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Live Review

 

JANIVA MAGNESS

At the Cafe Boogaloo

 

Live review by Pat Benny

 

Photo by Ray Synkane

For those who are not familiar with the South Bay area of Los Angeles, the Hermosa Beach Pier is one of the most genuinely fun places to visit in Southern California.  The salt air, the happy crowds and the variety of clubs and restaurants makes for an exciting nightlife.

 

Nevertheless, be forewarned:  the parking is an adventure, and the clubs are loud, so loud that the crowd often makes more noise than the music. 

 

The Café Boogaloo is not only one of the flagships of Hermosa Beach; it is also one of the finest clubs in Southern Cal to hear The Blues.  I was fortunate to catch Janiva Magness and her band on a recent Saturday night.

 

Should you visit the Café Boogaloo, here’s a tip: be sure to arrive early and grab a table in front of the stage.  If you are at the bar, you’re bound to hear a lot of interesting conversation, but the band’s music and visibility suffers.  On the other side of the wooden pillars, the sound is great, as is the food.  So, arrive early, have a nice dinner and enjoy the show.

 

It was slightly after ten pm when Janiva took to the stage.  After the band’s cover of “Green Onions,” Janiva launched her performance with “Workin' on Me Baby” an up tempo blues number, Willie Dixon style.  Her stage presence and vocal style immediately caught the audiences’ attention.  Her second number, “I’m Just a Prisoner” fit seamlessly with the opener, but this reviewer cringed when she began her cover of “You Were Never Mine”  The song is a beautiful lament, but an audience of this kind is usually unwilling to slow their momentum long enough to give the attention that this tune deserves.   Magness and her band not only had the crowd’s attention, they captured and held it for the length of the show.  This is a testament to the power of a talented singer, backed by stellar musicians.  Janiva Magness’ band members are:

 

Gary Davenport – Bass + Vox

Benny Yee -- Organ + Vox

Sam Meek – Guitar

Rena Beavers -- Drums

 

The first of two sets consisted of the heart and soul of her latest CD, “Do I Move You”  Janiva Magness and her band certainly gave the audience their money’s worth, displaying the poise and professionalism necessary to achieve the status of a genuine blues band.

 

Janiva Magness is also known for her costarring role in Ron Taylor’s L.A. theater production of “It Ain’t Nothin' But The Blues”  Having seen the musical in 1999, I was interested in hearing about her experiences in that performance.  Here’s what she had to say:

 

“In 1998, some very dear friends of mine, Richard and Maureen Delgrosso, came back from New York and said, “We saw this play on Broadway, and it’s called “It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues” and there’s this role for a white girl and we really think you should audition for it, there’s supposed to be an L.A. run of it next year.

 

So, 1999 rolls around and Maureen calls me and she’s bugging me about it, asking if I’d called the Geffen Theater to see about setting up an audition for it…

 

She kept bugging me about it, and I wanted her to stop!  …and this is like a snowflake’s chance in hell, because that’s not how it works in the theater.  That would be an unsolicited audition and they just don’t accept those kinds of things; that means that I didn’t have a theatrical agent representing me to set up the audition and that just doesn’t happen in the professional theater.

 

So I call and one thing leads to another and they give me an audition!  How that happened, I don’t know…so I got my name on the list.  …They auditioned 600 singers for that show; 600 actresses for that role and I walk into the audition, and who’s sitting there, behind that table with a panel of people that you’re auditioning for, but Ron Taylor!  He goes, “Hello, young lady!”  I looked up and man, I’m like, what’s goin’ on!  So that was pretty fun and I auditioned and I got the gig!”

 

To which, I replied, “That’s great, because you were fabulous in it.  I was truthful in saying that as I was watching it, I was thinking that if I ever had the opportunity, I was gonna grab that girl and tell her how fantastic she was in it.”

 

Janiva replied, “Well, thank you, very much”

 

You can’t see Janiva Magness in the theater, but you can read her CD review in Southbound Beat.  You can check out her web site for future shows and buy her CDs at:

www.JANIVAMAGNESS.COM      and     www.northernblues.com

 

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