What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye Tribute at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn

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Felicia Collins/Ernest Barteldes

By Ernest Barteldes 

 

What’s Going On? 

Marvin Gaye Tribute 

Directed by Felicia Collins 

BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn 

August 9, 2019 

 

After a foot-stomping DJ set by Natasha Diggs, bandleader Felicia Collins took to the stage backed by an all-female 16-piece band to pay tribute to Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 album What’s Going on, starting off with the title track with lead vocals by Collins. The arrangement was close to the original recording with a few variations, but her vocals were very soulful, taking the lyrics, written from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran after his return home, to a different, more updated place.  

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Kennedy/Ernest Barteldes

With the participation of various singers, they went through the album track by track, continuing the story Gaye told in the album. There was little improvisation – a common occurrence at tribute shows, but there were some great individual moments , since each individual vocalist sought to leave their personal imprint, and that was evident with Kennedy, who sang lead on several numbers – but the one that stayed with me was gutarist Felicia Collins, who stole most of the show with her performances and her dexterity on guitar.  

I was hoping the band would expand more into Gaye’s catalogue and include other songs from his career – it would have been thrilling to hear “Ain’t No Mountain High,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” or other tunes, but this was a strict tribute to his most famous album. It was nice to have the musicians showcased on the theme reprise following “Inner City Blues,” where every musician did a little of improvisation as the show closed.  

It was the last show of the season for me – I was unable to attend the closing performance the following day, but it was again a great season for BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn – the performances I was able to attend were all memorable, and here’s looking for the next year. 

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What To Listen to in August – Free Shows in Central Park, Brooklyn and more

By Ernest Barteldes 

It’s always kind of bittersweet to write about the shows in the month of August because that is when most of the free concerts in the parks come to an end – sure, there are several benefits at Summerstage going as far as September, but honestly it’s not quite the same thing – there isn’t the excitement of falling in love with the music of an artist you’d never heard about that happened to on the bill for a night you went to see one of the favorites you were there to see in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times that happened to me in the years since I’ve been attending these shows – an example being on this very preview. 

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Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye left us too soon in the early 1980s, but he left a treasure trove of music that resonates to this day. Among his most respected works is his 1971 album What’s Going On, a concept album whose songs chronicle a Vietnam vet returning home to an America who looks down on him with hatred and disdain – and listening to it today, it still feels relevant.  A supergroup led by former David Letterman bandmember Felicia Collins come together to pay tribute to that album – musicians include jazz drummer Terri Lynne Carrington and other luminaries – plus several guests (BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, August 9th at 7:30 PM) 

 

Closing the season for Celebrate Brooklyn is Colombia’s Bomba Estereo, a band led by Simón Mejía and singer and rapper Li Saumet. The band blends element from Cumbia and electronic sounds, coming up with a unique sound that carries the tradition of psychedelic cumbias from Colombia and Peru and also bands like Aterciopelados – definitely a show not to be missed (BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, August 10th) 

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Lila Downs

The first time I heard the music of Lila Downs was around 2001 when I attended a performance by Brazil’s Luciana Souza and she happened to be sharing the bill with her. I was captivated by her energy on stage and also by her incredible vocal range – she can reach the lower notes of a contralto and then go up to the level of a soprano with ease, and her blend of traditional and contemporary sounds makes for a very enjoyable experience. (Summerstage in Central Park, August 11 at 7:00 PM) 

Selena was another victim of violence that was taken away from us way too soon, but her legacy is remembered at Selena For Sanctuary, an annual event that raises awareness for immigration rights – the event is themed on the late singer’s songs, and features various artists backed by the Santuario House Band under the musical direction of Adrian Quesada. (Summerstage in Central Park, August 18th at 8 PM) 

Closing the season for Summerstage is the Charlie Park Jazz festival, which is now expanded from its classic two-day, two-venue showcase to a much larger event in many venues – and the participants include the likes of Ravi Coltrane, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Michael Marcus and many more. It is something that I always try to attend, and I feel very satisfied with the music every time – and remember I have been in attendance for almost two decades now, and I am not yet tired of it.