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"Dynamic Divas"

Dee Alexander & Maggie Brown
Kennedy-King College
Chicago, IL
Apr. 2, 2008
David Young
David Young
Dee Alexander & Maggie Brown
Dee Alexander & Maggie Brown

Story and Photos by James Walker

What a concept!! Dee Alexander and Maggie Brown, the "Dynamic Divas" gracing the stage at Kennedy-King College with eloquence and style that we are accustomed to seeing from these exceptional Chicago jazz vocalists. This was the type of show that could easily be portrayed in the mode of a "Broadway Type" of production in the style of Patty LuPone and Audra McDonald, two very successful Broadway vocalists who often perform together and have received awards and accolades for their "show tunes and musicals."

On this evening, Dee and Maggie paid homage to three all time great jazz vocalists, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone and Dinah Washington. Dee has previously honored both Nina and Dinah during engagements (see's review of the "Sirens of Song" concert at Millenium Park on September 11, 2007), and Maggie often includes selections from Abbey's songbook during most of her performances, but to this writer's knowledge, this was the first time all three were recognized through song by these two wonderful vocalists.

Augmenting the Divas were four of Chicago's finest musicians: Junius Paul on bass; the ever present Ernie Adams on drums and percussion; rising star David Young on trumpet; and Dee's longtime musical director and arranger, Miguel de la Cerna on the keyboard. These four "sidemen" are as good as they get and were very complementary to the ladies throughout the evening without being overbearing. The foursome warmed up the audience with a nice mid-tempo number that featured Young, Paul and De la Cerna with extended solos.

Upon completion of this number, Dee and Maggie gracefully strolled onto the stage from opposite ends singing "My Baby Just Cares for Me." During this rendition, the muffled sound emitting from David Young's horn was very discernible while not taking away from this introductory song. It must be noted that Young distinguished himself during this magnificent performance, perhaps gaining fans from this appreciative audience. Not that Young is unknown (he often performs and has recorded with Chicago premier flautist Nicole Mitchell), he's not yet as active as the other veteran sidemen.

For the remainder of the concert before the finale, Dee and Maggie would alternate at the mike entertaining the crowd with mostly beautiful ballads. It was during Dee's first segment that she performed with emotion and conviction, "Four Women," "Feeling Good" and Simone's classic, "Mississippi Goddam." Feeling Good was done with only Paul and Adam's percussions accompanying her. Both gentlemen rendered nice extended solos while Dee used her signature "chirping" sounds and scatting to the delight of the audience. As is normal during Dee's singing of Mississippi Goddam, one could see the sincerity in her face and hear the conviction in her voice as she interprets Simone's words about protest during the civil rights era.

With Maggie back at center stage, her version of Dinah's "Don't Go To Strangers," was perhaps her highlight of the evening. This writer has reviewed Ms. Brown on four different occasions within the past nine months, and she appears to be growing as a singer and performer. Her stage presence and personality were particularly noticible as she sung this gorgeous ballad. Again, De la Cerna, complemented Maggie with a nice extended solo.

Dee rendered a very nice Abbey selection entitled, "Lonesome Lover." It was during this number that Junius Paul engaged in nice interplay with Dee. These musicians are so comfortable with one another. They seamlessly advance from one movement to the next.

Maggie shared with the audience the pleasure she had in recording with Abbey on "Wholly Earth." She then beautifully articulated this number and Lincoln's "Throw It Away." It's such a pleasure to hear both Maggie and Dee as they add their own flavor to these classic tunes without committing musical sacrilege. They concluded this 90 minute concert with another duet, "And It's Supposed to Be Love." This Abbey Lincoln penned number was also recorded as a duet by Maggie and Abbey.

Kudos to the Adult Education and Reprographic Services Departments of Kennedy-King for sponsoring this evening's beautifully articulated and annunciated vocals by two of the finest vocalist that could grace any stage. Let's hope the "Dynamic Divas" repeat this performance sometime in the future.

Check out great Chicago jazz happenings at
Maggie Brown
Maggie Brown
Junius Paul
Junius Paul
Dee Alexander
Dee Alexander

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