*On Saturday, October 20, Ms. Freda Payne sashayed onto the stage at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood as if she owned the place.
Well, for one night, maybe she did. From the beautiful gown and flawless hair and makeup to her band trio (bass, piano and drums), background singers (her sister ex-Supreme, Sherrie Payne, singer Jim Gilstrap (“Swing Your Daddy’) and niece and vocal coach, Shoshana Payne Phillips) and playlist, which began with, “Haven’t We Met,” everything was totally on point.
Her voice was clear, crisp and powerful and showed no signs of wear, considering the beautiful and legendary Ms. Payne has been in the business for six decades.
I am sure we all recall her biggest hit, “Band of Gold,” but did you know Ms. Payne started as a teenage jazz singer? In fact, it is safe to say she is a jazz singer who just happens to have had an R&B hit or two. Her jazz prowess was on full display as she near flawlessly performed songs from her new album, “Come Back to Me Love,” as well as jazz standards from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderly. I say near flawless because there was a point where she and the band were not on the same page, because according to Ms. Payne, she made a switch. Well actually, the word she used rhymed with switch as she said, “The ____ made a switch,” which got a chuckle from the audience.
Ms. Payne is also an accomplished actress and played the part of The Woman of the World in the musical, “Blues in the Night.” She gave us a taste of her “Blues in the Night” performance by singing the song, “Rough and Ready Man.” I’ve seen “Blues in the Night” and on the strength of that song alone, I can see how she could pull off the sassy part of The Woman of the World.
Some of Ms. Payne’s celebrity friends, such as First Lady of Motown, Claudette Robinson, ex-wife of Smokey Robinson, Casting Director and Producer Reuben Cannon, singer Elouise Laws, actress Stephanie Powers (Hart to Hart), Eunice David, widow of famed producer Hal David and songwriter Janie Bradford (“Money”), came out to enjoy her performance. It was nice that Eunice David was in the audience to witness Ms. Payne performing “Alfie,” a song co-written by her late husband. The Dazz Band’s Jerry Bell and Grey’s Anatomy Justin Chambers were also on hand to enjoy the performance.
One person on hand to enjoy the performance was Lamont Dozier Jr., the namesake of Ms. Payne’s Detroit classmate, Lamont Sr., who just happens to be one-third of the early Motown hit-making trio, Holland/Dozier/Holland. Lamont Jr. joined Ms. Payne onstage. Have you ever heard Luther Vandross’ “A House is Not a Home” performed as a duet? Until Saturday night, I hadn’t either, but it REALLY worked. They were great! They also sang Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This is my second time seeing Lamont. He can sing and the audience loved the duets. If you ever get the chance to see Ms. Payne or Lamont Dozier Jr. perform, it will be money well spent.
Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles based writer/reviewer. Contact her via [email protected].