On Stage: Vanessa Collier goes ‘Live’

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Vanessa Collier

After releasing five studio albums over the last decade, Vanessa Collier finally decided to make a live album.

Collier, who is headlining a show at Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on September 30, recently released “Live At Power Station.”

Power Station at BerkleeNYC is a recording studio at 441 West 53rd Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. The building was originally a Consolidated Edison power plant. In 1977, it was rebuilt as a recording studio by producer Tony Bongiovi and his partner Bob Walters.

Collier, a former Chadds Ford resident, has been celebrating her live album, “Live At Power Station” since it came out last fall in 2022. Recording at the iconic NYC studio was a dream come true for Collier, who had a small studio audience join her and her band to have fun and create musical history for herself.

According to Collier, “I have wanted to release a live record for a long time, but there was always a reason why it wouldn’t work. And now, I’m glad it didn’t work out all those other times because this record came together with a very special band — a band that has only been together since August 2021, but feels like we’ve been together for years.”

Collier’s band features: Drums and Background Vocals: Byron Cage; Bass: Andrew Crane; Piano/Hammond B3/Rhodes & Background Vocals: William Gorman; Guitar: Laura Chavez; and Saxophones/Vocals/Resonator Guitar: Vanessa Collier.

“I love how most of my studio records have come together, but playing the songs live night after night gives them a different life after a while,” said Collier.

“We tend to find things that I wish had been there on the original recording. We find even more nuance in the songs from the repetition that touring and playing the songs night after night gives. Studio records sound like studio records, but live is a whole other thing.

“So many people have told me that my albums sound great, but they would love to have a live record. So, now I can fulfill that dream.”

Collier has assembled a topflight band of versatile musicians.

“This is the best band I have ever had,” said Collier. “This band is a group of fantastic musicians, and each is at the top of their game, plus everybody listens and wants to create the best music possible in the moment with the least amount of stress and drama.

“Things have locked into place with this group and I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had on stage and off stage. This recording was created in a state of pure happiness for me and coming out of a pandemic, it seems the perfect time for some unbridled joy. Homeostasis achieved.

“This record allows me to get out from under a previous record contract that just was not the best thing for me and to re-record songs that are no longer restricted the way I want to. So, it’s freeing to make this record.”

Collier has spent the summer in Europe performing at festivals, clubs, and theaters, growing her fanbase even more. She won the audience favorite at the Ascona Jazz Festival in Switzerland, so she will return next year.

Collier is a highly acclaimed blues/jazz sax player who spends a lot of time touring nationally and internationally.

Collier released her latest studio album “Heart On The Line” on August 21, 2020 – an album that has received rave reviews from music critics and fans alike. Still in her mid-20s, Collier has toured all over the world numerous times and has released four solo albums. With searing saxophone solos, soulful vocals, and witty lyrics, her songwriting features a blend of blues, funk, rock, and soul.

Collier’s impressive vocals and stinging saxophone work saw her light up stages as part of Joe Louis Walker’s band in 2012 and 2013.

In 2014, her debut album “Heart Soul & Saxophone” won her accolades as a “Best of 2014 Blues Breaker.” In March 2017, she released her sophomore album “Meeting My Shadow.” Collier’s third album “Honey Up” was released on July 6, 2018.

Collier is primarily a sax player, singer and songwriter but is also well-versed in playing clavinet, flute, electric organ, and percussion.

“When I was little, I really wanted to play piano,” said Collier. “I don’t know why. I started taking piano lessons but didn’t like the teacher, so I quit after six months. I saw someone playing sax on television and fell in love with it. We rented a sax for me when I was in fourth grade. That was in school. Then, I studied with a private instructor for a few years.

“Then, I took lessons with Chris Vadala, who played sax with Chuck Mangione. I studied with him for seven years – classical, jazz and funk. He started me doubling on flute and clarinet. I still play those instruments. Mainly, I play sax — tenor, some soprano and some baritone.”

Collier’s previous album “Honey Up” was nominated for Blues Music Award (BMA) Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.

“That album did well right from the start,” said Collier. “It was a Top 5 Billboard Blues Album and was well-received by radio deejays.”

Collier was nominated in 2017 for a Blues Music Award in the “Instrumental — Horn Player of the Year” category. She also won first place in the “Lyrics Only” category of the 2017 USA Songwriting Competition. In 2018, Collier was nominated in two categories at the Blues Music Awards – “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year” and “Instrumental — Horn Player of the Year.”

In 2019, she was again nominated in same two categories at the Blues Music Awards – “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year” and “Instrumental – Horn.” She claimed first place in the “Instrumental – Horn” category.

