Sunday, March 20, 2011

Silver Tongues Offer Fool's Gold

I was chatting online with a friend, telling him about the show I planned to see tonight and he responded, "Well, I do want to see a show at Balliceaux one of these days."

Color me surprised because he's a show-going guy, much the way I'm a show-going girl (in fact, it's how we met; you can only see someone at shows so many times before introducing yourself), and yet he'd never been to Balliceaux for music? It was news to me.

If you've read this blog for more than a week, it's pretty obvious that Balliceaux is a regular destination for me and with good reason. The food is creative, the acoustics are good and a variety of musical genres (as well as film and storytelling) are booked in the back room.

Now let's see, I've seen rhythm and blues, free and experimental jazz, neo-soul, Ethiopian-style grooves, rock, '60s Asian pop, brass bands, New Orleans parlor-style jazz and that's just what I can remember off the top of my head.

Tonight's show was being called "1001 Nights: A Musical Tribute to Lhasa de Sela," the world music singer who died of breast cancer just over a year ago at age 37. The evening's proceeds were going to the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation in her memory.

The event had been organized by Evrim Dogu, one of those people I admire for his multiple major talents. Besides being a devoted de Sela fan, he's a talented musician and the baking genius behind Sub Rosa Bread (if you've ever been to the Byrd House Market, you know the crusty perfection of his loaves).

He'd been planning the event since her death last year. Twelve local musicians and one out-of-towner were interpreting de Sela's catalog one song at a time. There were songs in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, all languages de Sela had used on her albums and in concert.

Some performers I was familiar with, like the Bird and her Consort (Jonathan and Antonia Vassar), Laura Ann Singh (Quatro na Bossa) and Chris Milk (the artist/musician/puppeteer, whose painting of a guitar player, "Song," hangs in front of me as I type this).

Others were new to me, but not to the large crowd of friends and fans who'd come to hear this dream bill; the place was packed. And one musician was familiar to me, but not on the program; playing his always-superb trumpet was Paul Watson.

It was a night of truly beautiful music and after each song, you'd wonder how the next could possibly match it, but it always did. At one point a friend turned and tapped me on my leg, whispering, "It's so amazing!"

And she'd had no idea who Lhasa de Sela was when she'd walked into the room; I say that because I had to tell her. On the other hand, I had known and I was every bit as impressed. You can't hear a song like "Fool's Gold" and not feel the passion inherent in her songwriting.

It's just too bad that my friend didn't choose tonight to have divested himself of his Balliceaux virginity with this once-in-a-blue moon performance.

Now use your silver tongue once more
There's one thing I'd like to know
Did you ever believe the lies that you told?
Did you own the fool's gold that you gave me?


  1. You'll just have to make sure that I pop my Balliceaux cherry at a suitably wonderful event. I do want it to be special the first time.