Monday 10pm–It’s been raining in Dallas most of the evening and the streets are soaked which makes all the colors eye-pop around me. Every tree and every blade of grass is like a surreal image waiting to be hung in a dream. Likewise, each of these slow-moving vehicles on HWY 114 coming out of Irving, has the same clean façade. Their damp lights gleaming out an oncoming, blinding white glaze. Straight ahead, the reticent sea of red leads me into long stretches of going nowhere fast.
Where I want to be is The Balcony Club in Lakewood on the east side of Downtown Dallas. Monday night is when Owner, Teddy Davey, opens this legendary home of LIVE Jazz (25 years and growing) to Ms. Liz Mikel. Liz, in turn, opens the stage from 9:30pm-to-12am to a bevy of singers and musicians from around the way…and they come bearing the sweetest gifts and pleasures.
On previous Mondays, when the work day has drained me for the first of its’ weekly five, I’ve journeyed over in time to catch NOLA native and Grammy Nominee, Breggett Riddeau. Her softest, pleading, loving wrap of lyrics within a breathy explosion of her songs is simply the best that I’ve heard in a very long time. She takes the small stage in a slow progression from her perch at the bar and transforms from a tiny pool of cute caress, into a full-throated woman with a desire to tell it all. She seduces, while others try to convince you of their worth to hold this court. To hear her once is to hold that moment in your heart, your soul, your most secret come hither…and then you find yourself driving slowly in the rain…seeing droplets catch a ride on your windshield and hearing her sing, “I Wonder Why I Didn’t Come”. Drive on, son. Brake. Gas. Brake. Gas.
These Monday nights have carried various titles since Liz and Linny Nance started it up a month or so ago, but Breggett Riddeau makes it worthy of the current promotion: Liz Mikel presents The Professional Singer’s Showcase.
Do I have to try to tell you about what Liz Mikel does at the mic? I’m not worthy and not that clear-headed after a long time of knowing and following all of her ventures thru every venue and medium available from the Water Tower-to-DMA-to-series television-to-Broadway-to movies and stints back home to be loved up before going back out again. Let me say this: 1) Tell her that you love her…and mean it. 2) Ask her to sing, “Black Coffee” and hold the memory of Sarah Vaughn in your heart while she does it. 3) Go ahead and weep, then put a little something in the tip bucket in sudden recognition of Linny Nance’s great, subtleness on the keys and Gerard Bendiks’ heart throbbing percussion. You have to remember them on purpose because they just won’t get in the way of the singers. Okay, Linny is going to do his Ray Charles thing, but that’s an interlude that let’s the mic rest and cool down. It’s too much fun watching him gather it all in quietly, as the singer is wafting into the darkness, then he riffs, “Let’s…get…”. Well, don’t let me spoil it for you.
Are there others that I should mention here…Hell Yeah! Are there other dynamic singers, like the very funny, girl-next-door playfulness of LaLa Johnson, Greg Norwood’s simmering alto riffs or Lady Deon Sanders and the way she slides in under your last sip of brandy and melts your understanding of pleasure by setting a lyric free? Uh, Hell yeah! Am I the best to tell it? Not hardly worth the question. I know what I like and where I like to be found and that is about the size of it.
You have a few days to make a plan to keep the days of pleasure going until Monday truly ends. I’ve been going since that first invitation and even had Owner, Teddy Davey, honor my date with his own take on, “How Deep is the Ocean” after a smiling chat at our table. Imagine that: a joint so real and ready with a song that all you have to do is show up and ask.
I’ll make you a deal: Show up next Monday and say to Liz, “Mardis sent me” and The Balcony Club will bill me the cover charge.
Drive on, Son: Gas. Brake. Gas…