LIVE: Phyllis Chapell & Siora @ the Madison Theater, 11/28/15
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Philadelphia-based Phyllis Chapell & Siora rolled into town to roost at Albany’s Madison Theater over the Thanksgiving weekend. And the small but enlightened audience loved their world music-meets-jazz concert. Their wildly interesting and non-traditional arrangements of jazz and roots standards were interspersed with lots of originals.
But sadly only a precious few experienced the band’s magnificent mix of international and domestic music. Why, on the heels of Chapell and company’s newest and most inspiring album, Naked World, wasn’t the house filled? Maybe it was lack of advertising. Perhaps the band would have garnered a larger audience at Caffe Lena or the Eighth Step, but at the Madison, it was a no-win situation both for the band and the venue.
When Chapell & Siora played the Lake George Jazz Weekend some 14 or so years back, the audience gave them a standing ovation, her captivating voice spearheading a set sung in English, Spanish and Portuguese – the latter two without an American accent because Chapell learns an international song from the roots up, including the proper pronunciation of the sung word. In fact, she’s phenomenal at it.
At the Madison, vocalist-guitarist Chapell was accompanied by the masterful multi-instrumentalist Steve Jewett. His guitar pyrotechnics traversed spot-on fingerpicked arrangements of Leo Kottke, Cole Porter and Joni Mitchell, among others. And his sitar accompaniment took it to another level altogether. Talk about blinking your eyes in disbelief. Jewett knew how to make the Indian masters proud of his playing.
Throughout the two lovely sets of diverse but accessible music, Chapell was simply shining, weaving tremendous vocal lines into her accomplished guitar playing while Jewett spun accompanying sounds on guitar, percussion or sitar in every song.
Phyllis Chapell & Siora’s music is world-class good, and it’s a shame that so many people
missed the opportunity to kick back, have a beer or a wine and enjoy an evening of stellar music with every word audible and articulated no matter the language or the music’s intensity. When was the last time you experienced that?