Saturday night in the Red Room at Berklee’s Café 939 was a special showcase—three talented groups played to a packed room: The Grace Kelly Experiment, Neo-Soul Ensemble, and Columbus. It was also Parents Weekend.
Friends and family and more came to see these talented students show their stuff. The bands had plenty to be thrilled about as well, as tonight they would receive a full share of the ticket proceeds. Yes, Café 939 was packed and buzzing, the large red curtain absorbing the luminescent shifts of the stage lighting as awesome music tickled the crowd.
Grace Kelly opened the evening with a soulful blend of original material and standards. Kelly and her band started with their own instrumental arrangement of “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” rolling out a strong supply of her sax. The second song, “Eggshells,” was an original—Kelly said she got the inspiration from time abroad in Germany, when a friend used the phrase “walking on eggshells.” The performance incorporated a shaker, cute and clever with the title. “Sweet Sweet Baby” followed, which also happens to be the group’s first music video, featuring fans, friends and family. After two more original pieces, Kelly and crew wrapped up with a sensuous cover of “Summertime.”
Neo-Soul Ensemble appeared next, a large collective of Berklee artists performing material infused with the sounds of 90’s R&B and dashes of funk. Paying tribute to some of their favorite artists, Neo-Soul opened their set with a cover of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” and “Back in the Day.” More fun and passionate covers followed, such as “The Way” and Prince’s “Pop Life.” The array of vocalists within the ensemble were unbelievably gifted, and provided ample justice to the group’s arrangements of well-known R&B and Soul tracks.
Continuing with the funk and soul, Columbus closed the night. Another large collective, Coumbus’ jamming recalled sounds of the Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly & the Family Stone. Columbus got into audience interaction, picking a lucky young lady named Denise and serenading her with a saxophone solo piece. Parents got into hustling around in the back, dancing and bouncing their heads around—no embarrassed kids in sight unless they had buried their faces. Columbus got the room moving with a closing orchestration of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and continued funk jams through the end of their set.
The Berklee groups displayed a tremendous amount of talent, giving their friends and family a lot to be proud of.