Tucked under Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster Restaurant, Ginny’s Supper Club is the place to go for jazz, blues, R & B as epicurean as its southern cuisine. The club features rows of comfortable banquettes. Table service is genial and attentive. There’s a bar directly at the back with clear view. (A raised stage would improve other sightlines.)
Tonight Bree Thomas levels any blues playing field with which you’re familiar. Joined by Greg Lewis (The Organ Monk) on keyboard, Marvin Soules on bass, and Russell Carter on drums (top notch all), the vocalist delivers with authenticity and skill.
After a couple of raise the roof numbers during which the lip-biting, head jerking Organ Monk takes flight, Thomas leads us into a hypnotically understated “C.C. Ryder.” Long notes undulate like charmed snakes. This is a message. We’re encouraged to audibly react, revival style. Keyboard and bass seem to argue back. What Thomas can musically do with a single word defies standards. “C.C.” is virtually massaged. Volume is sure and clean; howl emerges without a single frayed edge. “When I find me a good man, I won’t be comin’ back to your skanky self,” she spits.
“Every Day I Have the Blues” begins as an up-tempo instrumental. “Every day,” Thomas comes in, octave rising, “I’ve got the `ba-loo-ze’,” she continues, sliding it down. It’s a master class in interpretive riff. Strap in. Soules’ bass acts like a Coney Island thrill ride. Eyes closed, the vocalist leads clapping, then parroting back the verse line for line. We’ve become a congregation.
“I Keep My Stove in Good Condition” is fiercely suggestive: “My stove is automatic/ Never needs no wood or coal…All I need is some fine papa/To strike his match and stick it in the hole…” “I know y’awl know what om talkin’ about!” Affectation free, Thomas commits to the lyric with bravura, yet never goes over the top. We hear pride, self assurance, and implicit warning. Lewis plays hoochie coochie. Soules’ notes sensually wander. Carter keeps things propulsive. Thomas barely moves, yet the song has hips. “I don’t want more of your charcoal/If you can’t burn my biscuits brown…”
Greg Lewis, Marvin Soules, Russell Carter
“The blues is a personal truth that also happens to be universal,” Thomas notes. “Jailhouse Blues” is on the aching dark side of funk. In honor of Aretha Franklin – “She told the truth” – comes “Dr. Feelgood”or “Love Is a Serious Business.” An arm shoots up, fingers wag, the vocalist’s body sways. Weapons grade wail has got to be some of the most vocally appealing pain west of the Mississippi.
Music passes through Brianna Thomas viscerally, almost visibly. It’s as if she’s possessed. Clock and find her wherever she pops up. Vocal heft and pugnacious soul are a treat.
Juke joint is the vernacular term for an informal establishment featuring music, dancing, gambling, and drinking, primarily operated by African Americans in the southeastern United States. The term “juke” is believed to derive from the Gullah word joog or jug, meaning rowdy or disorderly.
Photos by Stephen Hanks
Opening: Brianna Thomas; Marvin Soules and Brianna Thomas
Bree’s Juke Joint
Brianna Thomas – Vocals
Greg Lewis- the Organ Monk- Keyboard
Marvin Soules- Bass
Look for Ms. Thomas in “Ella Sang the Blues” at The Appel Room, Lincoln Center Jazz, September 14 and 15, 2018
Ginny’s Supper Club – in the basement of Red Rooster Restaurant
Every evening and Sunday GOSPEL BRUNCH
310 Lennox Avenue