- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

It's a good week for women and for music in Washington. The week's two major star performers are Grammy-winning blues and rock guitarist-singer Bonnie Raitt, who performs Sunday at Constitution Hall, and sultry-voiced Diana Krall, the singer-pianist who won a best-jazz-vocal Grammy in 1999. Miss Krall is at the Kennedy Center on Sunday and Monday.
But there's more. Three other accomplished women, each working in a distinctly different musical genre, prove that you can make beautiful music even without being a "star."
Contemporary solo pianist Robin Spielberg, one of these, appears at the Lyceum in Alexandria on Saturday. Record stores file her work under several categories: contemporary classical, new age and solo acoustic. It is certainly contemplative and emotional, but it seems to avoid being too flowery and sweet. Miss Spielberg's music creates soundscapes that evoke images, memories and sometimes-strong feelings.
This is not to say that all her music will make you cry. The energy in the melodies and in her playing is most often uplifting. One song from her latest album, "Dreaming of Summer," is titled "Saving The Irises." The song was inspired by a woman who was attempting to save more than 4,000 irises from a coming windstorm by bracing each one with a stake. Miss Spielberg says her song tries to express having a great passion for something and being grateful for that passion.
One of today's most respected contemporary pianists, Miss Spielberg's performance style sets her apart from many of her peers.
"A lot of musicians are very shy about connecting with the audience and looking out there. They keep their eyes on their instrument, play and leave," Miss Spielberg says. "All the way through two hours, just piano, just guitar, just harp" can be trying for audiences, she says. "I'm really sensitive to that."
"If you see me in concert, there are stories that underscore the songs," Miss Spielberg says about this year's tour that features "Dreaming of Summer."
"I'll tell them beforehand. Some things are real experiences, people who have touched me, or just a pure emotional response or a commentary on the environment, on seasons of summer or things that are happening in summer."
This personal style of stories and music has been a success for Miss Spielberg. Most of the stops on this year's 30-city tour will be sold out, and she has sold more than 300,000 copies of her 10 albums.

Ericka Ovette, who takes the stage with the Larry Eanet Quartet at Blues Alley Wednesday night, covers a broad emotional range, using jazz styling and the American Songbook as her medium of expression. She has been singing jazz standards in Washington for many years, when she hasn't been overseas.
In fact, her first professional work was singing jazz and pop songs with a band in Zimbabwe. She also spent three years in New Delhi singing with world-class jazz pianist Mosin Menezes and his Capital Swingers.
"All along the way, I've met interesting people who have been able to teach me something," Miss Ovette says. "Everybody had something to share, so I've been lucky."
In Washington, she has lent her beautiful vocal range and smooth sound to the likes of Herb Smith, Terrell Jones, and Rusty Mason and often to the Larry Eanet Quartet, with whom she recently collaborated on her debut CD, "Some Enchanted Evening."
Miss Ovette describes the song choices on the CD as "probably some of the lesser-known gems of the American Songbook." The best known is the title song, Rodgers' and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening," but there are wonderful renditions of such treasures as Harry Ruby and Rube Bloom's "Give Me The Simple Life" and Cole Porter's "Just One Of Those Things." Mr. Eanet and the rest of the quartet offer more than just accompaniment. Their solos have such depth and style that they make this a wonderfully full album.
At Blues Alley, Miss Ovette and the quartet will be ripping some new pages from that American Songbook. They will have recently returned from playing a special three-day, six-set, performance at the Gardner Theater in Meadville, Pa., at the invitation of the Allegheny Jazz Society. They have added all new material to their repertoire for these shows.
"Wonderful, wonderful new stuff, I am so happy with it," Miss Ovette says. "I'm happy with Larry's arrangements. I'm happy with what he brings out in me."

Performing Sunday at the Eisenhower Theater , as part of the Kennedy Center's AmericArtes series, is Mercedes Sosa, the Joan Baez of political protest music in Argentina and Chile since the 1960s. Miss Sosa's beautiful contralto voice and her simple yet expressive singing of political and traditional folk songs have won her a permanent place in the hearts of her countrymen.

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