Rita di Ghent is a jazz singer - when she wants to be, a beat poetry artist, sometimes and always a contemporary musician, composer, lyricist and vocalist. I hear some influences from jazz and blues folks. She has some Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Ella going on. I even hear some Koko Taylor and Willie Mae Thornton. These are some of my favorite vocalists, vocalists whose styles are distinct and in their time, they were different and original. Rita di Ghent carries on that tradition - she is one of a kind. To witness a live performance is to fall in love with this sublime voice.
Arriving late, I walked into Chalkers Pub for Ms. di Ghent’s "L’incanto" her rendition of "I Put A Spell on You", and so she did, in Macumba (Brazilian voodoo) fashion. Ms. di Ghent was joined by Adrean Ferrugia (piano), Brendan Davis (bass) and drummer Rich Brisco. They performed many of the songs from the new album Sprawl Indigo . "Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood" was performed in a cool, easy going rap style, a hip hop meets bop tune with R&B rhythms swirling in the background. A song from the Rita di Ghent CD Birth of the Sprawl (Groove Productions 1999). The song "This Body" from the new album engaged the audience. The lyrics are poignant, a self portrait of an artist, a moving tribute to knowing and not judging. The sad life story of urban living "This Ain’t Livin’" a beat poet style of delivery that transitions to pure liquid gold singing, drawing tears of heart wrenching sorrow and soulfulness. Every line is delivered with truth. Ms. di Ghent could be making make believe for dramatic effect, but it’s very believable, these lines on life she would seem to have lived.
The set finished with a song from the new album "Bohemia" followed by a song from the first Birth of the Sprawl a tune that included the audience in a lyrical jam session with responses in harmony, What? How? A swinging ballad. Rita di Ghent sang the song with a soprano voice and in saxophone style she allowed her notes to float, to come out punching, billowing and sustained. The edges of the notes rounded and smoothed out, maneuvering the series of notes through her full range with lyrical grace. All of this, created a wow factor, playing a large roll in evoking a standing ovation. I haven’t seen an ovation in a club for quite some time. Bravo!
Ms. Di Ghent graced us upon her return to the stage with "Honeysuckle Rose". The high light fell on her pianist, Adrean Ferrugia - as she directed the audience to his incredible Waller like solo.