By Don Heckman
It’s been a few years since I first reviewed jazz singer Charmaine Clamor. I was powerfully impressed by what I heard on her debut CD, Searching For the Soul.. And I was even more impressed by what I heard in her performance at Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunday night.
The presentation was titled “Hallelujah! A Celebration of Rebirth and Renewal,” an appropriate label for an Easter Sunday event, further underscored by Charmaine’s parallel work as a physical therapist. The mesmerizing quality of her Catalina performance, however, suggested that her evolutionary growth as a singer is probably not going to allow much time for anything other than the expansion of her career as a musical artist.
Everything was right about this program, starting with Charmaine’s singing. Over the course of the few years in which I’ve heard her perform, there’s been a continuing interpretive growth. Early on, she was closely identified with a blend of jazz and Filipino traditional music, earning the title the Queen of Jazzipino music.
As intriguing as that material may have been, Charmaine brought much more to the stage this time around. Her eclectic program of songs began with a distinct gospel touch via Ethel Waters’ hit, “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” following up with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” She sang each in authoritative fashion, without resorting into an overflow of too-familiar melismatic phrasing.
Charmaine was equally convincing with the old standard, “’Til There Was You,” the Italian classic “Estate,” “I Believe In Love” (based on Joshua Redman’s “Wish” with lyrics by Eli Brueggemann), a jaunty romp through “Pick Yourself Up” and a dramatically climactic “Here’s To Life.” Add to that some of her original items and one couldn’t have asked for a broader, more engaging set of songs.
She delivered them with stunning effectiveness, balancing the lush timbres of her voice with the dramatic gestures and gripping expressiveness of a born musical story-teller. And it didn’t hurt that Charmaine is a gorgeous woman, enhancing her slender appeal in a shimmering gold gown.
She was ably aided by the steady, solid support of her musicians: pianist Andy Langham, bassist Dominic Thiroux and drummer Abe Lagrimas. Responding with near empathic back-up, subtly flowing in sync with her confident musicality and her rich, emotional qualities, the trio provided an encompassing musical embrace for an artist whose career is clearly heading skyward.
Expect much more from Charmaine Clamor (and let’s hope the Grammy voters are paying attention).
* * * * * * * *
Photos by Faith Frenz.