BRATTLEBORO >> Staying true to the spirit of her astrological sign, jazz and blues vocalist Samirah Evans has hosted a party that is part concert, part jam session nearly every year for the past two decades in celebration of her own birthday and that of fellow Leo's. The 2016 Leo Party takes place at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the 118 Elliot performance space in downtown Brattleboro.
This year's celebration will also serve as the concert debut of her choir, the NOLABratts.
Evans says she had been approached many times about directing a local choir over the years, and this summer she recruited a small group of participants with varying levels of experience to perform vocal arrangements of classic New Orleans R&B tunes.
"It's been a very gratifying experience to interpret these songs from the home I miss so much and seeing the joy they have brought to the members," said Evans, adding the group will be accompanied by the trio of Franz Robert II (piano), David Picchi (bass) and George Robinson (drums) for the performance.
A special guest for the performance will be Windham County Senator Becca Balint, who has been taking vocal lessons with Evans for about a year. Evans has dubbed Balint "Senator Soul Sister" for her rendition of Jessie Hill's, "Ooh Poo Pah Doo."
"I really dug the way Becca got into the song and I was ecstatic she agreed to front the choir on it," says Evans, who will also join the NOLABratts for a few songs.
Evans will sing some songs with the house band to kick off the second set, and then open it up to a jam session for other musicians and vocalists in attendance. Evans says the New Orleans Leo Party's were always a popular after-hours spot for the city's musicians, and previous versions in Vermont have featured appearances by Charles Neville, Eugene Uman, Moonlight Davis and Scott Mullett. Admission is free to any jam session participants.
General admission is $10 at the door. All signs of the Zodiac are welcome. Leo's in attendance will get a slice of birthday cake from Amy's Bakery and are eligible to enter their names into a raffle drawing for gifts. Everyone is encouraged to bring a pot luck dish to share.
This event is sponsored by Brattleboro Pharmacy, Windham Wines and the law firm of Costello, Valente & Gentry, P.C.
Samirah Evans was a fixture on the New Orleans music scene for more than 15 years before relocating to Brattleboro in the wake of hurricane Katrina. She formed Samirah Evans and Her Handsome Devils in 2007 and has performed at clubs, concert halls and music festivals throughout the northeast. In 2011, Evans released her third recording, Hot Club: Live at the Vermont Jazz Center (Misha Records). She has shared stages with legendary artists James Brown, B.B. King, Irma Thomas, Sheila Jordan, Terence Blanchard, and Donald Harrison, Jr., among others in her career, and has toured Europe, Asia and South America as a headliner. Evans is the curator of the "Ladies in Jazz" series at the Arts Block in Greenfield, Massachusetts and teaches vocal technique and performance both privately and as member of the faculty at Williams College. For more information, visit samirahevans.com.