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Tuned In: Rita Jackson, On the Town By Tom Bock
Posted on Monday, April 26 @ 14:49:26 EDT by eHezi
Rita Jackson, On the Town.


Rarely do I forage in the north for music and talent. Not because it doesn't exist, but simply, I never think to. Most of the buzz, presumptuously emanates from the cities. My surprise and delight was when I was able to experience New York City vocalist Rita Jackson, and Rye Brook, guitarist Brian Christopher, at the Willow Inn, in Armonk, New York.

Sitting at the bar prior to their show, Rita and I discussed what they do and what she enjoys as a musician. She is a fan of the standards and what many younger patrons consider oldies. Most of us "oldies" refer to them as the classics. She explained that she and Brian were introduced by a mutual musician friend and have now been performing together for a year and a half.

Rita has been performing since her college days. It's when she really fell in love with jazz. A music major at Pennsylvania State University, she found herself experimenting with other genres of music. Her career has heard her dabbling with progressive jazz in a band called Bravura and with rock and roll in the group, Mirage. She was ultimately restored to her first love, that of jazz, since then. While listening to her CD and visiting her on stage, she has an easy, flowing and consistent sound. With a strong, melodic voice and good phraseology, she tenders her version of each song with an aplomb not typically heard in smaller venues.

She related an amusing story of how she began as a writer of songs. It seems that in one audition by a band seeking a female lead singer, they presumed that the singer would also be one of the groupís songwriters. So, when asked, she assured them she could write songs. Upon returning the following day, she had penned her first song and was on her way as a writer! Rita stayed with writing and has been creating songs ever since. Six of the nine songs on this new CD are penned by Rita. Additionally, Rita has contributed creatively on a pop record, written a children's book and a children's song.

Brian Christopher, Rita's accompanying guitarist, regularly performs at the Willow Inn on Saturday nights as a solo act. He teaches privately in Westchester, and plays area gigs regularly with his group, the Jazzy 3. Having begun at the age of twelve, he has progressed into a masterful guitarist and accompanist. This would be particularly evident and enjoyable as the evening progressed.

Flipping through their playbook, they maneuvered through a vast array of music, choosing and performing well-known and even lesser known hits. They began with Our Love Is Here To Stay. They proved initially, with only the guitar, that a vocalist must have the chops to carry any melody. Brian's credible guitar-work was a crisp and light, yet full sound to Rita's somewhat deeper sound. Tunefully, this was an exacting match!

Their third song, More, from the classic movie Mondo Cane, seems to be a favorite of the patrons at the Willow Inn. Rapt with attention, the noise level lessened, as everyone seemed riveted during this performance. Interestingly, while having a discussion with Maria of the Willow Inn, Rita began singing At Last, the Etta James standard. Maria excused herself from me, closed her eyes, turned and listened to Rita's offering. Nicely done. Maria finally turned back to me, apologetically, and explained this was one of her favorites and she always enjoys Rita's rendition. I understood.

And so it went for the next several hours. This evening would prove that Rita and Brian were doing nothing but enjoying themselves. They kept it fresh, light, and gratifying. At no point were they playing by rote and just going through the motions. These two musicians are solid. They are worthy of a visit just for their performance alone. Combined with the food and ambience offered by the Willow Inn, your party can enjoy a terrific evening out. Don't put this opportunity on a backburner. It sizzles. It's hot. Go now!