Savion Glover’s dance was sweet as a lover’s caress on Nov. 12, when the legendary tap-dancing star shared a program titled “Interpretations” with jazz diva Dee Dee Bridgewater and her band at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater in Newark.
Although known for his explosive style, Glover is a subtle performer, and is as precise and assured in quiet moments as when his heels click. His thrilling collaboration with Bridgewater, part of this year’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival, was an extended duet in which dancer and singer intertwined musically, balancing intricate rhythms with sultry melodies.
This dancer has jammed with many big names in jazz over the years. But while McCoy Tyner really made him sweat, Bridgewater was all about poise and feminine charm.
Glover set the tone with a gentle warm-up on the tap stage positioned in front of the piano, as the ensemble members drifted: pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Amina Scott and the dynamic Shirazette Tinnin, who sometimes plays her battery with his hands. Bridgewater perched on a stool first, listening intently. Glover’s short phrases gave way to a steady, delicate crackle, the beat breaking decisively as he stomped the side of a foot and scraped the floor.
Another long drag and the dancer resumed a walking rhythm, which he then broke. Taking big steps, he stopped on his heels, then jumped back before inscribing a circle as smooth as that of a skater.
Understanding the drift, Bridgewater slid over to her and began to whisper an answer, creeping in with staccato, wordless breaths. Soon, she and Glover were face to face, trading beats, but it wasn’t long before she turned around to explain things to us. The night’s headline “interpretations” began with new lyrics to the tune of “Nature Boy,” in which the jazz singer describes Glover as a “Newark-land” man with magic in his feet. Magic, indeed!
At his words, Glover launched into an excited gallop, but quickly held himself back, tapping with such intense concentration that each beat felt like the countdown to an explosion. Instead, however, the beat gently dissolved and Bridgewater returned to her stool.
The singer took center stage, with Glover joining the accompaniment, basking in the nostalgia of “We Used to Dance.” Bridgewater is a total artist; his arms wrapped around her as she sang, and her shoulders rubbed in pleasure. At the end of the song, her voice soared in a tenuous atmosphere. A moment later, however, this charming melodist was lying on the floor, lying close to the tap-dancing stage, the better to hear what Glover’s feet had to say.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, and began to converse with those magical excrement feet.
Glover seemed happy to show up for her, then helped her up and started a sweet, sassy rendition of “Sometimes I’m Happy.”
Glover sat out the next set, which featured French versions of “Beyond the Sea” and “Autumn Leaves,” both elegant and in keeping with that program’s dreamlike atmosphere. When he returned, the action became playful again: Glover leaning forward and feigning back pain, or prancing delicately; Bridgewater mimicking the sound of a horn.
Once again they paused to joke and cuddle before embarking on the evening’s final ‘interpretation’, Glover beginning with a quivering, quivering note that expanded into a shimmering sonic haze, in which Bridgewater improvised lyrics and the band members worked their way through. inside and outside.
In one of his asides to the audience, Bridgewater claimed the evening was a therapy session. Listeners who felt their worries ease in this liberating rush of musical energy would surely agree.
For information on other James Moody TD Jazz Festival events, visit njpac.org/series/james-moody-jazz-festival.
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