LA Jazz Scene Reviews Sylvia Brooks

Sylvia Brooks is certainly no stranger to Jazz, a fact extraordinary evident throughout the duration of her encore performance at Catalina Bar and Grill. Brooks returned to Catalina stage on July 16, 2008, where she performed songs from The Great American Songbook masterfully arranged by Tom Garvin. Sylvia Brooks comes from a solid musical background, growing up with her father a popular jazz pianist and her mother a nightclub performer. “Sitting in the crib and hearing that music, it has to do something to you”, says Brooks. It was inevitable that melodies and harmonies would course rapidly through her veins from a very young age. Through Garvin’s innovative arrangements, this music possesses the ability to convey complex emotions while telling a unique and vivid story through the utilization of refreshing and diverse sounds performed by Brooks and her dynamic sextet. The venue itself is open and inviting, with what it boasts as “Old World charm”. Sharing the space with a stage framed by a scarlet red curtain and adorned with glistening instruments, the small tabletops are filled with admiring fans anxiously anticipating the music to come. With the opportunity for the spectator to not only enjoy some of the best jazz in the city, but also to sip on a specialty cocktail while savoring a succulent meal, the overall experience and comfort of the Catalina Bar and Grill is one of the reasons the artist is drawn to the venue, choosing to return for this encore performance. Unlike many other jazz clubs in the city, the scene here is friendly and amicable, aside from the highly priced menu and somewhat slow service. Assuming her rightful position upon the stage, wearing a dress adorned with glamorous green sequence, her dynamic presence is felt throughout the venue as she exudes grace and confidence in her serene stride. Brooks places her delicate hand upon the microphone, her beaming smile radiating throughout the room. As her vocal chords begin to resonate, notes emerge as a stark contrast to her feminine physique, yet match her commanding charisma. There is such a smooth quality to the sound as she opens the night with the captivating and energetic tune, “Live Till I Die”. With jazz melodies such as “Cry Me a River”, effortlessly melting into rhythmic Cuban pulsations like “Sway”, followed by the savvy beats of “Harlem Nocturne” and “Blues in the Night”, the varied selection of music was effectively mixed therefore maintaining a smooth and melodic flow to the evening. Sylvia credits her dynamic performance to her talented musicians, and I certainly agree for I was justly mesmerized by their extensive musical abilities. Ever so often you encounter a stage such as that at Catalina Bar and Grill the evening of July 16, beaming with multi-talented artists who take immense pleasure in what they do. With Chris Colangello on bass, Kendall Kay on drums, Gary Nasterook on keyboard, Ron Stout on trumpet, Kim Richmond on sax and flute, and Jeff Colella on piano, the chemistry between Brooks and her sextet was passionately obvious as each artist played off the energy of another. The joie de vivre upon the staged effortlessly oozed into the audience, allowing Brooks to develop an intimate link with the spectator, opening each number by the sharing of personal experiences accompanied by genuine eye contact and a friendly smile. Uniting Sylvia’s experience with a broad range of music, and Garvin’s intense passion for jazz, these two vastly different worlds have been melded together into arrangements catered to fit the singer’s individual style. This relaxed and intimate cabaret setting suits Brooks, with a “certain level of satisfaction in the selection of songs that truly speak to your heart”. Reviewing her varied credits, it is clear Brooks has spent a great deal of time traveling and performing. When asked if looking to stay in LA for any length of time, she responds with promising ambitions of continued appearances throughout the LA area, “keeping the project intact”, in addition to hopes of one day performing in the European club scene. Throughout the evening, with the support of her brilliant musicians, these gifted artists showcased their individual talents, transporting something innovative and alive to the Catalina stage. As she finished her set with an encore of “I’m Still Here”, it is obvious that Sylvia Brooks is certainly here, and that is definitely a great thing.