Monday, May 9, 2011


Jazz vocalist Naima Shamborguer

Sunday was jazz singer Naima Shamborguer’s big day. At the St. Matthews & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, Shamborguer unveiled her new album “’Round Midnight”. Barbara Cox—the late jazz pianist Kenn Cox’s widow—sponsored the concert. Concertgoers paid a $20.00 cover, and Shamborguer gave each a copy of “’Round Midnight,” and a dazzling two hour performance. Shamborguer also gave the church a cut of the proceeds.

The "Round Midnight" concert was the first time Shamborguer performed publicly with acclaimed jazz pianist   Larry Willis, known for his work with Jackie Mclean, Carmen McRae and Blood, Sweat, & Tears. Off and on, for years, Shamborguer and Willis tried to hook up. They got close once.

Shamborguer's husband best friend, Bob Colley, a jazz booking agent, believed pairing up Willis with Shamborguer would work because their backgrounds and styles are similar. Colley booked them at a popular club in New Jersey, but the owner cancelled the show. Shamborguer and Willis never gave up hope. And in 2010, they finally made it happen, collaborating on “’Round Midnight”. 

Shamborguer used the same band that played on "'Round Midngiht". The band buttered up the audience, opening with “Brother Ed” from Willis’ album “Sanctuary”. After the opener, tenor sax great Vincent Bowen escorted Shamborguer to the pulpit. Shamborguer handed her mom a flower. Then Shamborguer dove head first into “Speak Low”, the lead song on “’Round Midnight”. Toward the end of “Speak Low,” the microphone went haywire. But, Shamborguer kept her cool, finishing “Speak Low” with a nifty obbligato. Shamborguer followed up with her original, “I Will Never Walk Away”.

Shamborguer’s band was incredible. Bassist Marion Hayden was superb as always. Drummer George Davidson had a few choice solos. And Vincent Bowen got a piece of the action during the second set. Violinist Tia Imani Hanna and cellist Eugene Zenzo made cameos.

The second set Shamborguer spent some quality time with Willis. They played together on “Here’s to Life”. Willis had the piano crying. Willis’ phrasing is like Shamborguer’s pure voice. That makes them the perfect  pair. “I Remember April” is often played up-tempo. Shamborguer and Willis played the song at a lover’s tempo.

Many jazz singers turn their live shows into a comedy routine. They poke fun at their band-mates. They preface songs with off-the-wall stories. But, not Shamborguer. Shamborguer will occasionally say something that’s amusing. She made the audience laugh, asking if it was okay to sing a blues song in a church.  Shamborguer is straight-laced. Concertgoers  can always bank on a well thought out show. Recently Shamborguer, told a jazz report, she always wants to leave her audience with a piece of herself. At the “’Round Midnight” concert, Shamborguer accomplished that.

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