Carmen Lundy Emotes At Zanzibar

Posted: February 11, 1998

Miami-born jazz chanteuse Carmen Lundy has long been touted as an heir to Billie, Ella and other divas whose surnames are unnecessary. But her stature was difficult to appreciate Monday night at her Peco Energy Jazz Festival show. Maybe it's gotten too familiar, all those one-night gigs in smoky rooms in strange burgs. Her 80-minute first set at Zanzibar Blue often seemed like a collection of mannerisms.

She's dyed her hair Dennis Rodman yellow, and she wore a black glove on her left hand.

She worked hard and smiled harder, baring her tonsils at the slightest provocation. She made painful grimaces with her eyes closed and did a lot of scatting that registered little emotional impact. Worst of all, she had to contend with a buzz of conversation that kept arising like bad rumors from the restaurant-club's back tables.

Making matters worse, her brother Curtis amplified his acoustic bass so loud that it overwhelmed pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and often rendered drummer Rodney Green a subsidiary partner. Lundy's material stuck close to standards and to her own tunes. But the big bass waged war with many selections: It transformed ``What Is This Thing Called Love'' into a funky apparition and often gave a light-jazz cast to the proceedings.

The concert wasn't without virtues. Most people listened. And Lundy found her way on one of her old favorites, ``The Lamp Is Low,'' which played to the middle of her register. But all her finger-pointing and contrived poses grew wearisome. Lundy was playing the part of a latter-day Lady Day, but something seemed to be missing - like belief in what she was doing.

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