Lavay Smith 4-22-2005
Lavay Smith: a Triumphant Homecoming at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers may be best known in the Bay area but after this weekend’s double dates in Cerritos they will have fully conquered the southland. The sultry Ms. Smith who originally hails from nearby Lakewood packs a vocal wallop and ain't too bad on the eyes either. With a voice so thick and sweet you could pour it on waffles the little lady enchanted and electrified a packed cabaret and dance floor in the Sierra Room at the Performing Arts Center. The Red Hot Skillet Lickers are absolutely top-drawer and were given lots of generous space to shine. Pianist Chris Siebert, trombonist Danny Armstrong, trumpeter Allen Smith and the double sax dynamite of Charles McNeal plus local legend Rickey Woodard roared through many a Jazz style-line without as much as single dip in the high octane sound.
The band warmed the room with Illinois Jacquet’s “Symphony in Sid” and Lester Young’s “Tickle Toe” that primed the time for Lavay Smith who busted out “Miss Brown to You” showcasing her sensuous and elastic pipes. Ms. Smith can swing it as they did in “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and she can finesse it as in the buttery “Romance in the Dark.” The amazing talents of the group were clearly illustrated by the combination of “Evil Gal Blues” dripping with R&B gravy and the swingingly dulcet “Blue Skies” that each had wonderful appeal. By this time the dance floor at the rear of the room was crowded and stayed active as the band finished the first half with “I Want a Little Boy” and the bouncy Ray Charles jewel “Jumpin’ In the Morning.” Despite her wonderfully rich voice Lavay Smith left wide-open spaces in the arrangements for the excellent band to stretch their musical legs. It was a great idea on both sides since these guys are all superior players who spur the lady higher in her vocals. The second half was more of the good stuff including another pair of tasty instrumentals: “Embryo” and the remarkable Quincy Jones chart of Horace Silver’s “Doodlin’” which was originally done for Ray Charles. Throughout the performance the group mastered disparate American forms including Kansas City R&B in the case of a spectacular, encyclopedic piano solo by Chris Siebert, which may have been “Roll the Boogie.” Not to be outdone by the fellas Lavay reminded the hall of who the headliner was by practically melting the microphone on “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl,” “Big Fine Daddy,” and “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” that made a few guys in the room take off their jackets to cool down. “Deed I Do” was an example of the fine Jazz roots evident in the ensemble and Ms. Smith’s expert singing was spiced liberally by the wild sax interplay of McNeal and Woodard. With the room all aglow and folks crowding the dance floor the truly Red Hot Skillet Lickers and Lady fired up the old gem “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It was a perfect end to an action packed evening of rhythm rediscovery and tripping the light fantastic.