Do Savannnah

Tybee Post Theater presents latest in series celebrating noted 'Ladies of the Blues'

  • Claire Frazier
  • Laiken Williams
 

Tybee Post Theater presents latest in series celebrating noted 'Ladies of the Blues'

21 Jun 2016

A sure cure for the blues is to listen to them sung by two of the finest singers around.

Ladies of the Blues with Laiken Williams and Claire Frazier will be presented June 24 at the Tybee Post Theater. Pianist Eric Jones will accompany them.

“Ladies of the Blues is a series of shows that the Tybee Post Theater has developed to celebrate famous women who sing the blues,” Williams says. “We are coming together to sing songs made popular by women or written by women.

“Claire is more fluent in the older style of blues. She has some awesome songs she’s going to be perform.

“I will do more contemporary songs from the ’60s on, including songs by Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Tracy Chapman,” Williams says. “Hopefully, everyone will hear something they like.”

Williams is not normally a blues singer.

“I performed my first blues song last fall at Blues Trinity at the Lucas,” she says. It was a tribute to Albert, Freddie and B.B. King.

“The blues are fun. Even if you’re not a blues fanatic, there’s one song you can reach someone with.

“You can make them feel good,” Williams says, “It can help you out of the rut you are in and there’s always a song for someone.”

Frazier is a native of Los Angeles who moved to Savannah in 2006.

“In between, I got my master’s at the University of California at Berkeley,” she says. “I taught special education for a number of years.

“I lost my husband in Vietnam and raised my family. I worked for Motown and did some background singing with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and went on tour with them to Vegas and Chicago.

“After my kids were in college, I went to Europe and stayed for several years,” Frazier says. “I took my little show on the road.”

Based in Paris, Frazier traveled throughout Europe, as well as Egypt and Kenya in Africa, to perform.

“I got homesick for family and friends,” she says. “When I saw the Statue of Liberty, I looked out the window and said, ‘This is great.’

“When I got off the plane, I bent over and kissed the ground. The guy who was checking out passports said, ‘Are you a native New Yorker?’ and I said no.

“I said, ‘I could walk to California. I’m on terra firma now.’”

Frazier retired from teaching early to care for her mother, who lived to be 100.

“We used to go to all of my shows, everywhere,” Frazier says. “At 97, she was taking a Spanish class.”

One day, Frazier was sitting at the dining room table when she distinctly heard a voice say “Savannah” three times.

“I’ve been to savannas in Africa,” she says. “I got out the atlas and looked and saw Savannah, Ga.

“I said, ‘Georgia — oh no! People like me don’t go to Georgia.’

“But I had to go. Something was all over me,” Frazier says. “I’d never been here before.”

Frazier’s daughter agreed to care for her mother so Frazier could come to Savannah for a three-day weekend. It was love at first sight.

“I said, ‘Look at this place!,’” Frazier says. “I figured I’d like to come back to stay.

“My mother passed away in February 2006. That March 1, I was in Savannah.”

As Frazier explored her new city, she asked everyone about the local jazz scene. That led her to Vic’s on the River and a permanent booking.

“I’ve been there ever since,” she says. “The next thing is I met Ben Tucker and started working with him at the Conch House on River Street.

“I was all over the place, at The Westin and all kinds of different venues. Because of Ben, I did the Savannah Jazz Festival with Teddy Adams and all those guys.

“Next I met Ricardo Ochoa at the Mansion on Forsyth,” Frazier says. “I have a large network of musicians and people I’ve collaborated with.”

Starting on the Fourth of July weekend, Frazier will begin singing at Vic’s every Friday and Saturday.

Over her career, she has had some incredible experiences. In London, Frazier opened for Ella Fitzgerald.

“My knees were knocking,” she says. “It was wonderful, just wonderful.

“She was so nice. After she went out and did her thing, she asked me, ‘Did I do all right?’

“I said, ‘You can do no wrong,’” Frazier says. “It’s a wonderful life, in spite of the bruises, bumps, knocks and everything else.”

Always fearless, Frazier says she was brought up to be the best she could be.

“My father was from Trinidad and my mother from New Orleans,” she says. “They never said, ‘You can’t go there, you can’t do this.’

“My children are the same way. They’ve been all over the world.

“Even on tombstones, you see a dash in the middle,” Frazier says. “That’s your life. That’s my mantra — get out and live.”

Like Williams, Frazier isn’t a blues singer. While she studied opera in college, she chose jazz for her musical career.

“There are no roles for contralto in the Met and operatic world,” Frazier says. “You cannot change anything Puccini wrote.

“In jazz, you can bend and improvise. I said, ‘This is my corner right here.’

“I do blues from time to time,” she says. “I remember when I was being challenged to sing in French. After living there and being acclimated and melding into the society there, I could do it.”

Nothing is going to stop her.

“I look at it like this: when you go back in retrospective over your life, you can’t sing the blues if you never had them,” Frazier says. “You look at the different challenges and if you are a singer, you can sing the blues.”

 

IF YOU GO

What: Ladies of the Blues

When: 8 p.m. June 24 and July 22

Where: Tybee Post Theatre, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island

Cost: $25 or $22.50 for members

Info: tybeeposttheater.showare.com, 912-472-4790

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