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In concert: Roberta Flack and the Roy Hargrove Big Band at Lisner Auditorium

By Mike Joyce

From whisper to wail, the back-to-back performances by singer Roberta Flack and the Roy Hargrove Big Band at Lisner Auditorium on Saturday night met or trumped expectations.

Flack, who got her start at Mr. Henry's on Capitol Hill in the late '60s, has long since mastered the art of turning large venues into intimate spaces with her soulful balladry and gospel-tinted piano arrangements. Her appearance at the 6th Annual DC Jazz Festival was as compact as it was crowd-pleasing, complete with imaginatively harmonized versions of "Killing Me Softly" and "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." In good spirit and great voice, she capped an engaging account of growing up in North Carolina with her own sly, sassy take on "Sweet Georgia Brown," nimbly supported by her touring band, and had no problem enlisting the audience's help when "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" demanded additional vocal harmonies.

The concert ended with a glorious bang, as trumpeter Hargrove led his 19 member ensemble through a wide swath of jazz traditions, from flat-out swing and bop-inspired excursions to Afro-Cuban romps and willfully discordant revels. Looking cool as can be in a white suit with matching sunglasses, Hargrove briefly evoked Miles Davis's muted lyricism and Dizzy Gillespie's hip virtuosity. But his artistic individuality was even more apparent in settings that required much power, range and finesse.

Revitalizing several familiar and original tunes from its recent CD "Emergence," the band adroitly accompanied vocalist Roberta Gambarini during a brief set highlighted by a poignant interpretation of "Every Time We Say Goodbye," featuring Hargrove on flugelhorn, and took full advantage of a formidable lineup that boasted trumpeter Greg Gisbert, saxophonist Bruce Williams and percussionist Pernell Saturnino.

By David Malitz  |  June 14, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Roberta Flack, Roy Hargrove  
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Next: In concert: Salif Keita at Lisner Auditorium


thanks for the review. Roy is a major talent.

Posted by: jhwpro | June 14, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

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