Blue sequins, red velvet, black lace its not your typical
classroom dress code, but Jeri Browns Jazz Vocal Repertoire is not
a typical course.
My philosophy for the course is that in order for a singer to understand
the repertoire of jazz they need to experience it, she said. When
students leave the course they can always go and research more repertoire,
but can they really swing? Can they feel the emotion that a singer feels
on stage in the spotlight, delivering a song that depicts the times? Thats
what this production is about.
The production When Bessie and Jelly Jam combines the self- proclaimed
King of Jazz, Jelly Roll Morton, and the Empress of the Blues, Bessie
Smith, with singing, dancing, acting and a whole lot of attitude. The
show, being presented at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall Nov. 14 through
16, borrows from Broadways Jellys Last Jam and the
short play The Death of Bessie Smith and includes a tribute to
Bessie Smiths compositions.
Student Karim Forde, who plays the roll of Jelly Roll Morton, has been
in a jazz vocal repertoire production before, and says students should
value the experience. Its another level, a whole different
ball game, he said.
According to Forde, Jelly is a really deep character who found security
in his music. Jeris teaching allows him to get into his character
and, he hopes, portray it with authenticity.
Its not like you have a book in front of you. You have no
choice but to live the character. It becomes part of you, and when the
show is over it stays with you, he said.
In addition to providing students with a unique way to absorb the history
and repertoire of jazz, Browns course creates a supportive, non-competitive
environment that allows students to use jazz to express their individual
Its an environment thats especially comforting to Lydia Leiffer,
who has been Browns student for three years. She first walked into
the class after a terrible accident left her barely able to speak. Brown
was able to get her up on a stage singing.
She removes fear and creates miracles. I feel totally blessed,
Leiffer said. The atmosphere is one of love you see and appreciate
the uniqueness of every person in the class. Shes a miracle worker,
and the shows are better than Broadway.
When Bessie and Jelly Jam will be playing at the Oscar Peterson Concert
Hall November 14 through 16 at 8 p.m. General admission is $5, free for
students with ID.