May 2006

Kellylee Evans | Fight or Flight? CD Release
May 5, 2006Lula LoungeToronto
The Real Deal
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
Kellylee Evans opened her show with “I Don’t Want You to Love Me” — but everyone did. As it turned out, the Arab-inspired vocal introduction to that first song was like a call to worship. At the end of her performance, “She is awesome”, “she’s so real”, “she’s just wonderful”, “what a smart woman” and “I’m in love with her” were common currents in the conversation flowing around the room.
What provoked such reaction? Many things. First and foremost, the smooth, strong voice of which she seems to have complete control. Kellylee Evans moves effortlessly from note to note, savouring the vibrations of those she chooses to hold onto. She revels in the sounds of the words and the mood of the lyrics. She loses herself in the singing, and in the performance, and she takes us along for the ride. It all seems so easy, so natural. Kellylee Evans is one polished performer. It is already two years since she won second place at the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition in New York and I’m sure that she has progressed since then or she surely would have won first. She is awesome.
On stage, with her voice, her passion and her expressive power, she is larger than life, yet as she talks between numbers, you feel she could be your next door neighbour or your best friend. With her talent, she inspires awe but also empathy. We have the illusion that she is just like us. Her songs and her stories are personal but they are about the stuff of life, to which we can all relate. She sings a song she wrote after trying to imagine what it would be like to have Alzheimer’s, a song titled “You Don’t Remember Our Love”. She tells us about her mother who passed away from cancer. She describes her as a 'super single mom' and sings a song about her, simply titled “You”. But she is no cheap peddler of melodrama. She is a communicator. She is Real.

She deals in the depths, in the complex and the paradoxical. But her lyric “your smile brings light to even the sunniest day” (from “I Don’t Want You To Love Me”) could be about herself, for she is also funny, spontaneous and glowing with energy. Her over-riding message is to be strong, don’t let go of your dreams, be yourself and live your own life. A Kellylee Evans performance is uplifting. Near the end of the set, she left the stage, grabbed the arm of the photographer at the front of the room and danced with him. She worked her way through the entire room in this way, playfully chiding the reticent, joking, talking and succeeding at getting people on their feet. You might imagine this as very show-biz but it felt like a spontaneous act of genuine good will. It was "s’wonderful".

Kellylee Evans wrote all of the eleven songs in her set. Style-wise they were a mix of urban jazz and R&B, with doses of hip hop and reggae and some Latin rhythms. The band she chose to accompany her did an excellent job with the material and we were treated to some lovely guitar work. But what is so remarkable about Kellylee’s songs is their beautifully-written, intelligent lyrics.

She avoids cliches, even ironically as in “Hooked” when she sings “these old cliches keep emerging from the state I’m in”.

She can be subtle,
“She was going to have a baby / And then they would get married / So he said / That’s what she heard”
(from “What About Me?")

“This may come as a surprise but I don’t want you to love me goodbye”
(from “I Don’t Want You to Love Me")

and clever,
“it’s not that bad here on this fence I’ve got the company of my friends”
(from "Fight or Flight").

Kellylee Evans’ songs are obviously the product of a strong intellect, she is a smart woman.

Finally, there was her story about seeing the kids in the World Vision commercials on television when she was twelve and pledging her paper route money to help them. She tells us she always felt guilty for not having continued with it, but now she is supporting them in a bigger way, lending her voice to fundraising events, encouraging people to get involved and to donate. She has a table set up at the back of the room with information about World Vision and she informs the audience that everyone who donates on this evening will receive her new CD free of charge.

Her encore was the only piece she sang that she did not write but she made it her own. It was her take on John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

How could you not love her?

The band
Adam Bowman — drums
Kevin Ramessar — guitar, trumpet
Jerome Jeffrey — guitar
Matthew Lima — bass
Kellylee Evans — vocals
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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