“Honey Up,” which had a three-month residency on Billboard’s “Top Blues Albums Chart,” provides a good look at Collier’s influences.

“With jazz, the first person I was turned on to was Cannonball Adderley,” said Collier. “Other major influences were John Coltrane, Junior Walker, and Maceo Parker. Vocally, I started with Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and that morphed into Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt.”

Collier also is a music teacher and has been involved in various “Blues in Schools” programs.

“I grew up in Clarksville, Maryland and then graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston,” said Collier, who earned a dual degree in performance and music production, and engineering. “Right now, I’m basically just playing and teaching.

“I really like teaching sax – soprano, tenor, alto and baritone. I feel like I have a lot to offer.”

Video link for Vanessa Collier — https://youtu.be/3RUQQyHyxtg.

The show in Sellersville on September 30 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $29.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Doo Wop Live on October 1 and Soft Machine on October 4.

Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage can do it all. She is a singer-songwriter, ballerina, pianist, poet, record label owner, actress, organist, writer and record producer. Currently, she is focused on being a performer.

She seems to be endlessly touring world-wide and all across America. Fortunately, she has included several shows in this area on her itinerary for 2023.

Earlier this year, Sage performed at the City Winery in Philadelphia and Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse in Lancaster. Her most recent area concert was her venue debut at Jamey’s House of Music in July.

Sage is making one more stop in the area before the year runs out.

She will be the headliner at the autumn edition of the highly acclaimed Ladybug Festival (www.theladybugfestival.com/milford). The event is held in Wilmington in the summer and this weekend in Milton, Delaware.

The Ladybug Music Festival was founded in 2012 and continues to be the largest, free celebration of Women in Music in the United States, boasting a 100 per cent female-fronted lineup, empowering women and those who identify as females to be at the forefront of a festival lineup.

Ladybug started as a downtown block party, also functioning as a tool for local economic revitalization, and has been credited with energizing the music scene in Wilmington, Delaware, and Milford, Delaware. The Ladybug Music Festival is a trademarked, award-winning festival.

The show will run from 4-9 p.m. on seven stages in downtown Milford.

Sage will perform her set on the Library Amphitheatre Stage at 7:25 p.m.

She will be celebrating and performing songs from her new album, “The Other Side.” Sage will be accompanied  by Kelly Halloran (Michael Franti) on violin.

“I just got back from the U.K.,” said Sage, during a recent phone interview from New York. “I was there for a month doing a pre-release tour. I did a show at the Liverpool Philharmonic. It was great. The whole tour was a lot of fun. I’ll be touring the record through the end of the year.”

“The Other Side” was released by Sage on her own label, MPress Records, on July 21. “Whistle Blow,” the first single from “The Other Side,” was released in April.

Sage has released 15 studio albums – starting with “Morbid Romantic” in 1996. She released her sixth album, “Ballads & Burlesque” in 2006 and then has faithfully released a new album every two years (on even years) since then – until COVID hit. Her two most recent LPs are “Myopia” in 2018 and “Character” in 2020.

“I started making ‘The Other Side’ about a year ago,” said Sage. “Some songs were written during the lockdown. I also released ‘Poetica’ during the lockdown. ‘Poetica’ is a collaborative album I made with Dave Eggar.”

Cinematic and stylistically expansive, “Poetica” is a creatively ambitious musical spoken word project distilling a poetic spirit through text, voice and music in the spirit of Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson.

What began as a remote duo collaboration between poet/vocalist/producer Sage and three-time Grammy nominated cellist Dave Eggar eventually evolved into a full-blown spoken word concept album, with musicians contributing from around the globe.

Produced and engineered by Sage herself, “Poetica” aims to create connection and shared experience via the unifying power of words. Adventurous yet familiar in its intimacy, Sage’s voice is perfectly at home in the absence of typical song structure, while her musical arrangements fuse elements of jazz, classical and Appalachian folk with surprising agility.

“Dave Eggar and I took my poetry, and we collaborated on the music,” said Sage.

“The Other Side” returns to the singer/songwriter structure.

“I recorded most of it in a home studio in Beacon, New York called The Creek because it overlooks Fishkill Creek,” said Sage. “I also did a lot of it at The Carriage House in Stamford, Connecticut.

“I recorded the initial sessions with the band. Then, I’d tour and come back to the studio. This went on for a period of six months.

“When I wrote the title track, I knew it should be an album. The song, ‘The Other Side,’ encapsulated the album’s songs – being in a challenging restrictive place and being able to transcend it.”

