Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Devil's Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith

Miche Braden brings the powerful message and music  of the woman known as the “Empress of the Blues” to the stage in this bio musical of Bessie Smith.

Langston Hughes said it best when he said that spirituals are inspirations for motherless children to find a spiritual home, while the blues are about the here and now.  

 From the early death of her  mother to the loss of a beloved adopted child in a court case,  Bessie certainly knew the range of the blues from broke and broken-heated. 

Her music does not claim its origins in the spirituals of black churches, but rather from learning to sing for pennies on the streets of Chattagnoga as a child.  The path that started with an early stint as a dancing girl in a traveling show would lead to NYC’s  Carnegie Hall.  

 She set records for record sales at Columbia Records.  Thousands of people flocked to her funeral, yet her grave was unmarked until one of her musical heirs, Janis Joplin, erected a tomb marker. 

Her life, in short, was complicated—one in which she fought and loved, and drank to the maximum  — until that final fatal double car crash.

The Devil's Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith  captures these moments,  but in the end, it is all about the music.   From the sassy "T'ain't Nobody's Biz-Ness if I Do,” to the heartbreaking “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” to the anthem of the depression years, "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out,”  Bessie and the Blues still lives.

Kudos to the three fine musicians  Jim Hankins on bass, Anthony E. Nelson Jr. on sax and Gerard Gibbs on piano.  These guys were great!


The Devil's Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith
By Angelo Parra | Conceived and Directed by Joe Brancato 
Musical Arrangements by and Starring Miche Braden
At the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Lang Theatre 

August 24-September 24, 2017