Annie wrote me the other day and said, “I’m back online after a month.” She then began listing concerts that were coming up (Annie’s concert emails are a great source for live shows). And then she said, “And of course Sam Phillips is playing tomorrow.” WHAT! WHAT?
So I packed my daughter, Jessie, in the car and off we went to see Sam. Actually, it was a David Palmer performance (keyboardist for Joe Henry and others) and Sam was only going to sing a few songs. But with Sam in the studio and working on Gilmore Girls this year, I’m taking every opportunity to see her.
The opening act was Mark Goldenberg, who did some wonderful unaccompanied jazz guitar playing. Then David came on and played some amazing songs; covering a wide range of styles, from Elliot Smith to Sonny Rollins. After about 4 songs, he invited Sam to come up and sing. With just his brilliant improvisational piano behind Sam, we got to see a very different Sam Phillips. Sam likes to call herself a torch singer these days, and who can argue with her. But her band has its own unique sound. With David, Sam had a torch piano player behind her. It gave her songs that real jazz torch singer sound: A sound that she’s only flirted with so far. It was stunning. Okay, Sam is always stunning (especially in Black, which she loves to wear onstage), but this was special. It was the jazz side of Sam, and although they are the same songs she plays with the band, they felt so different.
During the performance, Sam would look back strangely at David. I thought it was because of his improvising of her songs, but actually it was because he was humming with the songs; and not the tune of the song. Sam was surprised by it, but seemed to really love it.
Below is her set list. A highlight continues to be Tom Waits’ “Green Grass” from his latest CD. She owns that song now, as far as I’m concerned. She is talking about possibly recording it. I hope so. It really fits the music she is writing.
- Say What You Mean
- Edge of the World
- Green Grass (written by Tom Waits)
- Reflecting Light
After Sam left the stage, Eric Gorfain (the lead violin for the Section Quartet) joined David, a drummer and a bongo player and proceeded to perform some classic 60’s/70’s styled improvisational jazz. It was really good. It brought back memories of people like Jean Luc Ponty and Chick Corea, who I used to enjoy in the 70’s. David created these wonderful soundscapes that allowed Eric to soar on top of. I can only imagine how good it would have been if they actually had a sound check.
Okay Sam news. The goal for the next CD is fall, but no guarantees. T-Bone’s new CD has been pushed back because of production assignments, so look for it next year. T-Bone’s live tour will be something you’ll tell your grandkids about. Don’t miss it. Gilmore Girls has been picked up for at least one more, maybe two more years. So Sam has a steady job for now.