By Glen Mason
New Journal and Guide
Arts and Culture Correspondent
It was 45 degrees Fahrenheit outside the historic Attucks Theatre Saturday night, December 15. Still, for a charitable cause (the H.O.P.E. Foundation), virtuoso saxophonist Stephanie Sanders turned it into “Una Noche Caliente,” which translates to One Hot Night at A Jazzy Christmas Show.
Sanders warned the holiday-spirited, sold-out audience that her saxophone would be the transporter to South America. If there was room, everyone would have done the Salsa when she went into a solo. Sanders and the featured artists Jackiem Joyner and Paul Taylor were backed by the Fuzz Band.
Jazz all-star turned mentor Najee upped the evening a notch with the surprise Hampton Roads introduction of Ellis Hamilton. A young tenor saxophone artist whose music is beyond his years.
With an introduction by the evening’s hostess, Barbara Ciara, the Fuzz Band opened the evening, warming up with a meditative, soothing piece reflecting the holiday spirit. Duane Smith plays a virtuoso piccolo trumpet. A.J. Knight synched the footnote on bass guitar with Chris Wilkes on drums and journeyman musician B.J. Brown on keyboard.
Sanders is coming off the excitement of releasing her first solo album, “I’m Done.”
“With her album, it’s her time she got the recognition she deserves. That’s why I booked her,” said Jazzy Christmas show promoter Cynthia Dowd.
“Stephanie K. Sanders is a musician extraordinaire! Most people know her for her saxophone skills, but she is a principal bassoonist! I have been following her for over 10 years. You’ll never be disappointed when watching her perform,” said Tourean Johns, concert merchandiser and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Sanders’ “295 To Mercedes Drive” was another excellent piece she shared from her album.
A Jazzy Christmas continued with internationally renowned saxophonist Paul Taylor and Norfolk’s prodigal son Jackiem. Joyner opened with the Chris Brown hit “Can We Talk” with a smooth jazz cover. When Joyner mixed alternating songs and stanzas with Taylor, they brought the house down on “God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
When it was time for a solo on keys, B. J. Brown thought he’d take the audience to church. Following his emotional lead, Taylor took it to another spirit-infused level.
With sugar plums dancing in his head from his early years in Norfolk, Jackiem melodically morphed into a “Have A Merry Christmas” interpretation.
Joyner proclaimed to an endearing round of applause, “Park Place, Ocean View, and Norview. Those were the communities we lived in. Man, it’s nice to be back home. I was actually born in Norfolk General Hospital,” said Jackiem, touching the audience. “I live and work in L.A. now, but there’s nothing like coming back home.”
Then “Say Yes” was played as a poignant tribute to Norfolk with a “fire” solo on the piccolo trumpet featuring Smith.
Jackiem and Taylor’s “Noel” holiday serenade made for a jazzy Christmas spiced with Brown’s keyboard solo had heads swaying to the rhythm. Then Joyner and Smith segued into a rendition of the Yule time standard “Silver Bells.” Smith’s trumpet was the right accompanying note to Joyner’s sax’s syncopation.
There were other highlights of a Jazzy Christmas at the Attucks Theatre. Dowd and Ciara presented a check to the H.O.P.E. Foundation. Co-host Najee introduced Ellis Hamilton, who played his hit “My Heart To Yours.”
Joyner then brought all the artists to do a solo to jazz the night out. Now, that was epic enough sound to last until a jazzy Christmas this weekend.