Lisa Tharpe, a neighbor who lives down the hall, and I decided to head down to the West Village to Sweet Rhythm to catch long-time Chelsea Hotel resident Sathima Bea Benjamin’s 70th birthday concert. And what a birthday party is was! (Learn more about Sathima at her website)
Sweet Rhythm is not your typical down in the basement, dark, dank, smokey jazz club. The club is at street level and has a modern airy feel, with exposed brick along one wall and large windows near the front of the club. Nearly all of the tables were full for the 8:00 set.
Sathima looked great! She stepped up to the stage dressed in an elegant black gown which featured a glittering neckline. Dangling ruby earrings and brillant red nails completed her look. Accompanied by her long-time band members, Victor Lewis on drums, Buster Williams on Bass, and Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano she opened the set with a series of classic love songs beginning with “Love’s Own Sweet Song,” and featuring a silky rendition of Ah, Sweet Mystery of Love. Drummer Victor Lewis was able to show his chops to an appreciative audience during Music is the Spirit. Sathima’s final song of the evening, a wonderful, heartfelt rendition of her own Africa, was a big crowd pleaser.
To cap it all off the band played Happy Birthday and the crowd, which included some of our celebrity neighbors -- Merle Lister, Storme Delarverie, Dalhia Weinstein and Nicky Nichols, who managed to get roped off seats in the VIP section – sang the loudest of all.
If you missed the show, buy her cd, SongSpirit. You can try it out first over on MySpace. (Photos courtesy of Stefan Cohen)