I grew up with a father who was always making me listen to Billie Holiday and songs from Porgy and Bess. At the time, I looked at it as more of an exercise in sitting quietly until he let me go, so it wasn't until later years that I realized these artists and their songs were really pretty good. In my early 20s, I developed a soft spot for the chanteuse action, and I've now come to appreciate a remarkable voice.
With visions of a beautiful version of "Stormy Weather" dancing in my head, I grabbed coffee with local singer Teri Lynn Browning to discuss Teri's Lounge, her new semi-regular event at El Farol. Having been a singer since age 4, when she was cast as Nancy in Oliver, Browning attended Oklahoma State University as one of very few students with a vocals scholarship. She sang in Santa Fe for years before moving to and performing in New York and Paris.
According to Browning, since her return to Santa Fe in 2006, she often hears requests from friends and fans who want to see her perform. She decided to transform her sporadic gigging schedule to a more regular one: "That's why I've put this show together," she tells SFR.
Teri's Lounge is an opportunity for local musicians to perform with each other in a low-pressure setting. "It's not a jam," she says. "They're all pros, but we do have to keep in mind that it's just music; don't take it so fucking seriously!"
For a place that hosts so many acts, El Farol isn't set up very well for music. The building is charming, but the main room is tiny, which makes it hard to judge proper volume levels. At Teri's Lounge on Wednesday, Nov. 18, the first several songs seemed like an experiment in "how loud is too loud." Browning appeared nervous at the lack of audience. Keyboardist David Iizdus made up astoundingly for the lack of a bass player, and drummer Andy Primm (sporting an excellent new haircut) supplied minimal jazzy drumming that stood out, yet didn't overpower the small room.
Browning chose a grab bag of crowd-pleasers from Stevie Wonder to George Gershwin to Nat King Cole. While providing variety, so many different styles made it hard to get into a groove. Each time I started to feel it, an entirely different sound came up and I was back at square one.
A few guests arrived and performed, including local singer David Trujillo, who provided vocals for "Route 66" and "Under the Boardwalk." Other guests included a guy named Harmonica Mike, who lived up to his moniker with blues-harp skills; a Latin dancer named Amy, who performed what Browning called "The Tequila Dance," a flamenco-style affair that ended with Amy downing a gigantic shot of tequila; and the highlight of the evening: drummer Mark Clark, who sat in for "Superstitious" and performed a drum solo that was technically proficient yet vibrant and fluid. Clark worked the kick drum like he had a double pedal, demonstrating that a funky, soulful song can work well with a metal beat.
Singers can sometimes fall victim to overstretching their styles, and Browning would do well to focus more on basics rather than vocal acrobatics and nuances. Most of the time, her phrasing came across as if she were forcibly showing off as opposed to singing from the heart.
While the journeys Browning took to the right notes were long, they were ultimately successful. Perhaps a combination of nerves and a small audience made the performance neither here nor there. Browning is indeed a talented singer and, I am sure, once Teri's Lounge comes together a little more solidly, it will be the exciting and spirited event for which I had hoped.
8 pmWednesday, Dec. 23 and Wednesday, Dec. 30
808 Canyon Road