skye turned up the heat with a sultry performance of "Pretty Little Baby," with a hint of, ‘Come hither young man,’ in her voice.
As my eyes glanced over the original oil paintings of greats such as Miles Davis and Billie Holiday adorning the walls, I could not help but wonder if in an intimate jazz club in Vancouver one was catching a glimpse of another rising star.