Savion Glover, Dee Dee Bridgewater team up for uplifting show at NJPAC

savion bridgewater review

COURTESY OF NJPAC

Dee Dee Bridgewater and Savion Glover performed at NJPAC in Newark, Nov. 12, with Shirazette Tinnin on drums.

Savion Glover’s dancing was gentle as a lover’s caress on Nov. 12, when the legendary tap star shared a program called “Interpretations” with jazz diva Dee Dee Bridgewater and her band at the Victoria Theater at NJPAC in Newark.

Though known for his explosive style, Glover is a subtle performer, and is as precise and assured in quiet moments as when his heels slam down. His exciting collaboration with Bridgewater, which was part of this year’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival, was an extended duet in which the dancer and the vocalist became musically entwined, balancing intricate rhythms with sultry melodies.

COURTESY OF NJPAC

Dee Dee Bridgewater at NJPAC.

This dancer has jammed with many jazz greats over the years. But while McCoy Tyner actually made him sweat, Bridgewater was all feminine ease and charm.

Glover set the tone with a gentle warm-up on the tap stage positioned opposite the piano, as members of the ensemble drifted in: pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Amina Scott and the lively Shirazette Tinnin, who sometimes plays her drum kit with her hands. Bridgewater perched on a stool, at first, listening attentively. Glover’s short phrases gave way to a steady, delicate patter, the rhythm breaking decisively as he slammed down the side of one foot and scraped the floor.

Another long drag of his foot and the dancer took up a marching rhythm, which he then broke apart. Taking long steps, he paused on his heels, then hopped backward before inscribing a circle as smooth as an ice skater’s.

Catching the drift, Bridgewater sidled over and began to whisper an answer, insinuating herself with wordless, staccato breaths. Soon she and Glover came face to face, trading beats, but it wasn’t long before she turned to explain things to us. The “interpretations” of the evening’s title began with new lyrics to the tune of “Nature Boy,” in which the jazz singer described Glover as a man from “Newark-land” with magic in his feet. Magic, indeed!

At her words, Glover broke into an excited gallop, but soon reined himself in, tapping with such intense focus that each beat seemed like the countdown to an explosion. Instead, however, the rhythm dissolved gently and Bridgewater returned to her stool.

The vocalist took the focus, with Glover joining the accompaniment, luxuriating in the nostalgia of “We Used to Dance.” Bridgewater is a total performer; her arms curled around her as she sang, and her shoulders gathered with pleasure. At the end of the song, her voice soared into a thin atmosphere. A moment later, however, this delightful melodicist was down on the floor, reclining by the tap stage, the better to hear what Glover’s feet had to say.

COURTESY OF NJPAC

Savion Glover at NJPAC.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, and began conversing with those magical feet in scat.

Glover seemed happy to show off for her, then helped her rise and begin a sweetly sashaying rendition of “Sometimes I’m Happy.”

Glover absented himself from the next set, which featured French versions of “Beyond the Sea” and “Autumn Leaves,” both effortlessly elegant and in keeping with this program’s dreamlike atmosphere. When he returned, the action turned playful again: Glover leaning forward and feigning a backache, or prancing daintily; Bridgewater mimicking the sound of a horn.

Once again, they paused to joke and pet each other before launching into the evening’s final “interpretation,” Glover beginning with a trembling, shivering note that expanded into a shimmering haze of sound, in which Bridgewater improvised lyrics and the band members threaded their way in and out.

In one of her asides to the audience, Bridgewater claimed the evening was a therapy session. Listeners who felt their cares subside in this liberating rush of musical energy would surely agree.

For information on other TD James Moody Jazz Festival events, visit njpac.org/series/james-moody-jazz-festival.

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