Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Wednesday, August 29, 20007, 8:00 pm
Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA
There are certain expectations that we have about life. In one fell swoop, Nancy Wilson destroyed all those notions about aging, beauty, divas, birthdays and more.
Last night, at the Hollywood Bowl, Wilson appeared on stage to celebrate her 70th birthday in sheer perfection. Everything about her (and the evening for that matter), from the superficial to the deep and complex, was perfect: her hair, her wardrobe, her make-up, her charm, her cadence, her stride, her smile, her voice, her band, her selection of songs, the brief stories she told, her spontaneous laughter during a song, and all her friends who performed were all perfect.
At 70, that is not our expectation. Where were the wrinkles….at least one? Where was the little tell-tell signs that she’d let herself go….just a little? Where was the person who had to help her across the stage? Where were the cracks in her voice indicating she’d lost a bit of her trademark sound? And, at the very least, where was the traditional birthday song, the candles, the cake and the gifts for the birthday girl?
There was none of that. At 70, celebrating her birthday in grand style and high fashion, Wilson completely flipped the script. Instead of receiving gifts, Wilson showered the near-capacity crowd with gifts far that went far beyond her awesome vocal talent. Wilson showed us that at 70:
• Class never goes out of style
• You ARE defined by your friends, choose wisely
• Make good career choices early and stay the path
• Grace is sexy
• You can still be the most beautiful woman in the room, even in a crowd of 18,000 people
• Living well is not only is the best revenge but it also looks damn good too!
• A true Diva is one someone who not only starts at the top of her game but someone that remains there.
Wilson’s celebration included an impressive list of extraordinary artists who were at times accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl’s Big Band (HBBB). Because all the performances were phenomenal, there is no way I can comment on each and keep this article under a zillion words. This is one of those times when the saying, “You had to have been there” is most appropriate. Therefore, the next best thing I can suggest is that you purchase the complete discography of each of the artists below. Here are the songs they performed last night:
Ernie Andrews & HBBB – “From This Moment On”, “You Are So Beautiful”
Regina Carter – “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”
Nnenna Freelon & HBBB – “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “If I Had You”
Kurt Elling & HBBB – “Close Your Eyes”, “My Foolish Heart”
Patti Austin & HBBB – “Stairway to Paradise”, “Lady Be Good”
Nancy Wilson, Terence Blanchard & Tom Scott – “Save Your Love For Me”, “Masquerade”
Nancy Wilson & James Ingram – “Wish You Were Here”
James Ingram & HBBB – “100 Ways”
Ramsey Lewis Trio – “To Know Her Is To Love Her”, “Sun Goddess”
Nancy Wilson & Ramsey Lewis – “God Bless the Child”
Natalie Cole & HBBB – “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life”, “Let There Be Love”
Nancy Wilson & HBBB – “It Don’t Mean A Thing”, “Guess Who I Saw Today”, & A Medley of Wilson’s Hits: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, “Save Your Love For Me”, “How Glad I Am”, “When Did You Leave Heaven”, “I’ve Never Been to Me”, “Face it Girl”, “This Masquerade Is Over”, “You Can Have Him”, “The Greatest Performance of My Life”, “Day in, Day Out”.
Arsenio Hall, who was discovered by Nancy Wilson, hosted this celebration.
Nancy Wilson Trio: Llew Matthews, piano; Roy McCurdy, drums; John Belzaguy, bass
Ramsey Lewis Trio: Ramsey Lewis Jr., piano; Larry Gray, bass; Leon Joyce, Jr., drums
Hollywood Bowl Big Band (HBBB): Llew Matthews, Conductor/Musical Director; Trumpets: Wayne Bergerson, principal; Bob Summers, Bijon Watson, Sal Cracchiolo; Trombones: Andy Martin, Principal; George Bohanon, Scott Whitfield; Bass Trombone: Craig Gosnell; Alto Saxophones: Lanny Morgan, Keith Fiddmont; Tenor Saxophones: Rickey Woodard, Tom Peterson; Baritone Saxophone: Tom Scott; Piano: Llew Matthews; Drums: Roy McCurdy; Bass: John Belzaguy; Orchestra Contractor: Brian Miller.
As a writer I know there are certain words you should use sparingly, like the words “perfect” and “legend”. Having said that, I will conclude that Nancy Wilson’s 70th Birthday Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl showcased a legend, performing at a legendary venue with legends that was just perfect.
The Jazz Gypsy Tip: To experience perfection, you have to be in the room. Nancy Wilson’s 2007/2008 performance schedule follows. ‘Nuf said.
11/02 - Hyatt Regency, Chicago, IL, (Ticket info: Akiba Bookstore, 1.888.962.5660 x 331)
11/17 - Lyric Theatre, Baltimore, MD.
2008 – Upcoming, check each venue for updates & more information
2/15-16 – South East Symphony, Los Angeles
3/14 – McCallum Theatre, Palm Dessert, CA w/Michael Feinstein
3/28 – Berks Jazz Festival, Reading, PA
4/05 – Cannon Center, Memphis, TN
4/19 – Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
5/4 – Melbourne Jazz Festival, Melbourne, Australia