Keren Ann Zeidel wins the sophisticated internationalist chanteuse credential competition, for sure. Born in Israel to Dutch-Javanese and Russian-Israeli parents, the singer-songwriter now splits her time between Tel Aviv and Paris. Come springtime, she'll team with the Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson to provide a pop music portion of the Kimmel Center's inaugural (and French-focused) Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. But that's not until April. In the more immediate future, Keren Ann will play an early show at the Tin Angel on Saturday night, featuring songs from her sixth album,
, due in March, which finds her still making extraordinarily pretty music while adding growing complexity and depth to the mix.
- Dan DeLuca
More than a few Philadelphians just got a Grammy nom last week. John Legend, the Roots, Jazmine Sullivan, Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, Bilal, and the late Solomon Burke are among them. But can we get an extra-loud holler for organist Joey DeFrancesco, who got a contemporary jazz album nomination for
Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson
? Joey, the son of local jazz organ magnate Papa John DeFrancesco, is also a scion of the dirty blues and soul-jazz Philly organ groove born of the likes of Jimmy Smith. Famed for live gigs with Miles Davis and recorded tributes to Smith (
), Mafia film soundtracks (
), Ol' Blue Eyes (
Plays Sinatra His Way
), and other jazz influences like Horace Silver (
) and Don Patterson (
The Philadelphia Connection
), he cleverly plays up to the King of Pop on his new CD. On
Never Can Say Goodbye,
DeFrancesco accords the tinny funk of "Thriller" and ballads such as "Human Nature" and "She's Out of My Life" with the same heft he's given gritty jazz licks throughout his long career. With Jackson's own posthumous
due out this month, DeFrancesco is as savvy as he is talented. Give up that Grammy.
- A.D. Amorosi
Blind Boys of Alabama
More than 60 years after they met as youngsters at the Talladega Blind School, the Blind Boys of Alabama still enthrall audiences with their vibrant gospel harmonies and soul-deep musical reflections. The five-time Grammy-winning group's "Go Tell It on the Mountain" tour features a mix of traditional holiday music, old-school gospel favorites, and more contemporary numbers by everyone from Curtis Mayfield ("People Get Ready") to Norman Greenbaum ("Spirit in the Sky").
The carefully chosen holiday songs give the three lead singers - Bishop Billy Bowers, Ben Moore, and founding member Jimmy Carter - each a chance to shine, most notably with Bowers' blistering vocals on "I Pray at Christmas," and Moore's sweet-as-sugar singing on "White Christmas."
Blind Boys songs that swing on their records will outright rock onstage, fueled by a powerhouse rhythm section. Even with a mix of slower songs, this show may feel more like an electrifying revival meeting than a traditional Christmas show. And that, my friends, can be a good thing.
- Nicole Pensiero