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Oakland Stroke: Ledisi returns to the Bay Area on Labor Day.

Tell Me Something Good

Ledisi and Chaka Khan meet for the first time

By Todd Inoue

ANYONE who has charted Ledisi's progress over the past decade—whether with acid-jazz group Slide 5, Anibade or solo--must have felt giddy watching her open for Chaka Khan at the Mountain Winery last Saturday. Here was the Bay Area's most versatile singer—she does gospel, opera, soul, jazz and rock with equal aplomb—doing her thing with first lady of funk. Ledisi has long inspired comparisons to Chaka Khan, and this was the time to see both back to back.

As an opener, Ledisi did what few headline performers ever do; get the conservative Saratoga season ticket subscriber base off its collective ass and moving. Ledisi admitted this was her first time seeing Chaka live and was giddy at the prospect. She played a tribute to the former lead singer of Rufus and absolutely slayed the crowd during a version of the Beatles' "Yesterday," which she sang each stanza in a different style: gospel, opera, soul, jazz and rock. Amazing.

Later, Chaka returned the favor when she called a positively overwhelmed Ledisi down to the stage. Ledisi's facial expressions swung from awe to shell shock to shyness to explosive excitement. They had exchanged voicemails, Chaka explained, but had never met in person. The band swung into Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" and the two brought down the winery, exchanging verses and scatting on a version where new school and old school converged to form a new performance genre: true school. The two shared a deep hug and bathed in a well-deserved standing ovation.

Ledisi now calls New York home, but she comes back to the Bay Area on Labor Day for Oakland's Art and Soul Festival. Check www.artandsouloakland.com for lineup information.

Lounge Life

Long the playground of hip-hop/R&B playas and celebrity guests, the B-Hive Kafe threw its farewell party two weeks ago. Fans of the crunked-up club can now get hyped at its new location—175 N. San Pedro, the former site of Liquid Lounge, and until recently La Cumbre. The new club—now called Ambassador's Lounge—has a bigger floor plan and an open-air patio. B-Hive building owner Mike Borkenhagen is unsure what direction the South First space will take. Is an Ajax Lounge resurrection in the works? Stay tuned.

Give the Drummer Some

Nationally recognized music shop Lemmon Percussion on The Alameda is looking for two drummers to sponsor. Potential Neil Peart-types can benefit from free clinics, face-to-face time with industry reps and all the exposure that comes with being a hot beans drummer down with Lemmon. Know somebody with ill skills on the double fills? More information is available by calling 408.286.9150. Ask for John, Ryan or Chris.

And This Programming Note

Regular readers of this space will note the absence of Sarah Quelland's name on the byline. Her Papa Roach review was her last Aural Fixation column before she leaves to pursue other adventures. As her editor, I didn't want to let the moment pass without recognizing Sarah for her undying devotion and enthusiasm to the local music scene. And as one of the few vegetarian women writing about rock, metal and country music, she added valuable perspective to a carnivorous male-dominated journalism club. Salutations to you, Sarah, for all you've done to help give the San Jose rock scene extra shine.

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From the August 25-31, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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