Music Assessment: Jennifer Holliday Performs at 54 Under

December 28th, 2013

It has been 32 years considering that Jennifer Holliday unleashed on the world her variation of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” in the first Broadway production of “Dreamgirls,” and pop-gospel belting has not been the very same considering that. Like the sound of thunder rolling off a mountain, its echoes cascading for miles, Ms. Holliday’s voice resounded with a electricity that mixed the assortment of Sarah Vaughan with the fervor of Aretha Franklin. And at Thursday’s sensational opening-evening display of her debut at fifty four Under, Ms. Holliday infused that howl of refusal with the identical defiant, fearsome depth she shown onstage three a long time previously.

Richard Perry/The New York Times

Jennifer Holliday is performing a new display at 54 Beneath. The run precedes the launch of her new album, “The Music Is You.”

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Ms. Holliday, who stated she has missing practically 200 lbs . because then, is barely recognizable as an more mature variation of her Broadway self (she is fifty three), but the fat reduction has not diminished the measurement of her voice or her extravagant design, in which she tears into a tune, as if she had been devouring, and nearly choking on, its thoughts. Achieving into her contralto register, she interpolates grunts, “ho ho hos” and other gildings that deepen the perception of her reaching a variety of primal expression that can not be place into terms.

Ms. Holliday’s engagement precedes the launch of her new album, “The Song Is You” (Shanachie), in which she places her stamp on numerous expectations, such as “At Previous,” accomplished in the style of the basic Etta James edition, with a triplet piano determine driving a lush, spacious arrangement for her band. In her formidable rendition, Ms. Holliday presents the track the exact same triumphal spirit that James conveyed.

The present, in which Ms. Holliday productively ventures into American Songbook territory, begins with a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, a lighter-voiced singer with whom Ms. Holliday has little in common. On Thursday, she acknowledged as significantly, pointing out that she does not do the kind of playful scat improvisation that was a Fitzgerald signature. But she modified her design enough to deliver Fitzgerald’s early hit “A Tisket, A Tasket” with an appealing girlish verve.

A higher stage of the demonstrate was the Lesley Gore-Ellen Weston track “Love Me by Name,” a beseeching ballad in which Ms. Holliday transmuted passionate longing into lofty religious aspiration. In Ms. Holliday’s planet, revelation doesn’t appear very easily. It is challenging labor.

Jennifer Holliday proceeds through Sunday at 54 Underneath, 254 West 54th Street, Manhattan 646-476-3551,

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