Thursday, January 31, 2008
On first encounter at Rockwood last November, Annekei seemed almost too good to be true. Having heard nothing and knowing nothing about her, I was completely knocked out by her soulful jazz singing (or was it her jazzy soul singing), and her superb band. So a return trip to Rockwood was in order at the next opportunity to find out if she was really as great as she seemed, and I'm here to say that based on last night's Rockwood show, Annekei is all that and more.
Annekei is originally from Denmark, moved to New York City in 2002 at the age of 19 to pursue a music career, won a talent competition on the Showtime at the Apollo television show, and while she still remains mostly unknown in this country, Annekei has a successful recording career in Asia and Europe, with two excellent albums released in Japan. When she's not off performing in the aforementioned continents or singing for the King of Thailand as she recently did at the Bangkok Jazz Festival, she can be found playing occasional gigs at Rockwood, and working as a lounge singer and waitress at the Waldorf Astoria.
Listen to Annekei - "100 Sq.Ft."
Hers is already a most unusual and fascinating life story but what needs no explanation is Annekei's huge talent as a singer, musician (piano and guitar) and songwriter, and the quality of her performance with her band is stunning. While she's billed as a soul and jazz singer, in the two encounters at Rockwood she seems totally capable of singing any style of music she chooses including soul, jazz, blues, gospel, rock, pop, and standards.
Jeff Smith, 1/30/08
Benny Reitvold, 1/30/08
At both shows, she was accompanied by fantastic band mates Vernon (Jeff) Smith who plays masterful guitar and doubles on sax and other instruments, and bassist and bandleader Benny Reitvold. Fred Alias anchored the band on drums for the November show but was sidelined with a last minute injury and missed last night's gig. Joining Annekei for a few numbers at the November show were guest vocalists Dean Bowman who sang a most awesome duet with Annekei covering the Carpenters' "Close to You" (wish we had a recording of that to hear again), and Rhonda Denet who could hold a room just with her beautiful voice.
Dean Bowman & Annekei
(L-R) Jeff Smith, Annekei, Rhonda Denet
Last night's show had no guests or drummer, but was no less of a jaw-dropper. The excellent set included Annekei's own songs as well as covers of John Legend's "Ordinary People" and the showstopping set closer "Mercy Mercy Mercy" performed in tribute to the late Joe Zawinul (Weather Report) who wrote it. These shows so need to be recorded - this music is way too good to be heard once only to disappear into the ether.
Listen to "Everly" from Tsuki (2007)
Thus far I've heard about a dozen of Annekei's songs from various online sources and the quality is completely consistent with her live show. I totally can't wait to hear her two Japanese CD's. A duet album with a Korean guitarist, Jack Lee, is due this spring. Annekei is an supremely talented artist whose future career potential is huge. Words can't adequately express what a privilege and a pleasure it is to see an artist like Annekei at an intimate venue like the Rockwood Music Hall. Photos are from 11/29/07 except where noted, click photos to enlarge.
Annekei (Zain Records, 2006)
Tsuki (Zain Records, 2007)
Susan Enan is a gifted singer-songwriter who, if I'm reading her bio correctly hails originally from England, and spent several years living in Northern Ireland before moving in 2005 to her current home in Brooklyn. We, here in the states are the beneficiary of her current address, in that we can see her perform at venues like the Rockwood Music Hall, where I was lucky enough to catch her twice in the past half year.
Looking back on my notes from that first show last October, my first thought hearing her sing was of a British/Irish Melanie, strong voice with great presence on the microphone. Over the course of the set, it was clear that her voice is beautiful, her music is very haunting and emotional, and her lyrical content was somewhat dreary and depressing, but even still I noted that it was a riveting performance.
Jump to 2008 and a trip back to Rockwood last night to see Annekei (see separate post), only to discover that Susan was also on the bill, so as so often happens on the Lower East Side, it turned out to be another great night of music at Rockwood. If Susan had not mentioned feeling a little under the weather when asking for the lights to be lowered, you never would have been able to tell by her performance. Perhaps energized by a crowd as big as I've ever seen squeeze into the Rockwood, Susan was in great voice and did a tremendously enjoyable set.
Even though she did some of the same songs heard at her October show, the mood of this set seemed decidedly lighter. She jokingly remarked on the dark aspect of her songwriting at one point when she did a song that she introduced as being a love song, saying "finally"; the title was something like "Can't Fly With Thee". Later, joined onstage for backing vocals by Sam Parton and the Jones Street Boys, the combined voices sounded just great together. Both shows included "Skin, Bone & Silicone", the title track of her second EP, and "Bring on the Wonder", a tune that has been heard on network television shows such as Bones and Supernatural, and will be included on her new CD.
Listen to Susan Enan - "Bring on the Wonder"
Susan's got a strong New York following, and all in attendance last night were delighted to hear that Susan is about to leave for England to finish up the CD she's been working on, for release this spring. She's got two previous EPs to her credit, released in 2000 and 2002 in the UK only which are seemingly non-existent now, not even for download, so it will be exciting to see a proper full length CD from this immensely talented artist.
Listen to Susan Enan - "Monoplain"
In her myspace blog about a subway encounter with a street musician on the way back home to Brooklyn after last night's show, Susan had this to say:
Thanks to everyone who came out the Rockwood Music Hall on Wednesday. Despite being a little sick I had what could be the most amount of fun EVER at a live show. And with The Jones Street Boys and Sam Parton on backing vocals, well, what could be lovelier.
Well said, and well played, Susan. New York is looking forward to your return, and to your new CD.
Sam Parton and the Jones Street Boys, 1/30/08
Susan Enan's myspace.