Friday, December 21, 2018


Vocalist Shahida Nurullah
It’s shameful the jazz vocalist Shahida Nurullah doesn’t have a weekly residency at one of the many jazz venues in Detroit. Nurullah is inarguably one of the most well-rounded vocalists in the game, and she’s a masterful interpreter of the great American songbook, which she’s currently treating audiences to during her four-night engagement at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café with a wonderful rhythm section that includes bassist Jaribu Shahid, drummer Sean Dobbins, and pianist Ian Finklestein, an in-demand young lion on Detroit’s jazz scene who Nurullah has an obvious affinity for. Nurullah let the capacity audience know that Thursday night during her two-hour set, praising Finklestein after several of his solos. Nurullah’s voice was potent and lovely as she rejuvenated familiar standards. Nurullah’s rhythm section opened with Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” after which Nurullah joined them. In the spirit of the holiday, she sang the Christmas classic “This Christmas” with such feeling her voice would’ve given the song’s author Donny Hathaway goosebumps. After that Christmas favorite, Nurullah, Shahid, Dobbins, and Finklestein jumped feet first into the deep end of the American songbook, reworking classics written by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin. Nurullah is four-decades into her career, and her voice remains intoxicating. She made standards such as “Nice Work If You Can Get it,” and “I Was Doing All Right” seemed fresh off the assembly line. That’s Nurullah’s most glaring gift. Also, when Nurullah dug her heels into love songs, she possessed the magic to make the devil fall in love. Don’t get it twisted, Nurullah isn’t all polish and glam. She has a playful streak which the audience witnessed when she sassed things up, belting “I Can Cook Too”. The other attraction was the terrific piano playing of Finklestein who’s matured into a wonderful jazz pianist. Finklestein understands the nuts and dynamics of backing a vocalist of Nurullah’s genius. A hallmark of a well-rounded jazz pianist is the ability to accompany a vocalist. If Nurullah is ever given a residency at a top jazz club in Detroit, I beg Finklestein will be her regular pianist.

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