Review: Gail Payne at Jazz Kitchen 

  • Gail Payne
  • Submitted Photo from Spirit and Place
Gail Payne
4 stars
The Jazz Kitchen 

Gail Payne admits she dreamed of a singing career since earliest memories of her childhood. She followed the route of choirs and choruses, and went on with her life until the light began to shine on what she really, really wanted: To share her love of cabaret as a storyteller/song stylist. But she hesitated — afraid of the light. ‘When you’re in the light, you’re exposed and you have to deliver.’ Could she?

Friends pushed her to move forward from the private evenings of songs shared in her living room. David Hochoy gave her a public stage that turned into a select fundraising event. Honest praise gave her courage. She had stepped into the light and it had not blinded her to what she actually could deliver. But solo singing a la cabaret requires a different set of skills from being one of many in a group setting.

Payne set out to gain the skills and get into public places. I’ve been following her since her Fringe festival debut some four years ago.

The 20th anniversary Spirit & Place “Dreams” theme provided the perfect opportunity for Payne to share her story and turn on the lights. At the Jazz Kitchen on Nov. 8, at show time the lights were dimmed. Payne’s crisp diction emerged from the semi-darkness: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We are all meant to shine … and as we let our own light, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

This quote from spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson set the tone for the two dozen song selections Payne delivered with pianist/arranger David Duncan and bassist Jesse Wittman and drummer Steve Hanna.

Opening with a mixed set of show and pop songs depicting the push and pull of daring and soul searching, chutzpah and temerity, Payne showed how dreams deferred have a way of materializing into “Another Life” and even “When One Door Closes” determination fuels the foundation for gospel truth. We know the words for “This Little Light of Mine” and sort of waited for its appearance.

Payne has grown from that first entry into a seasoned performer, at home up close and personal and comfortable with any genre—Great American Songbook standards, show tunes, jazz, blues, country, chanson, gospel. She delivered in turn layers of serious, flirty, philosophical, perky, wry humor and conventional hype for a delightful elevation of dreaming into doing.

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light,” Payne told us, quoting the philosophy of motivator Brene Brown.

All Payne now needs for her personal growth is the growth of cabaret venues within easy reach—or the nudge to travel her art regionally.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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