Against the twinkling twilight of Central Park South, Nnenna Freelon took centerstage at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola to deliver a heady blend of nicely balanced jazz and blues. Stately and sensuous, her performance offers insinuating allure and infectious gusto.
Freelon’s repertoire is firmly rooted in traditional standards from the jazz and pop legacy of American song. She uses heady syncopation to underscore her performance and displays a fine command of diction and dynamics, time and phrasing. The perceptively chosen program was performed with assurance, a voice of agreeable warmth and timbre and, most importantly, a keen conviction of interpretation.
In an embracing bow to Lady Day, Freelon probed the dark depths of “God Bless the Child” and the gloomy grandeur of “You’ve Changed.” From her Concord CD “Sketches of Billie Holiday,” the hip diva cited the legendary singer’s lifelong search for love with a trenchant reading of “Balm in Gilead” and a soulful “Meaning of the Blues.”
The jazz baby puts a fresh new frame on a couple of Cole Porter standards. She added a gentle bounce on “I Love You,” the composer’s “song of songs”; “Get Out of Town” served as a funky farewell.
The title song from another CD, “Better Than Anything,” was rendered with a sailing bop scat.
Freelon delivered a rhythmic dish of fun and good humor with Bobby Dorough’s playful and engaging declaration of being in love. Freelon turned a “Body and Soul” set to torrid tribal rhythms into a smoky and seductive invitation. She is also a compelling storyteller who created a picturesque canvas for the old worldly traveler “Nature Boy.” She took the latter at a brighter tempo than is customary, creating a palatable journey into the eternal search for true love.
Freelon’s arrangements boast a bright new sheen, and her quartet provides first-rate support, with percussionist Beverly Botsford adding dotted complimentary accents.