Singer Freelon looks at Lena Horne's life as written in music
Nnenna Freelon is going to doing a musical tribute Saturday to Lena Horne, but says the other aspects of the singer's life probably are more important.
“It is a look at a person who stood for something,” Freelon says about the concert at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side. “But it was a life crafted in song.”
Freelon says her appreciation for Lena Horne (1917-2010) developed as she watched her on TV variety shows in the 1960s and saw a performer who seemed to draw the respect of people around her. She saw not only a singer, but a gorgeous, well-dressed woman who seemed to telling “a little brown girl about how she could dream a dream and make it come true.”
As Freelon added a few years, she began to see Horne getting involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and adding a social consciousness to an entertainment career built around Hollywood and nightclubs.
Horne spent about five years living in Pittsburgh, where she got acquainted with Billy Strayhorn and Billy Eckstine. Her music didn't take on their great jazz flair, but it “came out of the jazz age,” Freelon says, giving her a role in the era.
Adding a jazz look to songs that are not purely from that category is nothing new for Freelon. Her last visit to the Craftsmen's Guild featured her examination of the material of Stevie Wonder, featured in her album, “Tales of Wonder.”
She will perform with a trio of pianist Brian McCune, bassist Wayne Batchelor and drummer Adonis Rose.
The concerts also will feature the trio of Benny Green, who credits the group with helping him return to a band-leadership role. He admits he was coping with a feeling of rootlessness in the late '90s and early 2000s, when he was doing a great deal of duet work with guitarist Russell Malone, but not interested in leading a band.
When he went to Japan four years ago to do a recording project with a guitarist there, he was joined by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington — not related, by the way. He had played with them before in various settings, including with Peter in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, but this time, something clicked.
“It kind of jumpstarted me as a bandleader,” he says. “We understood each other and it made me want to write more.”
They have been playing as a trio since and their album, “Magic Beans,” will be out in February. It is made up of all original material and Green says “you can feel the restoration” in his work as a leader and overall musician.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates grind out extra-inning win against testy Tigers
- Roundup: Westinghouse to benefit from EU nuclear fueling deal; Consol again reworks offering for coal spinoff; more
- Steelworkers seek to keep working during talks
- Gameday: Pirates at Detroit, July 1, 2015
- Shopping season starts up for Penguins amid onset of free agency
- ‘Suspicious’ blaze in N. Belle Vernon puts cops on alert
- Guido: 48 years later, Armstrong School District down to 2 high schools
- It’s time to take a serious look at investments
- U.S. Steel, Alcoa lead June decline
- Gaffney leads Irwin Men’s Summer League into 25th season
- Donora woman wins state nursing award