Touring acts aren't the only ones that have ended their hibernation. Over the winter, local organizations had hesitated to make plans, figuring that Christmas-related responsibilities and the threat of freezing rain would keep even the most civic-minded music fans from attending benefit shows and other special ceremonies. But with the most disruptive holidays (no one loses much sleep about Easter shopping) and the worst winter storms out of the way, the Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors, Art and Soul and The Writers Place have decided the time is right for unveiling their first showcase events of 2002.
The Jazz Ambassadors' first "Ladies Sing the Blues" night, in 1990, was also the opening evening for the Club at Plaza III, formerly City Nights. Sharon Thompson dazzled a capacity crowd that included Billy Joel, who arrived after a local performance. Since that auspicious beginning, Ladies Sing the Blues has evolved into a near-annual event. (Though the Jazz Ambassadors didn't sponsor the show last year, the Club at Plaza III presented its own take on the format.) Top vocalists who have participated include Karryn Allyson, Lori Tucker and returning attraction Lisa Henry, whose regular band (pianist Everette Freeman, bassist Tyrone Clark and drummer Mike Warren) will serve as the backing trio for the evening's program.
Joining encore performers Thompson and Henry at the Club on Thursday, February 21, is Myra Taylor, one of the famed originators of the KC swing sound. It's Taylor's first time on the Ladies' marquee, allowing her to add one more line to the area's longest and most distinguished musical resume.
The evening's highlights could come at the close of each performer's solo set, when the three Ladies will collaborate. The harmonies should be sweet, with Henry's commanding voice melding with Taylor's seasoned sass and Thompson's theater-tested center-stage dramatic flair.
Another harmonious trio, Allure, coheadlines Art and Soul's fifth annual Classic Black Gala at the Scottish Rite Temple (1330 East Linwood Boulevard) on Saturday, February 23. The first group signed to Mariah Carey's Crave label in 1997, Allure scored a minor hit with "Head Over Heels" before breaking through with a remake of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's duet "All Cried Out"with R&B quartet 112 playing the male role. Late last year, Allure reappeared with Sunny Days, another major-label effort (this time on MCA) packed with hip-hop flavored dance numbers and tearjerking ballads.
For anyone who considers Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam old school, Ray, Goodman & Brown will be on hand for a comprehensive lesson in soul history. Harry Ray died in 1992, but Al Goodman and Billy Brown carry on the tradition of a trio that notched dozens of chart singles both as R, G & B ("Take It to the Limit, "Special Lady") and as the Moments ("Love on a Two Way Street," "Not on the Outside").