Terry Callier


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This 2000 live date from an appearance at the Jazz Café in London is perhaps the definitive Terry Callier live document. Recorded digitally with a septet behind him, Callier takes the audience through the stages of his long and varied career with the great verve and poise that have made him a legend. From "Ordinary Joe" and "Step Into the Light," Callier sets up his audience for "Lazarus Man," which takes what is already an emotionally charged performance into overdrive. With poignant saxophone and flute solos from Gary Plumley, and in the pocket percussion from Bosco DeOliveira, Callier lets his songs and his voice do the talking. This is a performance of such warmth and intimacy that he cannot help but perform to the best of his ability. There is adoration from the crowd and with each bit of that expression of gratitude, Callier digs deeper into himself as well as his catalog after he introduces a new song, "Late Lament for A.D." (for Amadou Dialo, an unarmed man murdered by the New York City police department in 2000). Callier is not one to take a tragedy and make it the centerpiece of his show, though, and he doesn't somehow; even in the somber, moody darkness of the song's body, Callier seeks with his voice for empathy and redemption. And this is what makes him such a singular artist. He looks deeply within himself for every utterance, every emotion, and expresses it as honestly as possible with the thunder of a gospel preacher and the elegance of a dancer. When Callier moves on to "African Violet," his audience is hushed, silenced by the stunning revelations in the depth of his lament. But he lifts them up as he has brought them to self-reflection, as the confession of intimate love becomes an affirmation of life once again, Callier coasts into "You're Gonna Miss Your Candy Man," a good-natured blues from early in his career. He stays in the past by offering the definitive version of "What Colour Is Love" that drips with sweet honey and an earthiness that is sensual and impressionistic. This opaque reading gives way to a brazen expression of desire and sexuality in "Dancing Girl." Here, too, with the band pumping behind him, Callier reaches into the song and derives from it not only his original inspiration, but all of the experiences he has had in singing it in the past. He can see the faces of those women in clubs and theaters he sang the tune to, and their faces shine through his voice. Finally, Callier pulls out Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" for a return of balance to the show, wanting to end on a transcendent note. With the crowd literally screaming in "Dancing Girl"'s aftermath, Callier slows it down and does a jazz read of the Mayfield classic -- and they scream even louder (someone even shouts "Hallelujah" and "Amen") before he slips into his final tune, "I Don't Want to See Myself," which features a beautiful duet vocal by Veronica Cowper. It's a stunner -- deep soul, hard groove, and danceable as hell. What a finish. There are other live records by Terry Callier, and all of them have merit, but Alive is the real deal.

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