An Intimate Evening with Jade Elektra
Bob Leahy says it was no drag reviewing the new CD from one of PositiveLite.com ’s own, regular poz writer DJ Relentless aka drag artist Jade Elektra, because this one’s a winner!
Given Jade Elektra’s reputation as a dance floor diva known best for her fierce bitch tracks, one doesn’t expect an intimate release from Jade Elektra but, here it is – An Intimate Evening with Jade Elektra, Live in Concert, a collection of thirteen tracks in a lounge/cabaret setting. This is a live recording – in fact a very live recording, so expect in between song banter, odd technical glitches, but more importantly a real feeling for being in the room. Which, for those who know Toronto, is Statlers on Church Street.
The genesis of this recording is interesting. In New York City, Jade often frequented the piano at The Monster in Greenwich Village to sing with the legendary Martin St. Lawrence (former pianist for Frank Sinatra in the 70's and early 80's). In Toronto, she was surprised to find that there were only a couple of pianos in the Gay Village. She was really impressed with the Thursday night pianist at Statlers, Donavon LeNabat. She began hanging out at Statlers on her nights off back in the summer of 2010.
So, as her 44th birthday was approaching, she got an idea and asked the owner of Statlers if she could do a free live concert at his establishment. He was not very keen on having a drag queen on his stage since his stage was reserved for live performers. But after hearing her sing a few times on open mic night with Donavon, he changed his tune. He agreed to let her celebrate her birthday on August 18th, 2011. Hence this live recording.
Background music this isn’t; this is very much listening music. Jade has a lot of tricks up her sleeve and the way she pulls them out of the hat is quite masterly. One simply doesn’t know what she will do next. She sings in more than one style, so we open with quite jazzy stylings (Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love, an homage to Dionne Warwick), moves quickly into the spoken word (“Bitch you Look Fierce”, definitely not the underground club version Jade is best known for, but a very intimate down-tempo piece) and some of the best Billie Holiday sound-alike’s you’ll hear anywhere. Her “Don’t Explain” in particular is quite amazing. Then there are the surprise belters like “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror, and others that show Jade has a career in show tunes if she wanted to explore that genre.
The piano accompaniment by Donovan LeNabat is stylish throughout – and in fact is one of the delights of this recording, a small feat in itself given the star power that emanates like liquid gold from Jade’s vocals. Bass from Ross MacIntyre and percussion from Jamie Bird round out the sound nicely. If I have any issues with this recording it’s that perhaps it is too live, with more background and between-song banter than most live recordings exhibit. But clearly Jade Elektra wanted it that way. “Raw and honest” is how she describes it in the liner notes, and that is exactly what you get.