LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS - PAULA WEST "MAGNIFICENT!"
Photo : Pat Johnson
Feb. 3, 2009
LEE HARTGRAVE =
PAULA WEST 'WOWS' AT RRAZZ ROOM
PAULA WEST is a Master at musical control. Make no mistake on this. This singer is monumentally gifted. She has terrific insight to great standards – making them sound fresh and new.
West starts the evening with Darktown Strutters Ball (Sheldon Brooks) – Lyric: “I’ll Dance off my shoes when they play those Jelly role Blues!” With the support of the great band behind her “George, Mesterhazy, Pianist & Arranger, Barak Mori, Bassist, Jerome Jennings, Drummer and Ed Cherry, Guitarist – together really revved up the audience. I’ve never heard so many Whoops and hollers. The audience was definitely ‘’buzzed’.
Really, Really fabulous was a Bob Dylan song “All I Really Want To Do” put the zap into this song with a Reggae beat. I was hooked. It got huge applause from the audience.
A Hoagy Carmichael song “Bread and Gravy” that West found on an old Ethel Waters record --brings steaming humidity of the old South. I can just vision sitting on a porch swing on a warm night. See, this is what is so great about West. She not only sings to us, but also paints visual pictures as she goes along. It’s probably Voodoo magic – but she does take you to another time and place.
All you have to do is just sit back in this beautiful NiteClub and listen as Paula West molds every word and phrase. She doesn’t just toss them out to you. She brands them on your forehead with songs like “I’m In Love Again.” This is what real singing is all about. You can’t help being swept away in the lyrics as West takes us from one dimension to another with songs like: “My Romance” (Roger/Hart), “Everything But You” – (Ellington/James/George). And the wonderful “Nobody’s Chasing Me” – (Cole Porter). Lyric: “The Bull is chasing the Heifer, but nobody is chasing me!” West does little talking between the songs. Which is good – she spends all her time focusing on the music. She does toss out a few words in-between like: “Scream, Holler, Yell all you want. In Time!”
Another great thing about her new show at the Rrazz Room is the absolutely remarkable Band, led by George Mesterhazy. His talent can’t be surpassed. The arrangements are absolutely stunning. And it is really refreshing to hear a singer give so much credit to the band. Many times the names of the band are said so fast that you don’t hear their names. This is not the case with West. West repeats their names many times. She lets them have their well-deserved day in the Sun.
The opening night sported a lot of Celebrities. There was Wilkes Bashford and Willie Brown sitting in a booth with friends. The two former owners of the original Gramaphone Records were there, and Naomi of Naomi Antiques was cheering West on. Singer ClairDee was in the audience – looking great and there were several other singers in the audience including Denise Perrier, who will have a stint at the Rrazz soon. Famed publicist Lawrence Helman was flitting from table to table (he knows everyone) and always has a fun time. Trevor, the former manager (the best) of the now defunct Plush Room was also in the room enjoying the show.
In a few words: “PAULA WEST IS UTTERLY SUPERB!”
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-
(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts segment on PBS KQED)))
Follow Lee: Twitter/Famereporter