It’s on these breezy, warm evenings indicative of the summer when one appreciates the Hollywood Bowl the most.
Thousands sat in the open air on July 11th as The Bowl’s Jazz Series honored Ray Charles in “Genius + Soul = Jazz.” As The Count Bassie Orchestra played Charles’ ever-evolving music, vocalists of all ranges took the stage, one-by-one, to sing the songs in Charles’ honor.
Clad in a shiny gold dress and huge, ornate jewelry , the dazzling DeeDee Bridgewater brought the most excitement to the show, bellowing out renditions of “Hallelujah” “I Believe To My Soul” and “I’m Busted.”
Babyface-who still looks good enough to be called Babyface-was donned like Charles, in a sharp black suit and black shades. A veteran of the industry himself, he payed homage to Charles with “Let The Good Times Roll” and the famous “Georgia On My Mind.”
Babyface spoke about growing up in Indianapolis, where his family constantly played Charles’ music along with the white neighbors before he did “Crying Time.”
Patti Austin took the stage with “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” Martina McBride performed “You Don’t Know Me” and “Take These Chains.” George Duke played the keyboards throughout the night.
A hilarious yet insightful Saturday Night Live sketch from 1977 was shown, where Jim Belushi, Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd along with Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman are “The Young Caucasians” and upon meeting Ray Charles, sing their horrible, off-tune version of “What I’d Say” in a parody of the homogenization of black music in the 50’s.
Listening to so much of the music that Ray Charles has made throughout the decades, one becomes dumbfounded thinking about how long of a career he has had in music and how much that career and the man have been through.
Host Tavis Smiley announced that Ray Charles will be honored on a US stamp in 2013 and spoke of Charles sitting at a piano at the Grand Canyon singing “America The Beautiful” for the bicentennial. With that, Smiley introduced his “favorite” part of the show, the finale, in which all of the vocalists came together to sing “America The Beautiful.”
At this, all of the lights at The Bowl flashed on, and the entire audience stood up and joined the performers in singing the song. It looked like a religious experience to most, singing vehemently with their hands to the sky.