Review: Karen Irwin and Brenda Williams at the Jazz Kitchen 

Yin and yang at the Kitchen

click to enlarge Irwin, at left, and Williams, at right - JAZZKITCHEN.COM
  • Irwin, at left, and Williams, at right
Combine every phase of sunshine with a perpetual tornado and you get an amazing jazz cabaret program starring Brenda Williams and Karen Irwin backed by the best possible "you can’t phase us" combo — Craig Hicks on piano, Jon Block on bass, Lawrence Clark III on drums and Patty Gregory on saxophones and clarinet. The Jazz Kitchen was totally rocked on April 10 with the dynamics of these six professionals combining talents for a journey across jazz, blues, rock, ballads, R&B, soul and gospel. It was a show that let us know you can leave and come back — or stay — and be worldly.

“What’s happened with me? I moved to New York. That’s what happened to me,” announced Irwin.

“I stayed at home,” countered Williams. “Indianapolis, I love you.”

And there you have the ying and yang of it.

Sporting a spangly shimmering tunic, combat boots and tousled hair, Irwin is the whirlwind alongside Williams in a decorous black top over a black and white print skirt, a rhinestone tie and heels. In repartee, they are equals — sparring against the backdrop of their signature songs and a couple of new routines. Williams and Irwin turned songs inside out to make the point that "everything must change" even in the midst of seeming sameness. New lyrics made up on the spot proves their mettle and the ability of musicians to stay with the craziness.

“I want it engraved on my tombstone, “Brenda Williams learned a new song,” trumpeted Irwin.

Williams need only let her expressive face reply. The audience loved it.

Williams, demure, with a Doris Day-channeling “Everybody Loves a Lover”— not just the romantic love, but just as much the love between Williams and her audiences over three decades across Indiana and way beyond.

Both ladies brought their distinctive art of storytelling into the mix, opening with a duet version of Williams’ balladic “Summertime” against Irwin’s blasting “Moondance.”

Irwin delivered “That’s Why This Chick is a Tramp” as “my theme song still.” Williams countered with her anthem, “I’m a Woman.” Irwin announced, “I Want a Sunday Kind of Love"; Williams shared “Love Letters — straight from your heart.”
A triumphant evening of a dozen more numbers that also brought Tonya Tiggs Shelton on stage from the audience for a silky smooth gospel blues — “The Best Thing Ever Happened to Me.”

Most memorable was the love shared. 

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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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