True & Blue

By Keith Clements

When I read in Rick Forest's Jazzin' column that Vikki True was coming back to town for several brief appearances in early October, I had an attack of wonderful flashbacks. All those great evenings of listening to Vikki at On Broadway and that memorable Homefront concert when Vikki teamed up with Steve Crews to do several Billie Holiday songs came to mind. (Does anyone still have a cassette of that concert?)

My time was limited, as that was the same weekend I was going to the King Biscuit Blues Festival. The only opportunity to see her was an October 3 show at the Rudyard Kipling. Her first appearance turned out to be an informal "live rehearsal," as Vikki referred to it. She hasn't changed much since she left town 15 years ago to find her fortunes up East. Her voice has mellowed somewhat and her exceptional range of highs and lows has gotten broader, Since this was a rehearsal, there were lots of stops and starts, so her musicians knew when to come in and how to finish. Vikki's musical director, Richard Downs, also backed her up on bass along with Gary Falk on sax, Bobby Falk on drums and, briefly, Ray Johnson on piano. When Johnson had to leave, a young blind pianist sat in and fit right into the groove.

Once the bugs got worked out on "Broken Down Girl," she breezed through "On the Street Where You Live," "Shall We Dance" and "Get Happy." Vikki is best known as a jazz vocalist but she can definitely belt out the blues as she did with "Your Mind Is On Vacation (And Your Mouth Is Working Overtime)." It was fun to see Vikki in the rough and barefoot that evening preparing for her next four gigs. I hope we don't have to wait another fifteen years for the next performance.