I have to admit that I had no idea who DC’s adopted son, Art Sherrod, Jr. was when I – with some reluctance, and not because I didn’t know of him, but because of the late hour of the show on a work weeknight - accepted an invitation to come out to the 10p.m. show to hear him. I did, however, know Chanté Moore’s work and was looking forward to seeing her live for the first time. I was tired from a long day’s work that I knew was going to begin all over again in a few hours, but I needed a reality check, too.
I got to the venue a half-hour before the doors were to open, on the assumption that I had plenty of time because the show was taking place so late, therefore expecting a moderate turn out. I realized how ridiculous my assumption was when I sashayed out of the parking lot and saw the line of people already formed to the street! I humbly took up the rear of the line, and waited for the friend who invited me, to arrive; and by the time she did, even more people had joined the line that would eventually wind around the block! The first show ran a little long, so the line didn’t begin to move until 10p.m., but once inside, we were lucky enough to get a good seat not too far from the stage. Finally at around 10:40 pm, the lights went down and the lovely Angela Stribling - celebrity TV and radio host, and wonderful vocalist in her own right - made her way to the microphone and introduced Art Sherrod to the stage.
The audience was instantly drawn to Art’s engaging stage presence, great wit and laid back style. And then he put the reed to his lips and began to blow “Smooth Groove”, from his 2009 release SEASONS, that blends smooth jazz with a little Go-Go swing. And being that DC is the Go-Go capital of the world, the approval from the crowd was immediate, as bodies in silhouette, swayed – some from side to side, while others bounced in their seats to the Go-Go beat. After a few warm words of greeting and a few bars of church “shout” music to keep the crowd on its toes (and for a little comic relief throughout the evening), Art introduced the band and then followed up with a nice rendition (also from SEASONS) of Earth, Wind & Fire’s, “That’s The Way Of The World”, with vocals courtesy of a willing audience. Gary Gillespie on keyboards laid down some windy snyth sounds as Art scatted out his solo. By the next tune, “My Cherie Amour” - the Stevie Wonder classic and a personal favorite – the audience was dubbed, “The DC Mass Choir”. Art’s beautiful tone on the sax served as the wings to the 150+ voices soaring in harmony.
After a few minutes of humorous banter (and more “shout” music), Art kept things on the smooth side with a gorgeous re-working of the Hall & Oates hit, “Sara Smile”, from the 2005 release, ALL 4 LOVE. Robert “Wah Wah” LeGrand (guitar) was saluted with lots of “whooping and hollering” from the audience during and after his staggering solo. But before anyone could recover, the band jolted the crowd with an unexpected and genius segue into the “Andy Griffith Show” theme song, unlike anything that’s ever been heard before. The groove swung so hard that the shock was short-lived, and soon replaced by hand claps, finger snaps, applause and festive screams. When they miraculously found their way right back into “Sara Smile”, it was all over but the shoutin’! With only a few minutes to gather their bearings after that onslaught, the crowd was warmed up and ready for Miss Chanté Moore, when Art introduced her and her backup singers to the stage, and he and the band stepped into their role as her back up.
Art and the band counted off the intro to “Love’s Taken Over”, as Chanté took her royal place at the microphone, looking absolutely stunning in her black velvet dress, large sparkling earrings, with her curly hair flowing free. What happened next was one of those amazing moments that leaves an indelible mark on one’s brain, forever. With the show running behind and no time for a vocal sound check, she wowed the audience by cleverly singing out to her soundman how she wanted her levels adjusted! Why say it, when you can just sing it and make it sound so darned good? No need for the waste-of-time, “testing, testing… one… two” stuff for her - the lady is a PRO! When her levels were finally to her satisfaction, she and the band went right into the first verse without missing a beat! It was one of those perfect moments of artistic brilliance that, as descriptive of that moment as I aim to be here, my mere words simply don’t do it justice. You really had to be there to appreciate it.
After that dramatic opener, Chanté chatted with the audience for a few minutes, and surprisingly, spoke briefly about her recent divorce before going into her next number, “It’s Alright”, that opened with a rousing intro by her keyboard player. But the showstopper of the night, was when she paused to showcase her breathy solo - performed with eyes closed, head back, with her right arm extended daintily into the air - singing it entirely in her beautiful upper register! She had the audience holding on to every single note for dear life, and they showed their love with a well-deserved standing ovation.
She then charmed the attentive crowd with an easy, breezy, Caribbean-flavored version of “Chanté’s Got A Man”, and then she and Art teamed up together for a smooth and soulful re-do of the Anita Baker favorite, “Sweet Love”, that concluded her set.
Art, the band, and vocalist Ronnie Queen closed the show with extra-funky versions of “Kiss”, by Prince, and “Cool”, by his protégés, Morris Day & The Time. After a few bars of more “shout” music, the set ended with Go-Go-styled, short versions of the head-boppers, “Stand Up”, by Ludacris, and Kanye West’s and Jamie Foxx’s, “Gold Digger”.
Reality check: #1 - to label Art Sherrod, Jr. as just a smooth jazz artist is to miss the whole point. The man can do it all, and does it with vigor and makes it so much fun; and #2 - never underestimate DC when it comes to their music. They show up and show out, no matter what time it is.
Whether or not Chanté Moore was his guest, or will be in the near future, I do not know. But what I do know, is, that wherever he shows up, there will a be surprise guest on hand, so go with the flow and get your place in the long-winding line and expect a great time – even if it’s a late show during a work week.
About the Writer
Holly Fountain is a music and concert enthusiast and an avid collector of vinyl and CD’s from the 60’s and '70s. In her spare time, she enjoys writing concert reviews in her own entertaining and unconventional style.