Monday, August 20, 2018

Another Stellar Evening with Pippi... Cookin’ @ the O

The Oldenburg House seems to have found its groove this year, and Pippi Ardennia was back at the O this weekend for two more evenings of entertainment. One thing different this time. She's now married, to her keyboardist Daniel Leahy, and has left her home in the Twin Cities to join Daniel in Illinois.

The backing trio – Daniel Leahy, Matt Mobley and Glenn Swanson – opened with a Herbie Hancock number, providing a foretaste of the skillset these guys possess. This was followed by a funkified variation of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," made famous in the Sixties by The Buckinghams, with Daniel Leahy’s fingers delightfully dancing on that keyboard.

You could tell it was going to be a special night, and very different from the previous year of performances inside the Carlton Room. We were outside, under a big tent, and Swanny was free to let go a bit more on his drum kit, all the amps turned up a tad for the others, allowing the sound to sweep out over the landscape, as opposed to ricocheting off the walls. I later learned that they entertained and served 80 people Friday the night before, which tells me that the next time Pippi's in town you'd best get your tickets early or you'll be left out in the cold.

After warming up the audience Leahy slides into some Ramsey Lewis mood music to usher in Pippi Ardennia who ascends to the stage, ready to take us away, singing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oh what a beautiful morning,” elevating the audience and winning us with ease.

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye,
An' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky.

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I've got a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way.

And we’re right there with her, because that’s why we’re here, to be lifted up, to be swept away.

IT'S EASY TO SEE why everyone loves Pippi. She brings a shine wherever she goes. She coils the music into a tight ball of energy within, then releases it into her audience.

Before slinging in to her next song she mentions her latest CD, Black Coffee, then tells a story about a club she used to perform at in Chicago. When things were going good, but the band was set to break off for the night, the manager in the back of the room would gesture, lifting his arm and moving it as if spinning a wheel to indicate, "Keep it going, keep it going." Pippi would look at Killer Joe on the piano and he would be shaking his head, "No more." Then Pip would look again at the manager, and he's still gesturing because he wants to sell more drinks. She's stuck in the middle, unable to end it there... Hence the title of the CD, Black Coffee. Black coffee is what kept them going.

After the anecdote Daniel rips in on the ivories, Swanny getting that swing-time rhythm hpping and Mat Mobley walking his fingers up the strings on his big bass as Pippi smiles and sing the ever popular Josef Myrow/Mack Gordon tune made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Bublé, among others.

You make me feel so young
You make me feel as though spring has sprung
And every time I see you grin
I'm such a happy individual

A big surprise for many was Pippi's invitation to be joined on stage by James Pool, lead singer from the Moonlight Community, to perform two songs together. Poole made his way to a microphone that was awaiting him on the left side of the stage. He's got the iconic look of a Jim Morrison and the stage presence and moves of a veteran lead singer like Robert Plant or Roger Daltry.

The two songs he performed with Pippi are classics beginning with "Summertime" which has been covered by artists as varied as Doc Watson and Janis Joplin. He not only sings and moves, but he's a white boy who can do scat. Watching the veteran Pippi share the spotlight with a young dude doing his first live performance in a jazz setting was fun.

Flipping the page they jumped into "Fever."  Where there's smoke, there's fire, though the heat Pippi shares is clearly generated by Daniel Leahy whom she married this past year, his only crime being that she's now been carried off to Illinois and no longer lives in the Twin Cities. No prob. There's little doubt a portion of Pippi's heart will remain here in Carlton at the O.

Pippi sang a song for the womenfolk next, or rather for the Sisters. Then she asked them to stand and shake their shimmy. This was the end of the first set which allowed the servers to bring our main course: grilled pork tenderloin doused with spiced orange and cranberries on roasted orange/almond green beans and baby potatoes. (Or something like that.) Yummmmm. (I should have taken a picture.)

The backing trio once again gets the mood going for the second act. Pippi takes the stage and lifts us once again with an inspired rendition of another classic, "On a Clear Day."

On a clear day, rise and look around you, and you'll see who you are.
On a clear day, how it will astound you
That the glow of your feelings outshines every star.

During the intermission Pippi has done a wardrobe change, returning in an altogether different outfit that strives to be equal to the task of matching her kaleidoscopic spirit, embellished with her sequins, jewels and fan of feathers. Her sumptuous voice delivers Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Making Love" with a wholesome sensuality that is restrained and tender.

From there she brought Louis Armstrong's classic "What A Wonderful World" to life. It's such a beautiful song. "I see friends shaking hands, sayin', 'How do you do?' They're really saying, 'I love you." And I think to myself, 'What a wonderful world.'"

It's a song about the beauty and simplicity of friendship. And love. Pippi sings it so persuasively that I'm certain there were eyes moistened there under the ten.

This was followed by George Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me," another classic performed by Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and boatload of other crooners. originally introduced by Fred Astaire. This was followed by another highlight of the evening, a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, so moved us all. The song was Carole King's "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" during which she charmed a number of women from the audience to join her on the stage to be a backing chorus, a maneuver that delighted participants and audience alike.

The night ended with a rousing rendition of "Taking It To The Streets".... Pippi knows whereof she speaks.

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We drove home with hearts lifted, our spirits energized by the generous manner in which she pours herself out for her audience. For Daniel and Pippi, you can tell it's not just entertainment. It's about transforming lives. Thank you, Pippi.

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You can take Pippi home with you by following this link here:

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