Canadian Jazz Chanteuse Dives into the American Blues

San Francisco Northside
October 2006
Bruce Bellingham

Adi Braun, the comely Canadian opera singer who switched to jazz six years ago, couldn't have picked a splashier weekend for her San Francisco debut. She played The Octavia Lounge for two nights in late September. As Adi began a ballad, some of the ragtag but cheery remnants of The Love Fest at Civic Center were zigzagging up Market Street, looking for ways to continue their party.

A little sweet, bluesy ballad might have done the trick. Adi Braun, who is unapologetic about her admiration of Harold Arlen, played a wonderful set by starting off with the title cut from her second CD, Rules of the Game. It had a dark 60s, Burt Bacharach feel to it-- like a soundtrack to one of those tragic love stories with Audrey Hepburn. Adi's no kid -- she knows how to sell a torch song, and warm up a few of who came in from the early autumn chill on Market Street,

"I've been after Adi for years to come and sing in San Francisco," gushed Michael Williams, the owner of Medium Rare Records on Market & Castro. I was among those who were glad she did. An original tune (by Adi Braun), Ocean Eyes is a winner and deserves airplay somewhere.

Adi paid homage to one of her heroes, Doris Day -- "for her bundle of sultry energy, and her understated sexuality.” She sang Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps -- a suggestive tune that was picked up by the British sitcom, Couples. Her between-the-songs patter is skillful and she seems to have been in front of an audience since she was a tot. Well, a tot no more, Adi engages in her own brand of understated sexuality. She conjures up a musical assignation between Marlene Dietrich and Wynona Judd on Falling In Love With Love Again. Her tribute to Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” (complete with a lovely trading-fours solo with drummer Matt MacGillvray) was bouncy but only in the most lascivious way, evoking the kind of activity that might occur on a Murphy Bed or in the hurly-burly of the chaise longe. Backed by Ben Wannaker on bass, and leader Ben Flint on piano -- the discovery of these East Bay cats was a piece of serendipity for Mz. Adi Braun.

"But angels do watch over me," Adi explained. "I was stuck for a ride this afternoon, and there wouldn't have been time for me to get back to my hotel with this Love Fest and all that going on. Then, a gal just stopped me, and said 'I'll take you anywhere you need to go.' It turns out she works next door."

It's that Old Black Magic, perhaps. Some sort of magic.

By the way, it was through the graciousness of Shawn Ryan that I knew Adi was coming. He advised her to call me – even though he had his own sold out show at The Plush Room. That’s class, Shawn. Thanks.