Samirah Evans & Her Handsome Devils
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Samirah Evans & Her Handsome Devils

Brattleboro, Vermont, United States | SELF

Brattleboro, Vermont, United States | SELF
Band Jazz Blues


This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs



"A Cornucopia of Music Interludes"

A cornucopia of music interludes
By: Geraldine Wyckoff, Contributing Writer
Posted: Monday, November 1, 2010 11:48 am
Samirah Evans, a much admired vocalist who resided in New Orleans and is, perhaps most associated with the late pianist Willie Metcalf, arrived in town recently armed with her fine release, My Little Bodhisattva. It's been out for little awhile but since she now lives in Vermont, many folks down here have been unaware of its release. Considering her local reputation and that she's backed by a host of this city's musicians, it definitely deserves attention.

Evans concentrates primarily on standards, caressing ballads like "The Nearness of You" with a gentle, jazz-wise interpretation. She makes good use of time and space that is allowed by the sparse accompaniment of pianist Mike Esneault and bassist Roland Guerin. "My Funny Valentine" receives a Latin-tinged treatment that is emphasized by the guitar of Steve Masakowski and accented by the punctuating lift of Evans' voice. A south of the border feel also touches Cole Porter's classic, "I've Got You Under My Skin," on which saxophone Roderick Paul gets time to blow.

Evans has some fun on "Feeling Good," which, in an unusual rhythmic twist, moves with a laid-back reggae beat complete with essential Jamaican style drumming produced by Troy Davis. The bandmembers chime in on vocals, a flavor that helps make the song live up to its name.

The vocalist contributes the title cut to the disc, a lullaby of sorts that is offered up in two different styles. The first, which opens with a serene bowed bass, employs electric keyboards giving it a full, rich flavor. The version that closes the album finds Evans dueting with simply the acoustic guitar of John Lawrence. On both the vocalist sings her tender lyrics with a soft, sometimes almost whispering voice.

Those who miss Evans' peaceful and musical presence in New Orleans will enjoy a visit with her on My Little Bodhisattva. - Louisiana Weekly

"Songs that unite past, present and future: Samirah Evans jazzes up weekend celebrations of Dr. King and the inauguration"

Hope. Change. Possibility.

For a very long while, these words were largely missing from our collective lexicon in regards to the sociopolitical climate in this country and, since November, it's been clear that we were desperate to expand both our expectations and our vernacular.

One of the most eloquent and powerful indicators of any major shift in societal sensibilities is the arts. Artists not only record change but, by definition, they are agents of it as well, by virtue of the simple fact that they create. Painters realize the impossible with brushes and canvas. Writers conjure characters and situations with paper and ink. And musicians invent concepts and emotions with instruments and lyrics.

History has been documented by artists throughout the centuries and landmark moments, in particular, have provided inspiration for informative, galvanizing work that's filled museums, libraries and record stores with extraordinarily potent forms of creative expression.

So when jazz luminary Samirah Evans was asked by the good people at the Old Tavern at Grafton if she'd like to do a concert there this weekend and if she might have a particular concept for the show, it was a no-brainer like no other.

"'Do I have a concept?," she recalls thinking, "Yes, I have a concept!'"

With the show taking place a day before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and two days prior to Barack Obama's inauguration to the United States presidency, Evans quickly came up with the perfect title — "A Vision Realized" — and began putting together a song list that would exemplify the values and vision shared by these remarkable men.

Speaking by phone in between rehearsing and hearing from colleagues eager to join in, Evans talks about her motivation behind organizing this momentous celebration.

Pointing out the connection between Obama's humanistic sensibilities and Dr. King's dream of a country where children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, she explains, "Most people think you can fight it out but MLK put his life on the line for what he believed."

"And now there's Obama's willingness to feel that dialogue can make a difference," she adds. "Regardless of whether he's black or white, it's his impeccable character that's important."

The concert will celebrate present-day triumphs as well as reflect on struggles in the past. With a song list that includes impassioned comments on the Civil Rights Movement, such as Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," Evans has planned a concert that will give voice to the evolution of America's conscience on the issue of race up to the pivotal event that takes place on Tuesday.

"I want to sing songs that deal with social injustice and lead to the idea of hope and moving forward and possibility," says Evans. "Like 'Imagine' and 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' It's so hopeful: 'If birds can fly so can I.' You know, we shall overcome."

Having started her singing career when, fresh out of college, she took the stage at the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (this woman seems to do everything big and bold), Evans went on to become an acclaimed fixture in the New Orleans jazz scene. She has toured Europe, Asia and North and South America, playing alongside greats like B.B. King, James Brown and Irma Thomas, and has two exhilarating CDs out, including the freshly pressed, deliciously melodic and profoundly moving, "My Little Bodhisattva."

