BLU SINATRA: PEGGI BLU AT FEINSTEIN’S, LOS ANGELES, MAY 26th 2004

The concept is novel: a bona fide certified soul singer takes on selected works from the vast catalog of one of America’s greatest vocal stylists, a man known for his distinctive delivery, considered a true legend in the annals of contemporary music. Few singers could pull it off, but PEGGI BLU, whose records have made her a legend among devoted European soul music lovers, who has starred on Broadway, sung behind Barbra Streisand and won “Star Search” long before anyone talked of ‘American Idol’, has the guts, the heart and of course, the soul. In an hour-long tribute to ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes,’ BLU finds gems in the Frank Sinatra songbook and makes them her own. No mean feat, considering that Sinatra was known to put a definitive stamp on practically any song he sung. Working under the subtitle, “If Frank Sinatra Were Born A Black Woman,” BLU uses her powerhouse range and interpretative skill to breathe new life into tried-and-true tunes that were an integral part of the crooner’s extensive repertoire.

Opening with an energetic “Learning The Blues,” the gospel-trained BLU demonstrated an ability to move from jazz and swing to time-honored ballads with the ease that comes from years of hard work and experience. Classic songs like “All The Way” and ”Mood Indigo” were treated with reverence but BLU did them her way – with a blues edge and soulful feeling. Particular standouts included an emotive rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” performed with special guest Johnny Brown and an almost funky reading of “The Boy From Ipanema.” A medley of “Just In Time “ and “Time After Time” – in which she traded verses with Brown – moved with just the right amount of pizzazz, BLU ably accompanied by a tight band led by guitarist and musical director Ted Perlman who created the concept and did all the arrangements with BLU.

Quipping that the show was “about his music but it’s about my life,” BLU delivered a rendition of “One For My Baby and One For The Road” with world-weary ‘knowing’ but it was her emotionally-charged “My Way” which was the highlight of the night. BLU literally took the song ‘to church’ delivering it with conviction, passion and honesty: Frank would have been proud. Only notable omission was “That’s Life,” one of the few Sinatra standards ever covered by soulful divas (specifically both Aretha Franklin and the late Big Maybelle in 1967); no doubt, BLU will include the song in future performances as she continues to work with the show, which drew a much-deserved standing ovation at its close. BLU returned for an encore with Barry Manilow’s “I Made It Through The Rain,” noting that it was not a song that Sinatra had done but one he would have enjoyed doing, given his penchant for songs with noteworthy lyrics.

In doing ‘BLU SINATRA’, the singer may well have a vehicle with ‘legs,’ given the extent of Sinatra’s songbook. Certainly, in its first iteration, the show has all the ingredients to make it a hit not only among BLU’s soulful crowd but among Sinatra devotees who will find her delivery emotionally moving and highly satisfying.

David Nathan
Author, “The Soulful Divas”
Owner, www.soulmusic.com

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