Image from Broadwayworld.com
Erykah Badu is a part-time resident of Fort Greene, a Brooklyn neighborhood, and believe it or not, she’s currently the artist-in-residence with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. All of which is the set-up for this, a glowing review in the New York Times of La Badu’s performance with the orchestra in the Howard Gilman Opera House:
Erykah Badu didn’t move much in the time she spent onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, in front of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and a rhythm section. She stood next to the conductor Alan Pierson in a top hat, high-heel boots, blue tights, heavy necklace, and a long coat, which she never took off. She occasionally made a slow, alert swivel toward the backup singers on her right, with a look of approval. Once she turned 90 degrees and methodically played a solo on a theremin, at her left. That was about it.
And yet she did amazing things with her eyes and hands and, most of all, her voice. The orchestrations in Saturday’s concert were written by the composer Ted Hearne, but she gave the concert its binding unity: she was all music, even with her mouth closed, even during the short gaps between sections.
The occasion was a concert adaptation of songs from her 2008 album, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), orchestrated (and augmented) by composer Ted Hearne. Badu also added vocal tracks, the violins from Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” and even live Egyptian chants. Mixing rock and classical and ‘world’ fusion is as old as the cellos and sitars used in Beatles’ songs, but this, critic Ben Ratliff wrote, was something special:
I’d love to hear this or something like it over again in a less echoey space, with bass and drums more tightly mixed, or in a future album. Something tells me I will. It was better than a starting place.