Listen to one bar of a Samirah Evans tune and her great success and stature in the jazz world instantly makes sense. With phrasing that inventively sculpts each line, whether she's singing a familiar standard or one of her many original compositions, and a timbre that ranges from sonorous to silken to sandy, Evans imprints her endearingly buoyant charm and palpable emotional depth onto every tune. Add to it a Klieg-light smile, a ready laugh and the energy of a kid in a candy shop and her lives shows are enigmatic and invigorating.

Considering that she hails from a place known for its vibrant energy, soulful style and robust appetite for pure, unadulterated fun, jazz is the obvious medium for someone like Ms. Evans and we Vermonters should count our lucky stars she's brought that mojo to our fair state.

After Hurricane Katrina, Evans and her husband Chris Lenois moved to his native Brattleboro and she has been building a new and enthusiastic fan base here ever since. Having bestowed her exuberant presence upon numerous clubs in the region, last September Evans kicked off the Vermont Jazz Center's concert season with a sold-out evening that featured saxophone maestro Charles Neville. She is clearly on the same sort of trajectory she experienced in New Orleans, making this concert — which takes place in the White Church across from the Old Tavern in Grafton at 3 p.m. Sunday — even more of a coup for local jazz fans.

With a dynamic, intuitive band comprised of bassist George Kaye, Bob Wiener on drums, pianist Miro Sprague and Dia Silverstein playing sax, along with special guests including indie-folk songstress Lisa McCormick, gospel-soul singer Moonlight and singer/guitar duo Cindy and Greg Hellmann, this event will pack a powerful punch, both musically and politically.

One of the most controversial songs slated is "Strange Fruit," a poetically ominous account of an Indiana lynching written by Abel Meeropol and made famous by Billie Holiday who first performed it at the Greenwich Village venue, Café Society, in 1939. House rules there were that when Miss Holiday performed this tune, with which she always ended each set, the entire staff was to remain motionless and silent, in reverence for the gravity of its message. At Sunday's performance we all will be, unquestionably, similarly attentive, particularly considering the monumental symbology to be found in the strides and struggles that have brought this nation from those somber days of oppression and hatred to Tuesday's awe-inspiring, unparalleled event on the steps of the Capitol.

Amidst her immense reverence for the sociocultural hardship and endurance that her concert is honoring, Evans emphasizes that joy is at its core. "I'll be singing New Orleans classics and choice standards as well," she attests. "I want it to be a show where everyone is welcome, an all-inclusive celebration of King's legacy and Obama's inauguration. They're songs that will leave people feeling really full and energized."

Tickets are $10 for adults (kids under 12 free), are tax deductible and benefit the Windham Foundation's Grafton Fund, which supports cultural programs in the area.

On a personal note: Due to an increase in other journalistic commitments, Sover Scene will appear on an intermittent basis going forward. I encourage everyone to stay in touch via the archive blog and by reading this phenomenal paper, Vermont's oldest, most eloquent and fearless family-run daily.

Change is good and, as with Ms. Evans' concert on Sunday, I too celebrate what I predict is a new chapter of hope and possibility for everyone! - Rutland Herald

"Evans Strikes Delicious Balance On New CD"

BRATTLEBORO Thursday, February 5 2009

Samirah Evans' new CD "My Little Bodhisattva" is a delightful dish that simmers with apparent contradictions -- it is quietly courageous; slickly produced yet warm and intimate; sassy and stylish yet capable of moments of powerful and prayerful emotion.

And like the best of dishes simmering in the kitchens of Evans' native New Orleans, "My Little Bodhisattva" balances these flavors into something to savor on the first taste and every bite after.
This much-anticipated release from a soulful singer who has made Vermont her home after leaving New Orlenans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina contains 11 tracks, most of which are familiar standards from the pop and jazz idioms.

The first thing you notice about "My Little Bodhisattva" is how much new life Evans breathes into these familiar tunes. Backed by a fine group of musicians that includes Mike Esneault on piano and vocals, Steve Masakowski on guitar, Roland Guerin on bass and vocals, Troy Davis on drums, percussion and vocals, Roderick Paulin on sax, Bill Solley on electric guitar, John Lawrence on acoustic guitar and Karin Williams on vocals, Evans respectfully escorts these familiar tunes to places they've never been before.
It's evident on the first notes of the first track, when a contemporary and very jazzy riff introduces the Van Morrison classic "Moondance."
Further proof comes on the fifth track when she takes "My Funny Valentine" out dancing to a propulsive Latin beat -- and I believe that wonderful old tune never had a better time.

Evans' inventive, original touch is apparent on "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Nearness of You," "Love for Sale" and "All of Me."

