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Ramsey Lewis, Mitch Ryder and dance
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Ramsey Lewis, Mitch Ryder and dance

by Mercy Moosemuzzle - SGN Contributing Writer

Canyon Sam
Mercy's friend Mischief Bossanova told Mercy about the writer Canyon Sam reading at Elliott Bay Books. Sam is a Lesbian performance artist from San Francisco. Her book, Sky Train, recounts two visits she made to Tibet 20 years apart and the interviews she did with women there. The excerpts she read were well-written and compelling tales about how Tibetan men felt forced to leave the women behind when the Chinese were invading and bombarding their homes.

The women's stories reflected those who lived in Tibet before the Chinese occupation, those who adapted to it, and those who lived in exile. That range of experience added to the impact of her reading.

Mitch Ryder
Mercy and her friend Jewel Depthpsychology went to see Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels at the Triple Door. The service was flawless.

Mitch Ryder opened with a rocking version of "Little Latin Lupe Lu." The back-up band, a much younger version of his original group, was energetic in recreating the music. The singer commented that he still lives in Detroit, where unemployment is 27%, so "I thank you personally for having me here."

Ryder, who has been playing professionally for 48 years, made jokes about his age and the audience's age, such as, "Don't try to get up and give me a standing ovation at the end. We don't want to have to call ambulances." He also quipped that the audience might tend toward deafness. Jewel said, "If we weren't deaf to begin with, we will be after this."

With Ryder's age comes confidence in his music. He thrillingly brought off his hits, "Devil in a Blue Dress," "Jenny Takes a Ride," and "Sock It To Me Baby." He also played some newer originals Mercy found compelling, particularly "The Promise," which she took to be in honor of Obama's election. You can hear that song at YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCM-i3PUlvI.

Some of the people sitting next to Mercy and Jewel said they were from Detroit and were surprised to find people who weren't from Michigan there. They thought of Mitch Ryder as a local phenomenon. Jewel explained that the performer was widely played on the radio. Mercy pointed out that he seems to have a following in Europe, too.

Chitresh Das Dance Company
Mercy and Cuteness saw the Chitresh Das Dance Company as part of the UW World Music and Theater series. The dancer's musicians - Kousic Sen on tabla, Jayanta Banerjee on sitar - and Debasish Sarkar's vocals were outstanding. His company danced the Durga Vandana flowingly. The dance is in honor of the goddess Shakti.

Chitresh Das amazed Mercy and Cuteness with an unscheduled dance piece representing a train going through a number of different landscapes. All he used were his feet and the bells on his legs. Mercy was amazed by that. Cuteness pointed out that we generally think of Western dance as a visual form, while Indian dance addresses all our senses. With his amazing footwork, it is not surprising that Das was honored for a collaboration with tap dance star Jason Samuels Smith.

Another standout moment of the night was Chitresh Das dancing all the roles of Ghat Bhao Sita Apaharan, about the abduction of the goddess Sita. The transitions between one character and another were amazing. Das generously explained the story to the audience. His manner toward his musicians and dancers was very respectful.

Ramsey Lewis
Mercy and Cuteness were wowed by Ramsey Lewis and his trio at Jazz Alley. The appetizer they ordered was delicious.

Ramsey Lewis' fingers were long, elegant and confident, and this was reflected in how he played his Steinway. His playing ranged from intense to softly tender. His trio was tight. Mercy enjoyed watching the way drum player Leon Joyce's face lit up as the bandleader signaled his solos and also handing the direction back to Lewis. Bass player Larry Gray also exchanged smiles of satisfaction with Lewis. Both stopped playing and watched the piano player when he played, as if they had never heard those particular riffs before. Maybe they hadn't.

The group opened with a song aptly titled "Sparks," from their new CD, Songs From the Heart. Their second number, "Love," which did not make the cut on the new CD, was gorgeous. They continued with Stevie Wonder's "Living For the City," which featured hot drums. A sweet rendition of "Body and Soul" followed. Lewis took "Strangers in the Night" apart and put it back together beautifully. There was nice humor and improvisation between the pianist and the drummer in "Just A Closer Walk with Me." That number also had a lush bass solo. The trio's rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" reverberated joyously. The audience gave the group a standing ovation and the trio came back to play "In With the In Crowd."

One thing Mercy likes about Jazz Alley is that the musicians walk through the audience. That gave Cuteness a chance to say, "That was beautiful" to Ramsey Lewis. She was touched by how humble he seemed in saying, "Thank you." They are a group of musicians that clearly are masters of their art and enjoy performing.

Cuteness heard a woman saying to her father, who must have bought her a ticket, "You have made me so happy," as she brushed tears from her eyes. Mercy and Cuteness had been moved by that piece, too.

Referendum 71
Mercy and Cuteness sent in their ballots in favor of Referendum 71, because they hope to keep those domestic partnership rights. Don't forget to send yours in.

Coming Up
Mercy and Cuteness are looking forward to LGBT night at Seattle Opera for La Traviata (www.seattleopera.org), and Holly Near at the Triple Door (www.thetripledoor.net). Also coming soon is Lisa Marshall, one of Mercy's favorite blues singers and Paula Maya, a noted singer and songwriter at the Laughing Ladies Café (www.laughingladiescafe.com). Mercy and Cuteness are going to have to miss that one, because they are going to be on the inaugural Sweet cruise in the Caribbean. Check to see if they still have space available at discoversweet.com. Mercy's friend Destiny thinks the group might offer cut rates if they still have empty staterooms as time to depart approaches. Mercy hopes they do.

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