Luqman Hamza -- Saturday, November 25, the Blue Room

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Luqman Hamza -- Saturday, November 25, the Blue Room

Growing up in the 18th and Vine district, Luqman Hamza saw such jazz legends as Charlie Parker and Joe Turner on a regular basis. Not satisfied to merely stargaze, Hamza sat patiently outside the clubs, too young to legally enter but mature enough to study the phrasing and delivery of the vocalists performing behind the closed doors. Hamza formed a harmony group called The Five Aces in the mid-'40s, then, after that group disbanded, landed on stage with Miles Davis and Ray Charles and held down prestigious stints at Chicago and St. Louis venues. With the exception of a few years spent in St. Louis in the early '90s, Hamza has remained based in his hometown since the '70s, playing sporadic high-profile engagements. His latest album, With This Voice, showcases his dazzling piano work and startlingly clear vocals, which he uses to express both inspiring sentiments and subtly downbeat regrets. Esteemed guitarist Sonny Kenner, who backed Hamza in The Five Aces and chose the singer as best man for all seven of his weddings, contributes his talents to this November release, but Hamza's finest moment sees him alone with his piano, his voice gently trembling as his fingers move nimbly over the keys. Aspiring young musicians would do well to witness this master's technique or, at the very least, to overhear it from the closest available eavesdropping spot.

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