Carla Cook at Blues Alley
Not too long ago, many enthusiasts were concerned that this generation of jazz vocalists was lagging behind its instrumentalist counterpart. But along comes a remarkable singer like Detroit-bred Carla Cook, who assures us that the next generation of jazz vocalists is just over the horizon. Monday night she made her Blues Alley debut, which also celebrated her wonderful debut album, "It's All About Love."
Cook is not a jazz diva, nor does she pretend to be: Her charming demeanor evokes the neighborhood churchgoing girl who can sing like nobody's business. Sure, she has sass that enlivens her impeccable diction, and tremendous soul that lets her swagger a song with gutbucket finesse, but it's all buttressed with sparkling optimism and innocence.
When Cook sang the samba-driven "Can This Be Love?" and the shimmering ballad "Where or When," she filled them with gleeful aplomb that was heightened by Bruce Barth's magnificent piano solos and accompaniments. Her economical phrasing and robust song styling sometimes betray her gospel and R&B leanings, but she also proved to be an engaging scat singer in "The Way You Look Tonight," which featured her engaging in delightful dialogue with bassist James King.
Cook was at her best when she embraced the music of her own generation. Delivering enticing post-Motown bop treatments of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and Miles Davis's "So What?"--both strutting with hip-hop attitude--Cook clearly is a "diva in the rough."
Dancing just looks like an international language. In reality, it's as culture-specific as any other art, and without an intimate understanding of the source material that inspires the dances, the viewer is left with a collection of shapes and patterns.
Each of the four works offered by "Emerging Korean Choreographers" Monday night at the Terrace Theater (in a program presented by the Korea Society and the Kennedy Center) blended aspects of Korean traditional and American modern dance. Each was quite different in theme and vocabulary, but all shared qualities of serenity, harmony and a very sensual delight in beauty.
Ae-soon Ahn's "The 11th Shadow" had a gorgeous shadow puppet play (designed by Sun-hee-Shin) in the background as seven crouching dancers inched across the floor so slowly the actual process of that movement was barely perceptible. Freer dancing followed, but nothing quite matched the paper dragon that danced triumphantly on the screen behind.
Ho-bin Park's "Secret of the Green Scorpion" seemed a cousin of Jerome Robbins's "The Cage" (she mates and she kills). Here, amid a set of white nesting cubes, a woman (Park) dances, eventually joined by a man (Seong-joo Joh) with whom she couples, then smothers and neatly stores away. The dancing was quite beautiful--light, supple and slithery; like Ahn's work, this was more a danced poem than a dance drama.
In-young Sohn's "A Day in Summer" created the sense of heat and rare breezes through white clothes hanging on a line, and water that refreshed and cleansed the dancer. Sohn's dancing here and in Claire Porter's "If My Words Wore Boots" (about the difficulties of learning to communicate in a strange language) was clear and lovely.
CAPTION: Carla Cook: Blues Alley debut shines.