This is a CD whose arrangements -- all but one by Evans -- are highly creative. I marveled at the guts she showed and experienced an anticipatory lift as each track was about to start -- what was she going to do next?
Yet for all its originality, "My Little Bodhisattva" retains a respectful spirit. None of what is done comes at the disservice of the songs. There is a humility here, too, that is an integral part of the CD's success.
That same humility applies to the way the CD is mixed. Evans' voice, lovely and versatile, is placed in context with the other instruments. This is no vehicle for a diva, but a balanced mix of musicians. It's a refreshing change, and it lends a kind of intimacy that pulls you toward the music.
The CD was recorded at Rue Entertainment Studios in Baton Rouge, La., and recorded, produced and mixed by Guerin, co-produced by Evans and Esneault. It was mastered in Windham County by Corin Nelsen of Imaginary Road Studios.

One song, above the others, stands out. When I first heard the CD, it was on in the background of my life, and I knew the title song, played twice -- Track 3 and again at the close of the CD -- needed a more careful listen.
When I was able to do that, it was a revelation. This is a remarkable song, written by Evans and played beautifully two different ways with lyrics that express, powerfully and prayerfully, the deepest possible love and the most sorrowful loss.

It's a song that begs a careful listen. And another. And another.
Come to think of it, the whole CD does.

The CDs will be available at Evans' live performances and will be in stores and on Web sites after the official release in the spring.

-- Jon Potter, Brattleboro Reformer
- Brattleboro Reformer

"Microphone On - Audio Interview with Samirah Evans"

Archived radio interview with Samirah Evans - WTSA


"Hot Club" - Samirah Evans and Her Handsome Devils Live at the Vermont Jazz Center (to be release later in 2010)

"My Little Bodhisattva" - Samirah Evans, Misha Records, 2008

"Give Me a Moment" - Samirah Evans, Misha Records, 2002

"Summertime" WWOZ Sounds of New Orleans, Volume 20
"Marketplace" WWOZ Sounds of New Orleans, Volume 16
"This Masquerade" (w/Harry Rios and Los Monstruos)

Radio airplay
WWOZ 90.7 New Orleans (frequent airplay)
WYLD 98.5 New Orleans (frequent airplay)
WWNO 89.9 New Orleans (frequent airplay)
"Jazz New England" WICN Public Radio Worcester/Boston
"Jazz with George Thomas" Vermont Public Radio
"Jazz a la Mode" WFCR 88.5 FM Western Mass. Public Radio
"Microphone On" WTSA-FM 96.7
WOOL 100.1 (frequent airplay)
WVEW 107.7 Brattleboro (frequent airplay)

Internet Radio
"Jazz Beat" 95 Cinco Jazz Costa Rica (
"The CNote Jazz Radio" Washington DC (



Samirah Evans and Her Handsome Devils, an electrifying ensemble, was formed in 2009 just in time for the release of Samirah's second CD, My Little Bodhisattva recorded in New Orleans. Samirah and her new band released it in Vermont with a performance at the Hooker Dunham Theater in Brattleboro. Since then they have been performing to adoring fans at popular venues throughout New England. The band complements Samirah's style perfectly, which is a mix of swampy, sultry, and soulful takes on jazz standards and originals.

In New Orleans, a city known worldwide for its music, Samirah was one of its most popular jazz & blues vocalists. She first performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1990, and became a regular fixture as either a leader or featured vocalist for fourteen consecutive years. She has toured Europe, Asia, and both North and South America as a headliner, and shared stages with a multitude of legendary artists from B.B. King and James Brown, to New Orleans own Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas.

Her debut CD, Give Me A Moment, ranked as the fifth best in the New Orleans Times-Picayune annual music list of 2002. It was co-produced by keyboardist Darrell Lavigne and drummer Ricky Sebastian (former drummer for Grammy-award winning vocalist, Dianne Reeves). While living in New Orleans, Samirah appeared regularly at Snug Harbor, the House of Blues, Sweet Lorraine's, and the Bombay Club among other prestigious Crescent City venues and has been joined in concert by notable New Orleans musicians including trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Charles Neville (Neville Brothers), and drummer Shannon Powell (Harry Connick, Jr. Band and Diana Krall).

Hurricane Katrina caused Samirah and her husband to seek out new living arrangements outside of New Orleans, so they moved to his native town of Brattleboro, Vermont in the fall of 2006. Her debut performance was at the Vermont Jazz Center with the VJC Big Band. She soon found herself sharing the spotlight with the legendary Shelia Jordan as a principal in a musical theater performance, Beatnik Café, depicting the beatnik generation.

Samirah's live performance repertoire runs the gamut from raunchy blues to jazz smooth as silk. She has often been compared to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Etta James. Like many jazz and blues artists, Samirah dedicates time to perpetuating indigenous American music. She was a long time participant in the Blues Schoolhouse program sponsored by the International House of Blues Foundation. She also served as a volunteer show host on the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage radio station, WWOZ, for over ten years.