According to Sage, ““This record is more stark than my previous work, and less afraid to look fear in the eye or give fate the finger. When I wrote the song ‘The Other Side,’ I was separating from someone I still loved very much, with whom I hoped to maintain a friendship – but they did not. I had to somehow make peace with that, which of course was painful. It was a watershed moment when I could concede that releasing what wasn’t working – at the height of a pandemic – wasn’t failure but rather, positive self-clarity. A family member had just been diagnosed with a serious illness, requiring me to be fully present to help them through it…The world seemed to be burning but the grace of friends, loved ones and a beautiful creative community I found in upstate NY carried me through. The song is essentially a gospel plea for a more forgiving future and for peaceful liberation, beyond a time of crisis.”

The album strays from the norm in one way.

“I don’t record covers much, but this album has 12 originals and 15 covers,” said Sage. “The covers were ‘Breathe,’ ‘Only You’ and ‘Forgive Me This.’ Maria McKee’s ‘Breathe’ has always been one of my favorites. I used to play it in coffee houses when I went to Stanford.”

Sage has developed a loyal international following for her dynamic piano playing, delicate guitar work, and improvisational audience interaction. A six-time Independent Music Award winner, Sage has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Howard Jones, Beth Hart, Ani DiFranco, and Grammy® winners Shawn Colvin and Judy Collins – with whom she also recorded a critically-acclaimed duet of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”

Since founding MPress Records two decades ago, Sage has steadily released a slew of vibrant, dynamic albums with poetic lyrics spanning subjects as wide as her inspirations.

Some of Sage’s tour dates a while back were cancelled because she was diagnosed with cancer.

“I’ve been in remission for five years,” said Sage. “I had endometrial cancer. I eat healthy and exercise and I stay in remission. I think that doing what you love is the best medicine.”

In early 2020, Sage released an intimate video for “Bravery’s On Fire,” which was the first single off “Character.” Directed by longtime collaborator and award-winning filmmaker Tom Moore, the video is an emotional, cinema verité window into her own recovery from cancer. 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the single were targeted to benefit women’s cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, the two institutions where Sage received her treatment.

Now on the other side of treatment and in complete remission, Sage hopes to raise awareness of this disease, which is the most common type of women’s cancer with more than 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone and 530,000 women worldwide.

“Character,” which was co-produced by Sage and Grammy® winner Andy Zulla, contains the 12 songs she recorded while recovering from her treatment. Recorded at both Carriage House Studios and her home studio in NYC, “Character” features diverse material that reflects on such concepts as gratitude, identity, compassion, authenticity, optimism, and mindfulness.

Video link for Rachael Sage – https://youtu.be/FCD–LbYA4s.

Rachael Sage will perform at 7:25 p.m. on September 30 with a free concert on the Library Amphitheatre Stage.

Some of the other acts scheduled to play at Ladybug on Saturday are Nitro Nitra, Humilitarian, Maya Belardo, Phyllis Chapell, Toni Clare, Callum and Alisabeth Von Presley.

The Arts at Trinity (1108 North Adams Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-8605) opens its 2023-2024 season on September 29 with a concert by the Oskar Stenmark Jazz Trio – a band from Sweden via New York City.

Stenmark is a trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn player, recording artist, composer/arranger and educator, who was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. His family has a long legacy in music that has been traced back to 1762. Stenmark developed a musical interest at an early age and eventually picked up the trumpet.

After a bachelor’s degree in improvisation at the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg, Stenmark moved to New York to pursue his musical dreams. He has performed with stars such as David Byrne, Chris Potter and multiple GRAMMY award winner Maria Schneider Orchestra.

Stenmark, a tenth-generation musician, has a master’s degree in jazz arts from the Manhattan School of Music and continues to develop his playing and artistic vision while being based in New York and Sweden.

The Swedish music master is involved in several bands, including Brass Against, Fleur Seule and Seth Weaver Big Band. Leading his horn section Presence Horns, his own trio and quartet, Stenmark explores the traditional melodies he inherited from his ancestors in Sweden by fusing them together with the sounds of New York City.

The overarching lyrical feel of Oskar’s music has a distinctive Nordic flavor, but the rhythms and harmonies come straight out of the NYC music scene. Jazz greats Art Farmer, Bill Evans and Stan Getz took interest in mixing Swedish folk music with jazz. Stenmark’s trumpet playing takes this concept to a new level with his innovative mix of folk, jazz and improvisation.

The Oskar Stenmark Jazz Trio also features pianist Alex Pryrodny and bass player.

