Sandra Reaves-Phillips

Sandra Reaves-Phillips ME, MYSELF…&  YOU

KDHX Review by Chuck Lavazzi

Audience members at the Sheldon this week might be forgiven if, for a moment, they think they might have wandered into Jazz at the Bistro just down the block by mistake. That's because Sandra Reaves-Phillips' high-energy show has its roots firmly in the jazz and blues tradition, with only the occasional nod to the Great American Song Book. The result is a lively and engaging evening that brings the 2005 Grand Center season to a rousing close, even if it does color outside the lines of the usual cabaret concert.

The three-piece combo of Lafayette Harris on keyboards, Paul Ramsey on bass guitar and St. Louis' own Steve Tatum on drums sets the tone right at the top with a solid rendition of the jazz classic "A Night in Tunisia". Ramsey and Harris trade licks like the seasoned pros they clearly are and Tatum gets in an appropriately showy percussion break - an impressive performance, considering that he was added to the group at, almost literally, the last minute. Then the stage left door opens, Reaves-Phillips saunters on in a white and gold evening gown that's as cheerfully outrageous as her on-stage persona, launches into a bluesy and chatty version of "Me and My Shadow", and you know you're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

From then on it's Emerald City all the way, with Phillips radiating a combination of overwhelming charisma, raunchy good humor and down-home earthiness that's well nigh irresistible. Her ability to connect with the audience on a personal level is impressive as she laughs, clowns and sings up a storm through a program that ranges from blues classics like "Snatch and Grab It" to Don McLean's "And I Love You So" - done here with a kind of tongue-in-cheek Latin flirtatiousness that's reminiscent, so help me, of Charo.

There's also a great medley that starts with "The Birth of the Blues" and goes on to riff briefly on a half-dozen blues and R&B standards, including "My Daddy Rocks Me (with a Steady Roll)", "Every Day I Have the Blues" and, inevitably, "The St. Louis Blues" as well as a two-song tribute to the late Ray Charles ("Georgia" and "I Can't Stop Loving You"). Rogers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone" gets a soulful treatment that recalls the debt the song owes to the black American spiritual, and the show ends with a high-energy combination of Louis Jordan's "Let the Good Times Roll" and "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" that had that audience clapping and singing along while Reaves-Phillips channeled the late Louis Armstrong.

Granted, that finale did appear to go on a minute or two longer than much of the audience wanted it to, but a good time was had by all, nevertheless.

Sandra Reaves-Phillips will be heating up the stage at the Sheldon Concert Hall through this Sunday [December 4th, 2005]; tickets are available from Metrotix at 314-534-1111. It's a fun evening, but be advised that the show is called Me, Myself and You because you, the audience member, will definitely be part of it - especially if you sit in the first four or five rows.

Trust me on this.