Thanks to our team for the glorious photos: Joann Gomez (NYC), Vickey Ford (NYC and DC), and Tyrone Clemmons (DC).
Mara Hruby and Jessi Teich. Those two young ladies, neither of which I’d heard of before, both gave noteworthy performances this past Thursday night at U Street’s popular performance space LIV. Philly’s Teich (pronounced: teach), and Oakland’s Hruby (pronounced: ruby) each have their own unique style and approach to Soul music.
Jessi Teich came to the stage first with a five piece band featuring both a trombone and a saxophone. Y’all know I gave her a vote of confidence immediately upon that sight. But what I did not expect was for the petite white girl to come the stage and grab the mic and wreck it. And I don’t mean ‘wreck it’ by doing a bunch of riffing and running and screamin’ and hollerin’ like we’ve come to expect due to the image the mainstream industry pumps down our throats via some other white girls out there doing soul music. But what she gave her listeners that night was a sense of vocal honesty that’s extremely rare. No pretenses, no unnecessary vocal acrobatics, just a woman who sang her heart out. When she did riff it was always perfectly placed and never overboard which made it easy to listen to.
Teich’s set consisted of some tracks off of her 2010 release ‘Barely There’ – which by the way, I was forced to purchase as I was standing in the back of LIV listening to this young lady. I enjoyed her performance that much. Opening up with a sultry number called ‘Begging You’ Jessi’s warm voice captured everybody instantly. It was hard for me to coin her genre, as her vocal interpretation and musical accompaniment are so varied in style. She sighted Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone as being heavy influences. She didn’t say it, but listening to her I also wouldn’t be surprised if Billie Holiday were also on that list. Her phrasing and tonal interpretation kind of hint that she’s a jazz head. Anyway, like I was saying though, she took the audience on a tour through genres that I don’t think anybody truly realized they were on. From the heavy gospel influence of ‘Hard Times’ to the south swag of ‘Me and Your Man’ to a straight jazz style on ‘Beginning to See the Light’. And it worked for her because you could tell it was organic. For her last number ‘Mover and A Shaker’ she came out into the audience and gave out egg shakers and initiated a clap with the other audience. Doing things like that, or inviting the audience to sing along with her as she went into this ultra smooth version of Biz Markie’s classic ‘Just A Friend’ earlier in the show, reels the audience in to the performance.
Mara Hruby, the headliner for the evening came up next. This beautiful woman kind of reminded me of Sade when I first saw her – just my opinion. The Oakland, California native has an old school elegance that you just don’t see too often in female singers anymore. No disrespect intended, but many of them just don’t.
Most of Mara’s set was very jazzy in feel . One of her most notable numbers was the original ‘Alright’. I really dig the way Ms. Hruby interprets melody. Completely free and uninhibited with how her ear allowed her to vary the melodic themes of each song. Which I was impressed by because it makes ad libbing so much more enjoyable than those singers that kinda just keep the singing the same thing over and over for the last 2 minutes of the song. Also of very honorable mention was her rendition of Bob Marley’s classic ‘Is This Love’. I scrutinized this one extra closely, because it is coincidentally my favorite Bob Marley song. But she did it much justice. She made it her own and I must say, having a group of musician’s as capable as the one’s that backed her also helps largely. They were excellent. Mara had another sultry number that I didn’t know the name of when I began writing this. I just found it here on her page at marahruby.bandcamp.com and it’s called ‘The Panties’ and it was great at the show, and now that I know the name, I think it to be even greater.
I found Mara’s performance to be particularly refreshing because it was kind of something that I hadn’t seen in a while – a young lady with an old school feel. Not necessarily an old school style- just the way her music felt. I highly recommend downloading her project ‘From Her Eyes’ which is also available via her bandcamp page, which I mentioned above.
Both young ladies who hit the stage were great. New school Soul music (notice I did not say Neo-Soul) from two very promising vocal talents. They both gained at least one more fan.