left to right Mark Haddad, bass, Mary Rodriguez, percussion, Christopher Caswell, James Followell, Jace Garfield, Phil Zipkin, Alex Goro, Kenneth Gartman, John DePalma, front row,
Brett Oberman, director, Jacqueline Jonee and John Raterman
Jacqueline Jonee: Born on the 4th of Jonee with James Followell and Uptown Express at the Grove
French Pastry with Red White & Blue Icing
By Jeannie Lieberman
She may be faux French but she is the All American Girl with beauty and brains. A temptress with talent and such an American treasure (so says her "Document from Congress") that she is a terrorist target.
There's little Jacqueline Jonee (aka John Neiman) can't do: she can write her own script, orchestrate and play her own piano pieces and sing in her own voice - do all that and even wink on musical cue!
Jonee started off with her customized made version of Cole Porter's "Can-Can": If a boy in the Pines with a tan can, If a butch and a femme lesbian can, then you can can-can, too!
Its brave to push the French motif in these complicated political climes but Jacqueline persisted: "What could be more American than France? We have the Statue of Liberty, French fries, French kissing ."
A sizzling "Lips of Fire" was accompanied by bass and percussion only, tossing in an Ima Sumac 3 octave moment. The tongue twisting ever accelerating Jacques Brel "Carousel" became a tour de force for the diva who almost lost a few syllables (and who could fault her) as her fingers kept up with her vocal chords drawing roars of appreciation from the crowd.
Jonee interrupted her chansons with her kind of droll banter such as "My life flashed before my eyes and, remarkably, I wasn't in it so much".
Her signature rendition of "I Got Rhythm" started quietly enough but soon escalated to Greshwin's grand syncopation and inimitable jazz style as illustrated without diversion by Jonee's creative piano technique.
On cue from the ever watchful Matt Baney in the control booth, she left the stage to her guests with a segue "excuse me I have to take care of a National Emergency Crisis".
How clever of La Jonee to surround herself with handsome young men! She certainly knows the territory! The Uptown Express: James Followell, Music Director, Christopher Caswell, Mark Danis, John DePalma, Jace Garfield, Kenneth Gartman, Alex Goro, John Raterman and Phil Zipki, accompanied by. Mark Haddad (bass) and Mary Rodriguez (percussion) and Followell occasionally on keyboard, flirted shamelessly with their receptive audience inviting them "Up the Ladder to the Roof," then the seduction with Fats Waller's silky "Honeysuckle Rose". There was an integrated melding of "Sail Away" and "I'd rather be Sailing (and then come home to you)" with "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" with "(all the times I sit here and wonder) What About..." and "You're All I Need to Get By" (so smoothly did one song flow into another these may not all be song titles - but the sentiments were there). The old chestnut "Don't Fence Me In" took on appropriate new significance with the crowd since Brokeback Mountain.
The talented group concluded with "Blame it on my Youth" as if anyone could blame anything on these charming youthful guys! Their signature intricate harmonies, sophisticated syncopation and sweet quite moments, plus their generosity of sharing solos illustrated what a treat it was to have them here in the Grove. Thank you, Jacqueline!
The night's diva returned with a Hildegard moment in the tender, reminiscent, WWI song "I Wonder Who's Kissing Him (Her) Now" in French and English. Then a stride piano ragtime turn lit the house lights up (the gal does it all!) Protected by her bomb sniffing dogs, she brought back the boys with Fallwell at the piano, "Je Ne Veuz Pas Travailler... Et puis, je fume"(I don't want to work or eat unless I can smoke).
In true diva fashion she changed gowns three times, fire engine red to patriotic blue to pristine pure white - magnifique! A true pro, she never lost key or a lyric (well almost but they were tongue twisters).
Brett Oberman directed, and Matt Baney, Allison Brackman, Arthur Cohen, Michael Romanelli, Craig Williams, Peg Ryan, Amelia, Phil Stoehr, Coco Love, CeeJay Rosen, David Bullock, Jane Haber, Ushers - Gimmi & Marianne Hoffa, Denise Harbin, Luis Valentin, Joyce Yaeger & Matt Rosenblum made it happen.
Vive le Diva Jonee