Light refreshments will be served on the outside patio before and after the concert.

Video link for Oskar Stenmark — https://youtu.be/A0_axRJkOC4.

The show at Trinty Arts Center on September 29 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are free.

In addition to Nordic/New York jazz, the international flavor of live entertainment in the area this weekend features master dancers from India presented by SRUTI.

SRUTI, The India Music and Dance Society(www.sruti.org) is based in the Philadelphia region and founded in 1986. SRUTI’s principal mission is to promote and present Indian classical music and dance. In addition, SRUTI seeks to educate the Philadelphia community at large about Indian arts.

Every year, approximately a dozen world class music and dance recitals are presented by SRUTI in the Greater Philadelphia area including the City, Suburbs and the State of Delaware. SRUTI also collaborates with other presenting organizations like the Painted Bride Arts Center, Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, Annenberg center at University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Montgomery County Community College and other Indian cultural organizations.

World renowned Artists who have performed for SRUTI in the past include Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, M Balamurali Krishna, Hariprasad Chaurasia, K.J.Jesudas, Sudha Raghunathan, Veena Sahasrabuddhe, L. Subramanian, Mandolin Srinivas and Chitravina Ravikiran. In addition, SRUTI has presented several Dance Companies and individuals – Kalakshetra Dance Group, Nrityagram, Dhananjayans, Kathakali institutes – Kalamandalam, Sadanam and Margi, Alarmel Valli and Priyadarshini Govind.

The focus will be on dance this weekend.

On September 30, SRUTI will present Kuchipudi Dance Performance featuring Jaikishore and Padmavani Mosalikanti at Bryn Mawr College (Goodhart Hall, 101 North Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr).

Jaikishore and Padmavani are an internationally acclaimed Kuchipudi dance duo from India and leading exponents of this art form. They are direct disciples of Sri Vempati Chinna Satyam, one of the stalwarts who stylized and popularized it worldwide. Sri. Jaikishore has rapidly emerged as an accomplished dancer with an uncanny understanding of the nuances of the art. His technical perfection, flexibility, and complete transformation into the character he depicts have won him admirable accolades around the globe.

Smt. Padmavani, wife and disciple of Sri. Jaikishore, was initiated into dance at a very young age and has eventually grown to be a Kuchipudi exponent. She is a guru who can speak in the language of the young and impart the knowledge of Kuchipudi dance, philosophy, spirituality and art with great compassion and connection.

The duo has been traveling worldwide enthralling audiences with spectacular performances, masterclasses and workshops.

Video link for Jaikishore and Padmavani Mosalikanti — https://youtu.be/jiNmvk_nAg0.

The show on September 30 at Bryn Mawr College will start at 4:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $15-$50.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius and We Came From Space on September 30 This is an all-ages show. In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be moved indoors to Kennett Flash.

Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius are celebrating their new live box set, “Behind the Curtain (Live at ProgStock),” which hit the top 10 on Relix/JamBand radio Charts. The group, which has released five albums, is signed to Melodic Revolution Records. Deninzon is the new violinist with legendary rockers Kansas, now on tour celebrating their 50th anniversary. He has played violin for the Who, Bruce Springsteen, 50Cent, Sheryl Crow, and as the concertmaster for Renaissance.

Other members of Stratospheerius are Jason Gianni-drums (The Ultimate Queen Celebration, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Rock of Ages, Neal Morse Band), Michelangelo Quirinale-guitar (Thrilldriver), Paul Ranieri-bass (Mark Wood, Riot Act), and new keyboardist Bill Hubauer (We Came From Space, Neal Morse Band).

The story of “We Came From Space” started at lunch.  High school friends Bill Hubauer (Neal Morse Band) and Dave Buzard were catching up and talking music. We Came From Space was born that day. The friends decided to create an album that they would want to listen to when they were kids. They considered their influences: Yes, Genesis, Gamma, Jim Carroll Band, (among many, many others), and began adding their own textures.

Two years later the debut album, “How to be Human” was released. 2018 brought the revamped rhythm section of Tim Malone (drums) and Dave Hawk (Bass and vocals) and the breakthrough album “While You Were Away.” All members contributed to the writing and arranging of that release and the 2023’s “Overlords.”

Video for Stratospheerius — https://youtu.be/riBWgHo3MgE.

Video for We Came From Space — www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN6pawNbnbo.

The show will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) continues its tradition of presenting top quality blues music this weekend.

Area music fans know that Jamey’s House of Music is a prime destination to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

Headline acts are featured on Fridays and Saturdays.

