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Lavette not able to keep magic going in Jazz Appreciation Month

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 10:39 p.m.

Rising to the occasion can sometimes be a difficult task.

At a Jazz Appreciation Month concert Tuesday at the Cabaret Theater, Downtown, Bettye Lavette offered a powerful night of soulful, rthythm-and-blues singing, but it was nowhere near the level of jazz creativity offered by the three prior guests in the month-long celebratioin.

Even though her offering included a soulful version of “Nights in White Satin” and a look at Ringo Starr's “Ain't Come Easy” that was perhaps how the song shouid be played, her performance did not have the edgy zest of Nicholas Payton's or the strength of Kenny Garrett's.

Ultimately, there was a sameness to her work that took away the freshness. She sang with great power and heart, but songs like “The Word They Call Love” and “Don't That Make Me Crazy” were so much in they same vein they made her show — while entertaining — a bit repetitious.

There were some great breaks in the routine. Her version of George Jones's “Choices,” for instance, had a gospel preachiness that gave it a standout role. “My Man,” a song she did in her early days in Detroit, had the same kind of heart that lifted it above other numbers.

Her stage presence and performng style also made the show a great deal of fun. At one point, she talked about her current “eight- or nine-year Who the Hell is She Tour.”

She also joked at one poimnt abouit how “Bob Dylan wrote too many words.”

Physically, she moved about the stage in the aggressive prance of Mick Jagger. She has a toughness in her urban persona that allows — in fact, encourages — such a routine.

Lavette presents a good, hard-working show. Her style gave Jazz Apprecialtion Month another look at its “Diggin' Deep” theme. But whether it was entirely fitting in that category is still up in the air.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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