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cool queen gets hot with Swing Fever|
October 2, 2015, by Andrew Giilbert BERKELYSIDE.
Denise Perrier’s theme song could be “Travelin’ Light,” as the supremely stylish San Francisco jazz singer continues to follow her wanderlust to the wide corners of the world. Since she first lit out to tour Australia some five decades ago, Perrier has performed in more than two dozen countries, a tireless itinerary that means she’s often introducing herself to new generations of Bay Area jazz fans when she gets back home. You can catch her Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory with Swing Fever, but then she’s off for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, followed by her first trip to Cuba in December.
Like so many of her previous foreign connections, Perrier got the chance to fulfill her longtime desire to sing in Cuba by being in the right place at the right time. A few months ago she was performing at Bird & Beckett, the invaluable San Francisco bookstore and venue in Glen Park, where she met the great Cuban poet, translator and essayist Nancy Morejón and “we ended up at the Sheba Lounge singing in Spanish together,” Perrier says. “She talked with the minister of culture and got me this invite.”
Perrier knows how to make a lasting impression. With her velvety contralto and unerring sense of swing, she’s equally at adept at interpreting American Songbook standards with a piano trio in an intimate cabaret as she is belting out blues backed by the Junius Courtney Big Band (though she’ll be in Havana for the JCBB’s next gig at Yoshi’s on Dec. 15, so the estimable Rhonda Benin is stepping in).
She’s been working with Swing Fever since the turn of the century, regularly performing with the group on first and third Tuesdays at the Panama Hotel in San Rafael (as well as Pier 23 and Sausalito Seahorse). Founded and led by trombonist Bryan Gould, the combo has long served as a smart showcase for the best singers in a region known for producing exceptional vocalists, starting with the great Mary Stallings. Before Perrier took over the vocal spot Swing Fever boasted singular singers Paula West, Kim Nalley, Brenda Boykin and Jackie Ryan. For Saturday’s gig, the band features tenor sax great Noel Jewkes, guitarist Jeff Massanari, drummer Tony Johnson, and bassist Dean Riley, a Bay Area jazz mainstay since 1945 (!).
Part of what makes Perrier such a beguiling singer is the way her dry sense of humor and supple phrasing reveal layers of irony in familiar standards. “She does the blues great, but I really think she’s a standards singer,” Gould says. “With Swing Fever the blues make up about a fourth of her repertoire and the rest is mostly Gershwin and Arlen. I really believe in songs, and we pay a lot of attention to the lyrics. It’s straight out of Ella and Billie and Sarah.”
|Copyright 2015 by Chez Perrier - All rights reserved|