The Iconic Sweet Honey In The Rock Pays Tribute

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Monday December 19, 2011


The iconic Sweet Honey In The Rock pays tribute
By: Jim Bessman

Even if you were lucky enough to see the show when they debuted it last April at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Sweet Honey In The Rock—Remembering Nina, Odetta And Miriam…With A Special Salute To Abbey Lincoln, which the historic Sweet Honey In The Rock brought to The Blue Note three nights last week proved a revelation.

The historic African-American female vocal group’s tribute to Nina Simone, Odetta, Miriam Makeba and Abbey Lincoln was as inspirational for those in the audience as the four likewise legendary African-American singers were to Sweet Honey—both as musicians and cultural activists.

Vocalists Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard and Louise Robinson (with long-time sign language interpreter Shirley Childress Saxton) showed that any one of them could carry a traditional pop nightclub show of their own at the highest Sweet Honey standard.

There were still plenty of Sweet Honey group songs, of course, like the opening “Sabumoya,” a Makeba South African chant about the winds that blow both good and bad; Simone’s “Come Ye” prayer for peace, and Odetta’s “Can’t Afford To Lose My Man.” Aisha Kahlil’s spectacular scatting and mouth-popping on a Lincoln song medley including “The Music Is The Magic” was matched by her sister Nitanju Bolade Casel’s—who took it a step further on Simone’s “Tell Me More And More And Then Some” when she challenged drummer Jovol Bell, who responded sticks for scat.

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