JAZZ REVIEW : Parade of Singers Offer Tribute to Joe Williams

"For the Love of Joe," a tribute to Joe Williams staged Wednesday in Artemus Ham Hall at UNLV, was the third in a series of events organized to help the Society of Singers toward its goal of establishing a retirement home for singers.

Aside from two opening tunes with Henry Mancini conducting Dick Polumbi's house band, and a spectacular drum number by Louie Bellson, this was essentially a parade of singers--more than a dozen of them. The show also included two comedians (George Kirby and Marsha Warfield), a dancer, filmed greetings and actor Greg Morris as emcee.

The emotional evening produced several climactic moments, including Della Reese's majestic "Come Rain or Come Shine" and O.C. Smith's version of his old hit "Little Green Apples," which he invested with freshly vigorous charm.

The most touching number was "Amazing Grace" sung by the youngest artist, Diane Schuur, who began a cappella and then accompanied herself on piano. She dedicated the song to the memory of the late Stan Getz, who helped launch her career.

So much for the plus factors.

On the negative side, there were several errors of commission and one glaring error of omission. The producers, seemingly motivated by a Las Vegas show-biz mind-set, overloaded the show with Vegas-type performers.

Thus we had Vikki Carr belting her fortissimo way through "It Must Be Him," Keely Smith evoking unneeded memories of 1950s Vegas days, Bob Anderson imitating Sammy Davis, etc. Yet Marlena Shaw, whose duet with Joe Williams helped earn them a Grammy nomination last year, was in the house but wasn't invited to sing.

Why exclude her and allow Al Hibbler to perform? Not only is his voice shot, but he was so nervous that he was barely able to finish his song.

The evening peaked with Williams singing the exquisite "Here's to Life," accompanied by the composer, Artie Butler, at the piano, followed by a blues--a perfect ending to a generally satisfying evening.

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