Sunday, November 15, 2015
Lea DeLaria's Jazz Brunch at Ginny's Supper Club
After seeing Lea DeLaria's notice on Instagram about her November 9th booking for a Jazz Brunch at Ginny's Supper Club, located in the heart of Harlem, we decided to head uptown. For those of you living under a rock, Lea plays Big Boo on Orange is the New Black. She is no Johnny-come-lately. She has been paying her dues and has recorded 5 jazz and 2 comedy albums. House of David is her latest album featuring her covers of 12 iconic David Bowie songs.
For the uninitiated --and for fans -- here is Lea in Orange is the New Black. (For the full screen version of the snippet below, click here.) (Warning -- Adult Language: no matter which version you choose to view, there is some language that may make some readers uncomfortable.)
As we started to tell you, we went to see her last week at Ginny's Supper Club, in the basement of the Red Rooster, and holy cow, can this gal sing!
Even though it's called Ginny's Supper Club, we went there for brunch. (Not that we mind, being ladies who brunch.)
We arrived a bit early, so we got to watch another performance on the main floor while we waited to be seated. Boncella Lewis and her band were appearing at the Red Rooster's Gospel Brunch.
Trust us, this lady can really sing the blues. Do yourself a favor, and check her out.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson is the mover and shaker behind The Red Rooster. Long-time readers may remember that two years ago we were selected as two of StyleCaster's 50 Most Stylish New Yorkers. Marcus was one of the other 50 Most Stylish that year. Click here to view a photo of Marcus and his interview "Dress Yourself Like You Would Create a Recipe".
Mixed in among the memorabilia behind the bar at the Red Rooster are wooden eggs signed by celebrities. Smoky Robinson's egg, which he signed on 4-9-13 and raved "The food is great!" is mounted on a little gold pedestal.
Paul Rudd's egg stands on end and attests to his rating: "Delicious!".
People in Harlem dress. The maitre d' was quite the dandy, combining two-toned patent leather Prada shoes and designer cammo shirt and patterned tie. He cut quite a figure and was totally charming and engaging.
We also traded fashion talk with the Red Rooster's sharply dressed hostess while we waited.
Once we were escorted downstairs, it wasn't long before we ran into Lea and her fiancee Chelsea Fairless. Flash wasn't enough to illuminate this picture in the darkened club, but you get the idea. The crime is that it doesn't show Chelsea's amazing vintage coat with gold embroidery. We figured Lea would be behind the scenes, waiting for her cue to come out, but no, she was rubbing elbows with all the patrons. There was a sumptuous buffet brunch (and bellinis!), which we had fun oohing and ahhing over - and then eating - before the show began.
Did we mention that brunch was superb? No one goes home hungry. In addition to fried yard bird (Marcus' fried chicken with a batter made with flour, milk and coconut milk); baked salmon covered in cucumber slices; braised cauliflower and a wide variety of vegetables; deviled eggs; greens salads and fruit salads; mashed potatoes to die for with fried onions scattered on top; and an incredible selection of desserts.
We know Lea is a consummate performer and we knew that she was a jazz singer, but what we didn't know was how really good her voice is. And her band is top notch.
She can whisper it or belt it, she can scat it, she has great phrasing, and even though she's singing well known songs, she makes them hers. We didn't recognize everything she sang, but among the songs she chose from the American song book were Night and Day; Everything I Have Belongs to You; Miss Otis Regrets (Read the lyrics to the latter two. If you don't know them, they will surprise you.); Yesterday (not the one you think); and an extremely interesting choice: The Ballad of Sweeney Todd. The show-stopper? A mind-blowing version of Bowie's Fame. You can see here how dynamic she is, always in motion.
At times, with both of her hands on the mike stand, she appeared to be playing a saxophone. Or is it a bass?
When we were kids, we would have had to say something like "You should have been there!", but with YouTube, now you kind of can be there. We found this video of Lea doing Everything I Have at Joe's Pub (or click here to watch the full sized version):
So you can see why we had such a great time. We were reminded of Louis Armstrong, who was famous for carrying a handkerchief to dab away the perspiration that came with great exertion. Lea had her own version of the Armstrong hankie, but it was black with a glittering skull and cross bones in one corner that sparkled when it caught the spotlight. (Here's a link to Louis scat singing and holding his trademark handkerchief. If you think scat singing is easy, try making up nonsense sounds to your favorite songs.)
All too soon the show was over. But the good news is that she has two more shows on each of two dates in December and January at Ginny's. So when we say "You should have been there", it turns out you actually can be there.
Click here for Ginny's Supper Club's Calendar to order tickets for one of Lea's next Jazz Brunch appearances on December 13, 2015 and January 10, 2015. We're definitely planning to go back for more!
We walked back east across 125th Street past a storefront with painted hand carved wooden figures on a fence. The bright winter sun was blinding.
We had a great afternoon and are looking forward to more. Maybe we'll see you there.