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MUSIC

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mya

Plenty of pop musicians are still getting their feet wet at 27, but Mya Harrison is already staging a comeback. Ten years into her career, the Greenbelt-raised singer still has the pipes, the moves and the looks -- but can we please give her some elbow room?

Surrounded by a fleet of dancers and backup singers at the 9:30 club Saturday, the platinum-selling R&B star found herself in desperate need of some Mya-space.

As for the rest of the club: not so crowded. After an opening set by rap duo Clipse, the audience thinned out, leaving Mya to perform for a couple hundred fans. (Sad that millions will devote themselves to a TV show that showcases some truly wretched singing, while a bona fide American idol can't even play to a full house in her home town).

The overcrowded stage and under-crowded dance floor didn't stop Mya from throwing her cotton-candy croon and effortless dance steps into "Girls Dem Sugar" and "My Love Is Like . . . Wo."

Cuts from her forthcoming album, "Liberation," made for a surprising highlight, even if they felt a little trapped in the past. "Ridin' " skittered like a Destiny's Child tune, while "I Am" summoned the fire of early Mary J. Blige.

Closing the show with "Lady Marmalade," (her 2001 Grammy-winning collaboration with Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim and Pink), the singer flashed her gorgeous, crescent-moon smile at the remaining cluster of fans.

Grin and bear it, Mya. The comeback trail has to start somewhere.

-- Chris Richards

Hot Chip

Hot Chip's brand of pulsing, soulful electro-rock is perfect for an hour when there is just a hint of daylight, so 5:30 a.m. would be a much better fit than 8:15 p.m., which is when the British quintet took the stage Saturday at the 9:30 club.

The timing may not have been ideal, but the group still managed to whip up an appealing blend of laid-back grooves and irresistible rave-ups that had many in the crowd letting loose despite the early start.

Fans of dudes standing in a row, rocking back and forth in front of samplers and keyboards, simply won't find a group more to their liking than Hot Chip.

All five members stood in a horizontal line in front of various electronics, although sometimes they took time to play guitar or bang on some bongos. Diminutive singer Alexis Taylor -- who looks, to the point of distraction, like Napoleon Dynamite's brother Kip -- was in fine form with his sincere, Prince-like vocals that added a very human element to Hot Chip's Kraftwerk- and New Order-inspired songs.

The unquestioned highlight of the performance was the set closer, a show-stopping version of "Over and Over," the group's breakout single from last year's album "The Warning."

As smooth as the song is on record, it was just as sinewy and hypnotic in a live setting, with heavier synths and Al Doyle's electric guitar giving it some added muscle.

A three-song encore highlighted by the aptly titled new song "Ready for the Floor" maintained the momentum and surely left many in the audience looking for ways to keep the party going.

At least it was early enough that they had plenty of options.

-- David Malitz

Count Basie Orchestra

Far and away the most familiar tune performed by the Count Basie Orchestra at Blues Alley on Saturday night was Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train," the Duke Ellington Orchestra's theme. No matter.

The opening set was laced with lesser-known pieces drawn from the Basie book that were devised by an extraordinary group of composer-arrangers, including Thad Jones, Ernie Wilkins, Frank Foster and Neal Hefti. It's a joy to hear the Basie band for that reason alone these days -- the chance to hear Jones's impossibly romantic "To You," or Foster's brassy fanfare "Who, Me?" But the group's lineup, loaded with seasoned talent, is further incentive.

Now under direction of trombonist Bill Hughes, who's been with the orchestra for more than 50 years, the ensemble vividly portrayed the signature elements of the Basie style, moving from frictionless rhythm section swing and blues-tinted piano accents to squawking trumpets, lush reeds and shout choruses that could be detected on the other side of the Potomac.

Spilling off the small stage, the 17-piece band showcased far too many fine musicians to mention, though the wide-sweeping dynamics were often defined by pianist Tony Suggs, who evoked Basie's economical touch, and powerhouse drummer Butch Miles, who seemed on the verge of self-combustion during "The Hawk."

Contributing a brief but soulful interlude was the vocalist Melba Joyce, yet another veteran who deserves to be better known.

The Blues Alley Jazz Society's third annual Big Band Jam!, featuring numerous ensembles, continues through April 29 at various locations around town.

-- Mike Joyce

The Doodlebops

Watching the Doodlebops, the rock band for preschoolers, might feel like a bad tie-dye flashback. Moe, Rooney and Deedee wear heavy makeup, colorful wigs and costumes right out of an old hippie's closet. But to the band's target audience of 2-to-5-year-olds, the Disney Channel stars are just plain groovy with their brand of cheery, upbeat music that steals from all sorts of genres.

It took some pumping up by the band members to invigorate a somewhat sluggish Saturday audience at the Patriot Center, many of whom may have skipped their naps to be there.

But after the band played the very loud "Let's Get Loud," there was no piping down the pint-size audience members who gleefully bopped along to "We're the Doodlebops," "Wobbly Whoopsy" and "Get on the Bus."

The musicians made sure there was no slowing down either, barking out orders to get louder, with Rooney taunting, "You don't need a nap, do you?"

The Doodlebops play fake electric guitars but they do their own singing and, for the most part, can hold a tune. Deedee (Lisa Lennox) gets the most voice time and is simply adorable -- even under that makeup and wig -- as she wiggles and shakes (and holds the interest of otherwise bored dads in the audience).

But Moe (Jonathan Wexler) was the crowd favorite, with break-dancing moves from 1984 and a general wiseguy attitude. He cartwheeled off the stage on the very first song, that rascal, leading Deedee and Rooney to search for him.

Although the band performed about an hour in total, the concert included a half-hour intermission. This may have been a thoughtful gesture by concert organizers to give parents time to tend to their kids, but more likely it gave kids more time to badger Mom or Dad to pony up for Doodlebop paraphernalia, as did a certain reviewer who shelled out 20 Doodle-dollars for a Doodlebop doohickey.

-- John Maynard

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