Stephanie Spruill: Live at The E Spot.
By Krystle Carmona
On a day synonymous with bad luck and inevitable mishaps, singer-extraordinaire Stephanie Spruill graced the stage of legendary Sheila E’s new supperclub, The E Spot Lounge, formerly Upstairs at Vitello’s, proving that talent trumps luck any day of the week, even if it just so happens to fall on a balmy March evening like Friday the 13th. And to say she accomplished just that would be an understatement. As the sold-out crowd of well-groomed men and equally beautiful women filled the room, from somewhere off-stage resonated the most enticing voice that immediately seized the attention of all in sight. It was a sound both of beauty and power. A sound of perfect pitch and seasoned experience. A sound of confidence and poise. Undeniably, the most angelic sound. And at that very moment, it became quite clear that a voice like that could only be gifted by a much higher power.
Having laid the foundation for an incredible night to come, Spruill made her way to the stage in a one-of-a-kind black leather-sequin jumpsuit, fitted with a sheer waist wrap, fashioned by designer to the stars, Angela Dean of Deanzign, and with the support of her background singers, “The Spruillettes,” belted out the Jill Scott smash, Golden. And so it began…
After a riveting operatic rendition of George Gershwin’s Summertime, where she simulated hervoice to mimic that of the trumpets’, there was no denying the shift that had occurred and it was evident that we had entered into Spruill’s House.
“I showed up to show out,” proclaimed the songstress, who in between songs delighted the audience with her droll theatrics and timely wit..
Soon, many dreams took flight as Spruill procured the crowd to new heights with the 8-minute Thelonious Monk jazz number, Round Midnight. Next, she revealed her effervescent range on the playful tune, In Walked Bud, and further exposed the skills of an extremely polished band.
Fever set the crowd wild with Spruill flirtatiously dancing through the sea of onlookers singing some of the seductive tune in Spanish. She then continued on to It’s A Jazz Day from her newly
released CD baring the same name, which was written by Grammy and Tony Nominated singer/songwriter Brenda Russell, who was also amid the crowd with a smile that proclaimed a job well
From Studio City to Spain, Spruill then took us on a journey with Angelito’s Negroes, once again exposing the singer’s impeccable Spanish speaking ability. Playing with her signature sheer wrap
and black fan to match while the band laid the setting, I couldn’t help but to put the pen down and just be…in the moment.
A well-deserved standing ovation surely followed.
Before acknowledging the star-studded crowd of industry greats, including, Brenda Russell, Verna Griffin; Eric Mercury; Louis Price; Dennis McCarthy; Stan Schneider; Jim Gilstrap; Scherrie Payne of The Supremes, alongside sister Freda Payne; Tony Maiden; Freddie Fox; the late-great Donna Summers’ husband, Bruce Sudano; Bond Girl Gloria Hendry, and Mattie Caruthers, Spruill grabbed a tambourine and with her background singers proving that they too
could hold their own moved the crowd to their feet with Nothing Lasts Forever, a song cowritten with musician and friend, Jeff Lobber. For a moment, I was a 10-year-old girl back in the apostolic pew of my late grandfather’s church; and I wasn’t the only one. With high praise,
another standing ovation ensued, and rightfully so.
Beginning with the ‘Queen of Disco’s,’ Hot Stuff, Spruill took us back with a medley of hits. She had the crowd ‘beep beeping and toot tooting’ to Bad Girl, working 9 to5, and adjusting the lyrics of Rhinestone Cowboy to accommodate us ‘cowgirls.’ She followed up with I Just Want to Stop, then briefly paused to share a funny story about a midnight phone call from the King of Pop himself, yes, the one and only Michael Jackson, before belting out the next two songs, both of which Spruill placed original vocals on, Can You Feel It? and It’s Raining Men. Closing out the mix was the Oscar Award Winning song, Glory, a record she had the honor of performing at
the 87th Academy Awards alongside John Legend and Common, moving many to tears. Maintaining a sweet pace on As Time Goes By, Spruill shared a slow dance with an onlooker love supervened during Dindi, and painted the brilliance of pianist Michiko Hill.
While her flawless technique and controlled melodies excelled. The presence of “Two of the baddest saxophonist in the world, and he was both of them,” headed an incredibly moving tribute to friend and alto saxophonist, Zane Musa who lent his expertise on six of Spruill’s songs before his untimely death. So, Here’s to Life she began, a heartrending performance which garnered the third standing ovation of the night.
Besame Mucho concluded the evening with the crowd swaying to the sounds of Brazil whileSpruill introduced the band who was nothing short of amazing, with Nolan Shaheed on trumpet, Michael O’Neil on guitar, Stacey Lamont Sydnor on drums, Robert “Peewee” Hill on bass, and again, Michiko Hill on piano.
Spruill appeases to a youthful demographic while maintaining the class and sophistication respected by the mature audience; certainly a testament to her inimitable artistry and versatility.
She gives you more than a show, but rather a transformational experience to last a lifetime. Her voice is the sweetest delicacy; but one you could never have too much of. And on Good Friday the 13th, I and countless others had the pleasure of indulging in it all.
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