Saturday’s 4:00 show on the Miller Stage at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival was one I hope you didn’t miss. Lilla, whom you may know as Lilla D’Mone, is back in the Northwest and what a treat it was to have her at this year’s Blues Fest.
This accomplished young woman is celebrating her recent graduation from the Berklee College of Music as well as the release of her second self-produced album, “The Awakening.” This new album is a testament to the power of music and its ability to bring together musicians, culture and people from around the world. It was recorded all over the map, from Bob Marley’s studio in Kingston, Jamaica (Tuff Gong), to Portland. If you missed today’s performance, or her recent album release show in Portland, here’s the LIVE recording.
Lilla taught herself to play the piano by ear at the age of 6 and has never looked back. She has shared the stage with many acclaimed artists including: Annie Lennox, Willie Nelson, Mos Def, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Esperanza Spalding, Carole King, Stephen Marley, Ciara, Kenny G, Boyz II Men, Pussycat Dolls, Wu-Tang, Trombone Shorty, Kermit Ruffins, album featured artist Talib Kweli and many more. Portland is lucky to have this lovely young lady share her sultry, sensuous talents at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival.. She brings a hand-picked band of many local favorites including Max Ribner on flugelhorn; Joe Hall, guitar; Matthew Flowers, vocals; Sean Vinson, Bass; Ramsey Embick, keys; Devin Phillips, sax; Rich Lawrence, drums; and a special guest appearance by college friend Samuel Eisen-Meyers on guitar.
Having first heard Lilla a couple of years ago when she lived here in Portland and played with several local bands, including the Max Ribner Band and Medicine for the People, I was really looking forward to hearing what she’s done while she’s been away. Let me just say, I was not disappointed!
Lilla brings a comfortable, welcoming stage presence, and effortlessly draws the crowd in. While her set list might have leaned more to the R&B side, I didn’t see anyone in the audience complaining. She played original tunes, as well as a few covers by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Billie Holiday.
Fitting for the title of her new album, the song “Wake Up” was written because we all need an awakening of some sort. There’s “so much distraction… someone open the blinds, let the light shine down,” we may dream of pearls and diamonds but “you know we need to wake up!” Lilla engaged the audience, the boats, and the food vendors in a sing-a-long to the words “wake up.” You can view the official video for the song here.
Devin and Max’s horns were the perfect intro to the jazzy, New Orleans sound of the song “New Horizons,” based on a trip to that fine city. Matthew’s vocals, Devin’s sax, and Samuel’s guitar on “I Changed My Mind” were terrific. “I changed my mind, forget about you, I gotta do me, it’s my turn this time to be the unpredictable one.”
Max’s horn intro to Billie Holiday’s “You Let Me Down” was oh so smooth. Lilla and Matthew got their sensual on to Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady.” “It’s a funky and low down feel in (what it is), in my hips from left and right, (what it is) What it is, is I might be doin’ this funky dance all night.” Lilla got the audience all funky in their hips as well in what was the perfect ending to her set. There are two more Portland dates on her tour, July 22, from 12-1 p.m. in Pioneer Square, and on August 2, 2:30-4 p.m. at the Soulful Giving Blanket Concert.
Whatever the festival brings to your music ears it’s bound to be good, but this one was one of the greats!