“Soul singing doesn’t get any better.” -- New York Times
Three-time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette is no mere singer. She is not a songwriter, nor is she a "cover" artist. She is an interpreter of the highest order. Bettye was performing during the birth of soul music in the 60s and she’s still creating vital recordings today. To quote the late, great George Jones: "Bettye is truly a 'singer's singer'."
Soul diva Bettye LaVette recorded her first hit at 15 (Let Me Down Easy) and toured with soul pioneers Otis Redding, Ben E. King and James Brown. Although the recording industry proved fickle, LaVette has performed consistently during the past half-century, gaining cult followings in Europe and across the U.S.
During the 1990’s and 2000’s, Bettye began to gain wider appeal, performing Love Reign O'er Me at The Kennedy Center Honors in a tribute to The Who. She brought the house down and suddenly found a whole new audience for her unparalleled style of blues and soul singing. In 2009 she performed a show-stopping rendition of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come with Jon Bon Jovi for President-elect Obama’s kick-off Inaugural concert. In April of that year she shared the stage with Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr at Radio City Music Hall.
And in late 2016, her friend, photographer Carol Friedman, pitched Bettye the idea of doing an album of all Bob Dylan songs, with Grammy Award-winning producer, Steve Jordan. The resulting Verve Records album “Things Have Changed” was born. Bettye LaVette’s interpretations of these Bob Dylan songs will be featured in our concert.
LaVette has received the Blues Music Award for Best Soul Blues Female Artist from The Blues Foundation. She has appeared on National Public Radio's World Cafe, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and performed a Tiny Desk Concert. She has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Austin City Limits, A Prairie Home Companion, and more.
With a voice that critics today compare to the early Tina Turner, Bettye LaVette continues to break new ground.
FROM ROLLING STONE:
“On the title track of this remarkable collection of Bob Dylan covers, Betty LaVette wraps her voice – full of grit, brass and soul when she started recording at 16 in 1962; worn and sharpened by experience now at 72 – around a lyric about sitting on the lap of strange man with pale skin and an assassin's eye. The way she tells it, that man could be the song's author or a villain in an epic of intrigue, or maybe there's no difference between the two. She makes the song so alive with consequence and possibility, it's able to transform into whatever she or the listener needs it to be in the moment: a spy movie, a romance novel, a Biblical parable of reckoning, a bittersweet memory of a time when caring mattered or a way of drinking away the pain of that memory.”
“This (Dylan songs) album is more hers – more personal and reflective of her wicked ways, sly humor and battle-tested wisdom – than any she's made. Consider Dylan a jumping off point for LaVette – a way of drawing power and focusing attention until she can take the time she needs to describe the world the way it feels to her: a tangle of longing, lust, struggle and hard-won satisfaction.”
WITH SPECIAL GUEST, JAMES BLOOD ULMER
Mighty jazz, blues, free funk guitarist James 'Blood' Ulmer will perform an opening set for Bettye LaVette. Ulmer is best known for his defining collaboration with jazz saxophone pioneer, Ornette Coleman. But his raucous guitar and leathery vocals take audiences back to his deep southern roots in the blues.
“With jangling, chiming chords and a strident delivery with trembling vocals, Ulmer evoked the blues of despair and desperation, the rolling blues of the itinerant, and directly, the electric blues of Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf. Powered, trippery runs drifted into harmolodic abstract with creeping riffs rising up with the force of a hot, bubbling, volcanic spring. Then a grizzled edge to the slurred vocals cut through until the guitar took on a soft, hurdy-gurdy tone for Ulmer to bow out with humble grace after a spellbinding set.” – Geoff Winston, London Jazz News (UK)
“Mr. Ulmer's guitar tone, a gasping, metallic cry, expresses everything from out-in-the-woods loneliness to nail-chewing, urban anxiety. He performed brilliantly. And by organically mixing Chuck Berry and country licks, be-bop and blues ideas, he seemed to be saying that all these things are connected, and that the music and its original makers are our common inheritance.” – Peter Watrous, NY Times.