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Macy Gray takes on jazz at Iridium
Macy Gray is in the midst of her own personal Renaissance.
She spent last year working on an eclectic set of covers ranging from Arcade Fire to Kanye West on her “Covered” album and then masterfully tackled Stevie Wonder's entire “Talking Book” album. Gray kicked off 2013 with another surprise, sitting in as a guest vocalist Friday night with the David Murray Big Band at Iridium. (She returns for shows there Saturday and Sunday as well.)
Watch out, jazz world, here she comes — especially hard to miss in her extra-high heels and a shiny, form-fitting, purple-spangled gown — and she's bringing her own pop world conventions with her. During the rousing, gospel-tinged “Joyful Noise,” Gray instructed the crowd — packed in tight at Iridium, like most jazz clubs — that she wanted them to get up and dance. Many looked around in doubt, but after she added, “Don't make me mad, now,” they all got up in unison.
After all, Gray had already proven that she could more than cut it in this setting. The reworking of her “Relating to a Psychopath” by Murray and his 16-piece big band, enhanced the song's jazzier elements, as well as a bit of samba that should remind Gray of her time spent on “Dancing With the Stars.” Their new collaboration “Be My Monster Love,” which will be the title track of Murray's upcoming album in March, is a horn-driven hoot, spanning funk, jazz, big band and disco, as Gray's vocals playfully bounce against masterful sax solos.
If the 75-minute show had a problem, it was that there just wasn't enough Gray in it. While she may be content to play a more limited role in a big band, it was hard, at times, knowing that the occasional meandering solo was taking away valuable Macy moments.
Then again, perhaps it gave her time to think about what challenge she wanted to take on next.
SET LIST: Intro / Relating to a Psychopath / Be My Monster Love / French Kiss / Joyful Noise // ENCORE: Every Now and Then