“A Jazz Valentine” with Micah Barnes and Jackie Richardson – Hugh’s Room – Feb. 11, 2012

by Jamie Bertolini

http://www.micahbarnes.com

Red tablecloths and curtains decorate the small and cozy venue of Hugh’s Room for a special Valentine’s Day themed event. Couples are the most prominent in attendance, no doubt due to the theme. Some sit at the tables arranged around room, enjoying a late dinner with the upcoming show, while others sit crammed on various stools located along the back walls, specifically awaiting the entertainment.

The band, consisting of David Restivo on piano, Paul Novotny on double bass and Daniel Barnes on drums, set up on stage a little after 8:30 p.m. They play a bluesy tune that preps the audience for the night they are about to experience.

Immediately following the instrumental song, Micah Barnes saunters on stage while the tiny Hugh’s Room erupts in shouts and cheers. For the rest of the night we are serenaded with the most serene and smooth voice that absolutely complements the genre.

Barnes, a Canadian who formally played for The Nylons, has decided to make this evening’s “A Jazz Valentine” an annual event at Hugh’s. This year he is sharing the stage with blues and gospel singer, Jackie Richardson.

In between songs, Barnes is able to make an almost instantaneous connection with every member of the audience as he jokes and talks to us like old pals. His stage presence is remarkable. Even when he couldn’t remember the words to one of his newer songs nearing intermission, Barnes casually leans over the piano and looks at the sheet of music. For the audience, it couldn’t have been any more amusing!

Throughout his performance, Barnes sang not only new songs from his upcoming album Domesticated, but also some other well-known love songs such as “Wild is the Wind” by David Bowie and Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So.”

Just when you didn’t think his soothing, jazzy voice could get any better, in walks Richardson. Together, their harmonies are bliss. Her deep (sometimes deeper than his), gospel voice accompanies Barnes’, and the audience is floored. The crowd is trance-like, absorbed so fully in the outstanding music.

After singing her first song with Barnes, Richardson takes the stage solo. The next song, “At Last”, originally popularized by Etta James, gets almost the entire room out of their seats singing along.

The most notable part of the evening is when Richardson ventures into the audience and brings on stage a man (presumably a married one from the crowd), and sits down and sings the hilarious Ethel Waters’ song, “My Handy Man.”

With the amazing vocals displayed through the evening, comes the equally impressive instrumental solos. Barnes and Richardson make sure that each member of the band feels their moment in the spotlight by moving aside and allowing the audience to truly listen to and watch the magic they are making.

I truly don’t believe there was a single soul in the building who was not enjoying themselves.

Barnes’ six-track EP Domesticated is available now.