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Carrying the Jazz torch 

Beth Chorneau returns after layoff with bi-monthly shows

Beth Chorneau has called Charlotte home for nearly three decades, and made a living here doing something few others succeed at anywhere: singing jazz.

It helps that she's quite good at it. The former California native moved here in the '80s, and soon after found she was able to indulge her jazz passion and get paid for her vocal chops on a full-time basis. Times have changed some, and the gigs are a little harder to come by today, but her bi-monthly semi-residency at The Evening Muse -- including the early show on Friday, July 21 -- may be winning her new audiences.

"That was such a fun night," she says of her May appearance. "I was kind of overwhelmed because there were people there from my earliest days singing in Charlotte, and a lot of younger people, too. It was just such a wide audience and really invigorating."

Chorneau and jazz came together in part through happenstance; her father was in a jazz combo in California, and she began singing with them at age 13. She also sang in rock bands and was influenced by both camps (she studied classical music briefly in college as well). She was drawn to Janis Joplin because she was "totally there in the moment" when she performed, and admires Ella Fitzgerald's musical precision, especially her ability to "use technique wisely and not overdo it." That combination influenced her vocal style, a sultry mix of raw, smoky emotion combined with technical skill.

"When I sing a song it's really important to become what you're singing about, and be real with the lyrics," she says, citing the Irving Berlin standard, "What'll I Do?" she performed at her last Evening Muse gig. "It was really emotional, the room was dead quiet, and I didn't care if I was singing it beautifully or doing anything fancy with it because I knew the feeling was more important."

She began singing jazz full-time after moving here, spurred on by a five-night-a-week gig at the old Adam's Mark Hotel. She was later struck by temporary partial blindness related to MS; though she cut back on her schedule, she also insisted she get right back on stage. She was healed a few months later with the aid of a Cherokee Indian medicine man from the North Carolina foothills.

Chorneau stepped back from the mic through much of 2006, so these dates mark a (second) coming of sorts. The shows will feature a rotating cast to some extent, but scheduled to join her on the 21st are Van Sachs on guitar, Gerard Benson on bass, Gary Marcus on keys, and a drummer yet to be determined.

You can learn more about Chorneau, her six CD releases and upcoming shows at www.bethchorneau.com.

audio fireworks: The 4th of July is inconveniently scheduled for a Wednesday this year (what the hell were they thinking?), and most venues will observe the day with silence (which just seems un-American). But there are a couple of patriotic alternatives for your listening pleasure: Red Limo and Hot Rod Grease Lightning light it up at Snug Harbor on the 4th, and the annual Pig Pickin' at the Penguin takes place Saturday, featuring the Belmont Playboys, Motorbilly, Jem Crossland & the Hypertonics and Al Foul ...

odds 'n sods: No truth to the rumor this section will be renamed after The Avett Brothers, but when you're hot, you're hot. The Concord trio recently garnered three Americana Music Association nominations for Album of the Year (Emotionalism), New and Emerging Artist and Duo Group of the Year (sorry, Bob Crawford, apparently playing bass doesn't count). The winners will be announced Nov. 1 at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during the 6th annual AMA Honors and Awards Show. The Brothers are also featured in the latest copy of Billboard magazine ... You can catch an early clip from director Chris Ivey's concert film We Are Audioform at Audioform's MySpace page. The clip shows the local jazz/soul/funk band performing in front of a capacity crowd at the Neighborhood Theatre in January of this year. The film is scheduled for release in 2008 ... Catch a two-band farewell at the Milestone on July 15, as Control and Minority Party hit the stage one last time ... Congratulations to the Alt-Ctrl-Sleep kids, who'll be on the soundtrack to the film Feast of Love, due out in September. Robert Benton (The Human Stain, Kramer vs. Kramer) directs, with Selma Blair and Greg Kinnear starring ... you can hear two new tracks from Ramseur Records' upcoming Martin Stephenson release, Hell's Half Acre -- The Sound-Field Sessions, at the label's MySpace page.

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