By Walter Rutledge
The Apollo Music Café has become one of Harlem’s premiere venues for introducing new and innovative artists. On February 2 the Apollo Music Café presented B. Slade, an artist who has had an interesting and diverse career, marked by controversy, and reinvention. This singer, songwriter and musician offered a varied concert including classic covers, neo-soul, jazz and fusion, while remaining true to his own distinctive music style.
The Apollo soundstage was transformed into an intimate nightclub, emulating the uptown cafes from Harlem’s legendary heyday. The Saturday night performance was filled to capacity. Slade opened his impressive set with an acoustic guitar rendition of Prince’s 1993 hit Thieves In The Temple. Slade immediately established his command of the song. The legato rendition was punctuated with Slade’s trademark falsetto slides, and rich tenor riffs.
His ease with the audience was apparent and his playful banter was met with enthusiastic approval. This was not the same combative B. Slade who made his New York debut at Joe’s Pub back on December 3, 2010. This artist was a confident, relaxed and focused performer who was clearly comfortable in his own artistic skin. His look had changed and the now “buff” artist was donning a fire red Mohawk hairstyle.
One thing that had not changed was Slade’s powerful artistry. Throughout his fourteen-year career Slade has recorded twenty-seven albums. He has received six Stellar Awards, a GMA Award, and two Grammy nominations: one for best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for his 2004 gold album, Out The Box and another in 2009 for Best Urban/Soul Alternative Performance for his single, “Blend”, from his 2009 mainstream album, Unspoken.
The set continued with Ciao Bella. The song had a continental feel with an unforced Mediterrean ease that reminisced a bygone era. This seasoned performer was at the top of his game. The remaining four songs in the set displayed his diversity both as a performer and songwriter. Slade sang, scatted and simply delighted the audience with his showmanship.
B. Slade continues to evolve into a unique performer on the rise. His courage, honesty and tenacity are only eclipsed by his undeniable talent. The two-year absence from the New York performance scene was worth the wait. We only hope he returns sooner than later.
Black History at the Apollo Theater continues with the Live Wire Series Panel Discussion: Black Men/Soul Music on Thursday, February 7, at 6:30 p.m. For a complete listing of Apollo events taking place in the month of February visit www.apollotheater.org.
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