Something magical happens when a singer and her band establish an immediate bond with an audience. At Blues Alley, on this mild DC summer evening, the Mack Diva herself, the dynamic Sandra St. Victor and her group of long-time collaborators and masterful young bloods held the audience under their spell and let us all in on their party. Coming to the stage to the funky strains of “Don’t Bring Me Down” from her overlooked 1996 masterwork, “Mack Diva Saves The World” Sandra let it be known that she meant to get her point across. Then with the guitar and organ driven “The Rock and The Rain Cloud’s Daughter”, they proved to us that this was not to be an ordinary jazz club show!
Any great performer can tell what the audience is feeling, so Sandra perceptively returned to the Mack Diva LP for a trio of tunes, the title track, a stirring version of “Come Over”, with some of the lowest notes (were they baritone?) on the first verse, followed by the so so sexy “Wet”. It was obvious that many of the audience members were quite familiar with these songs and it was a rare treat to have an opportunity to hear them performed live.
Acknowledging her father and other family members in the audience, Sandra reminisced about growing up in Dallas and the musical influences that shape her artistry. Following suit, she offered her versions of the Spinners’ “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” (with a unique audience participation concept where we were to sing Philipe Wynn’s vamp at the end of the song) and then she wailed on Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot,” allowing Tom Hammer to share the spotlight with some energetic work on the piano. Sir Elton would have been as excited as this audience was at the result.
Slowing things down again, Sandra moved into “Knocked Up and Locked Down”, one of the most dramatic and devastating songs from the Mack Diva project. Marius Machado’s searing guitar solo brought the house down.
Sandra included songs from her independent solo projects, Hand Delivered (“100 Million Years”) and Gemini Both Sides (“Act Of Beauty”). On the song “One Night With You”, she was accompanied beautifully by her co-writer, Tom Hammer. Vocally, she was in top-notch form, ably supported by her band and the incredible vocals of Keith Fluitt. Also on hand were Lez Lemon on bass, Abe Fogle on drums (and impersonations). Sandra's Family Stand co-hort V. Jefferey Smith, the “coolest brotha on the planet”, is still holding everything down on guitar, sax, flute and vocals. It is gratifying to see these two creative forces still togethere after all these years!
Another interesting song choice followed; Don McClean’s “American Pie” had the audience singing along until she had to stop and discuss the cryptic lyrics. In the end she concluded that she just loved the song! Finishing up her first set, the band offered a nice dub version of the classic Family Stand hit “Ghetto Heaven”.
Since she now resides in The Netherlands, it is always a pleasure when Sandra St. Victor returns home. If you get the opportunity to catch her act, make sure you don’t miss it. She can always be depended on to give a daring, fully entertaining performance.
About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at SoulMusic.com. His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.