March 2005

March 10, 2005 The Richmond Lounge Toronto

Tonight the Richmond Lounge is featuring Delihla, a great name for a lovely lady with a lovely voice. She will treat us to an eclectic mix of material from gypsy songs to smooth jazz, dance mix and fusions of many forms. Most of the pieces she sings will be her own.

The band opens up the first set with an instrumental version of the classic soul jazz tune “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, a huge instrumental hit in 1966 for the Cannonball Adderly Quintet. The words later written for it about a girlfriend who turns the heads of all the guys in the neighbourhood are great fun but seem worlds apart from the words of Cannonball Adderly prefacing the piece on his live recording. He says “You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity. When it happens sometimes we’re caught short…sometimes we just don’t know what to do when adversity takes over and well, I have advice for all of us, I got it from my pianist, Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune and it sounds like what you’re supposed to say when you have that kind of problem…” These words make the piece sound a natural opening for Delihla’s show. A member of one of the most persecuted ethnic groups throughout history, she could tell you a thing or two about adversity. Her people were slaves in Wallachia and Moldavia (now part of Romania) until 1856 and victims of the Nazi gas chambers. In many countries today, they are still the object of hatred and racially motivated violence. They have been described by the European Union as a transnational minority, and referred to by some as the blacks of Europe. They are the Gypsies, or to use a less charged word, the Roma.

“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. What an antidote to the oppression depression blues this tune is. And the band gets into it bigtime, cooking, spreading some solos around. Calvin Beale picks up the melody line on the bass, Jim Heineman comes in and takes it away with the sax, Dave Sereny builds an intense guitar solo on it, followed by Mike Sereny on keyboards while Wade O. Brown lays down some cool synth sound underneath. Bursting with smiles, Mike steps out from behind the keyboard singing, “Ain’t the bass funky?/ I could listen to this all night/ Feel like James Brown/ Whoa!”
Seems they’re warmed up and ready for anything now.

Long black hair flowing over her shoulders, Delihla takes the stage and greets the audience with a warm and gracious smile. A new rhythm emanates from the stage and her high subtly modulating vibrato debuts over a matrix of electronic sound, the whole evoking the Middle East. She sings what will be the title track of her upcoming CD A Sweeter Life, in a mix of Romani and English: “We walk the streets alone/ No place to call our own/ Never really knowing/ Where it is we’re going”

The next piece is the hypnotic “Love Me Baby” written by Dave Sereny which uses a synthesized bass along with lots of work from Mike and Wade on keyboards. A dance mix kind of piece, it is free from the synthesized beats often associated with the genre. So nice to have a living breathing drummer giving colour and personality to the rhythm.

The set is rounded out with two love songs. The first one features some interesting rhythm changes and some nice back-up vocals from Wade. The last one starts: “My sunshine/ You make me smile from my head to my toes/ Everybody knows what you mean to me/ You are the reason I wake up each morning/ Can’t wait to see the look in your eyes when you start your day” I notice something of the quality of Delihla’s voice in a flute solo that follows. Nice.

The second set starts with another classic, again an instrumental piece. Monk’s beautiful “Round Midnight” is given voice here by a poignant tenor saxophone ending on a high note—ever-yearning.

Delihla again takes the stage, this time with what is now known as the Gypsy national anthem, “Djelem, Djelem”. The melody of this piece is thought to have originated in Romania. It was popular in Paris in the 20’s and 30’s and very popular as well among Serbian Gypsies in the 70s. It seems there are variants of it all over Europe. At the first World Romani Congress in 1971 a sort of “standard” version of it was voted on by representatives from over 20 countries and thus adopted as the national anthem of the Roma.

Delihla sings it beautifully, in Romani, with a rather haunting intro, weaving through various tempos and rhythms. It sounds Eastern European and Middle Eastern at the same time, gypsy scale-based and microtonal. Then, at one point I even feel some Samba (why not? some say the Roma deported from Portugal had an influence on the evolution of Samba in Brazil) and there are a few moments of clave effect from Mike on keyboard. The piece is bittersweet, sad and joyous. The many feelings of a people mingling together. The lyrics speak of the travelling life and of death at the hands of the Nazis but also speak out proudly, “Now is the time—stand up, Roma, We shall succeed where we make the effort.”

After a few more enjoyable, fusion–type pieces from Delihla, the night ends with “Freedom” a light, happy, and funky tune with the sax filling in horn shots, R&B/soul style. Leading with the keyboard, Mike turns it sharply around and the piece blows out in instrumental glory. No fade-out here, a soaring guitar with a sharply finished end.

Look for the release of Delihla’s first CD, A Sweeter Life in May 2005. The gypsy/fusion tracks should be especially interesting. In the meantime, she does sing on The Jazz Room’s Vocal Jazz, Smooth Jazz and Classic Jazz CDs.

This was the second-last in a series of shows presented by the record label Groove United Productions at the Richmond Lounge, 342 Richmond St. W. (corner of Peter and Richmond, above Fez Batik). The last show of the series will be Thursday, March 17th. Forget the green beer and hang out here.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Report by Joyce Corbett
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Photographs by Roger Humbert

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