On July 29, the Delaware Valley’s high powered next generation blues conglomerate, The Future of Blues, returns to Jamey’s. The show will also feature skilled Memphis-based R&B soul man Jad Tariq on guitar and vocals.

The Future of the Blues is a young blues supergroup, the brainchild of “Harmonica Slim”, Derek Matteson. Pulling together the top young players from Philadelphia’s vibrant blues scene and far beyond, he has a group reminiscent of the “Super Sessions” players from the 60’s. Each of these artists has been raised on the blues from their early years and has earned serious accolades on the national blues scene. Catching them together for a blockbuster concert will be an over-the-top experience for any blues lover. The core group features Derek Matteson, Jeffrey Attakorah and Zack Lees with a rotating cast of rhythm section players.

Jad Tariq is a young man who surely knows his way around a guitar. As a guitar player and vocalist in John Nemeth’s band, he brings precision and passion to his barely contained pyrotechnics on stage He has been a fixture on the Memphis music circuit for several years and has toured and recorded with numerous major award-winning artists. He is building a sizeable fanbase nationwide as a headline performer as well.

The show on September 29 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

On September 30, Jamey’s will present the Starlene Bey Experience.

Bey’s musical roots began in South Philadelphia where she was singing before the age of five. Her first big performance was her kindergarten’s graduation ceremony. She sang her very first solo, “Me & My Teddy Bear,” and that was the beginning. Most of her influence came from her musical family, the smooth velvety tenor voice of her uncle Salome Bey, her Father Melvin’s deep baritone sound and the countertenor voice of her Godfather Sam.

Together they sang amazing harmony and recorded albums as The Brotherhood. Bey followed her dad’s suggestion to join a Gospel church and sing alto in the choir. She became a choir member and lead singer, which ignited her love of God. That musical shift was life changing. That was when she discovered her unique vocal power.

Bey was educated musically in high school where she joined the school orchestra. She learned to play and read music and earned First Chair Honors by mastering the viola. Bey honed her vocal skills as a member of elite vocal groups, gospel choirs, music competitions and live band jam sessions.

When she was still a teen, Bey recorded with jazz artists Alfi Pollit, Byard Lancaster and Stacey Harcum at Morning Star Studios. Her current recordings are with Emmy Award Winner Bill Jolly’s Studio and Sera Phi Studios in Philly, New York’s Jam Box Studio. They have been mastered by Grammy Award Winner Glenn Barratt’s Morning Star Studios in Norristown. Impressively, Bey’s music has been produced by the legendary Norman Connors. Connors has discovered and produced many great singers including Jean Carne, Michael Henderson, Phyllis Hyman and Glenn Jones.

The show on September 30 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

September 27 will be an “Open Mic Night” featuring free admission. Showtime is 7 p.m.

Jamey’s features a popular “Jazz at Jamey’s” on Thursday featuring many of the best singers in the region performing a set from 7-8 p.m. with the backing of the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

This week’s guest singer is Geri Oliver.

Geraldine (“Geri”) Oliver is a vocalist whose singing reaches deep down and touches your heart, taking you on a journey to a place inside your soul, called “reverie.”

With an uncanny ability to hold you captive, her instrument of voice weaves a lyrical and melodic story that colors the atmosphere with healing hues. Add the live, fluid, dynamism of jazz tones emanating from the band, and you become engulfed in a must hear and must feel, musical mosaic.

Video link for Geraldine Oliver — https://youtu.be/gRFQmpjfcm8.

Doors open at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Oliver will perform from 7-8 p.m. followed by an “Open Mic Jazz Jam” from 8-10 p.m. There is a $10 cover charge.

The “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” is scheduled for every Sunday from noon-3 p.m. with the host band’s set from noon-1 p.m. followed by an open mic from 1-3 p.m.

The first, third, fourth and fifth Sunday sessions are hosted by the Philly Blues Kings while the hosts for second Sunday sessions are the Girke-Davis Project.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will present “The Ledbetters, Pearl Jam Tribute Band” on September 29.

The Ledbetters are billed as, “THE ultimate Pearl Jam tribute band.”
They have built their audience by capturing an authentic recreation of Pearl Jam’s studio recordings, combined with intense live shows. They will bring you right back to your flannel-wearing days.
Featuring Jamie Stem on vocals, James Burke on lead guitar, Steven Piperno on guitars, Rocco De Lise on bass guitar, and John Stover on drums, they accurately pay homage to Pearl Jam and visit the deep catalogue of iconic songs that influenced a generation.

Video link for The Ledbetters — https://youtu.be/4VNvGo_99hE.

The show on September 29 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

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