A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
PaviElle, Icehouse. The St. Paul neo-soul singer started her monthly residency in good style — from giving Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" a soulful bent to Funkadelic-style jams. She uses classic soul to inform her singing, but is no retro stylist. Rather, she makes good use of contemporary rhythms to keep things moving.
Jillian Rae, "Heartbeat." A triple threat on vocals, fiddle and composition, she also surprises by showcasing snarling guitars and rock 'n' roll rhythms, along with some country-western seasoning. The songs are so bright, and Rae's singing so hopeful, that it takes a few moments to realize her songs are mostly about the vicissitudes of love. It is, as a whole, a joyous expression of strength and resilience.
Kurt Elling and Gregory Porter at the Dakota in the same week. Elling may be the greatest jazz singer around, with the ability to play with rhythm as well as melody. He even made a German song sound pretty. Porter has rightfully garnered much attention the past two years for his smooth baritone and ability to improvise around a melody. But the direct, everyday language of his songwriting deserves as much attention or more.
Larry englund, St. Paul
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Prince, "Arsenio Hall Show." Not only was Prince friendly and funny in the Q&A segments, but his music was funky and horn-y (a dancing, 11-piece horn section). Loved the sophisticated gospel-soul number by Liv Warfield, his former backup singer.
Trisha Yearwood, Mystic Lake. On her first tour in five years, the '90s country star was chatty, spontaneous and humorous. Casual in all aspects but her vocals, she answered questions and requests and reminded a sold-out crowd what a superior singer she is.
Eric Burdon, Medina. At 72, he still has the growl, swagger and personality that made him and the Animals such essential voices of the 1960s.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune