Tom Andersen: When it comes to singing the blues, Margie Baker’s “the one” Enjoy her performance Friday, Jan 2 at Cetrella Restaurant, HMB

Story by Tom Andersen

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Hello June,

We put up our holiday lights on our deck railing, a 7′ diameter circle of clear lights, with a 4′ colored light star in the center, a giant “O”. We’ll leave it up through January 20th. We took a photo and made it into our holiday cards, adding a rainbow lettered “Hallelujah”. It can be seen while driving the straight stretch of the 400-500 block of El Granada Blvd. and looking straight ahead and up about 15 degrees.

Here is the review of Margie Baker’s performance at Cetrella last week:

Saturday December 13, 2008

Saying goodnight to Margie Baker after her performance at Cetrella in Half Moon Bay, I told her it mattered little what song she chooses, because the essence of her performance is her interpretation of the song.

Born in East Texas, but a virtual lifelong Bay Area resident, Margie Baker is as good as it gets in music. Her phrasing, that is, how she groups lyrics, the emphasis she gives, makes each song uniquely her own, regardless whether it is Ellington, Beatles, or Billie Holiday. She grew up in the Fillmore district in San Francisco which she defines the limits as Franklin to Masonic, certainly not past Van Ness! Margie spent her “day job” career in education, in which she holds a doctorate. But music has been her life long passion, beginning with the blues & gospel in Texas.

She opened the set with “In A Mellow Tone”, saving her usual opener, “Let The good times Roll,”  to liven up the third set, when there were fewer audience members than musicians. Her set ranged from the Righteous Bros.’ “OH! My Love”, which we danced to, to blues in b flat “Real Gone Guy” to “White Christmas”.

She really cut loose on the second set with “All blues”, where she opened up the improvisation with incarnations of Ella, Sarah, Dinah & Billie. She repeatedly sent out holiday wishes a la Jewish, Muslim, Christian & African. Her interpretations of Christmas standards were entirely her own, as hip & jazzy as it gets.

She announced her third set would be all blues: she knows the blues are our favorite, and because, at that point we composed half of the audience, so there you go! Beginning with her signature “Let the Good Times Roll!” (with which she usually opens her show) she continued with “Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man Who Calms the Water” spiritual, at which point an amazing thing happened. After playing most of the evening to an almost empty room, a flood of people arrived, dressed to the nines, including Michael O’Neil. Cetrella is Michael’s gig. He books the players, and is usually the “maestro”. But this evening he was playing a private party down the street at Pasta Moon, and, apparently when they folded their tent there, most of the party came down to Cetrella, right in the middle of Margie’s rousing blues & gospel closing set! Energized, there were whoops, cheers, and clapping along to CC Rider. After an incredibly nuanced version of Sarah Vaughns “Black Coffee” she launched into “Hallelujah! I Just Love Him So”, much more clapping along & whooping support. She then did a great “Georgia”, and a jazz/gospel sounding “Silent Night”. She closed the show with “When the Saints Go Marching In”, Michael having brought his clarinet in from the car, wailing away in classic ‘Nawlins” style.

Once again, Margie had given us an “all time great” performance. Amazingly, she outdoes herself every time. She is an incredible talent, a treasure, and we are so fortunate to have her performing at all, much less once or twice a month at Cetrella, where you can routinely sit within five to fifteen feet of the band.

Margie is as kind and generous a person there is, deeply spiritual, with a great world view and understanding of the human spirit and soul. She is inclusive, like Barack Obama, bringing everyone into the tent.

Her next performance at Cetrella is on Friday, January 2, 2009, 6-11:30. We’ll as always, be there from start to finish. You never know what will happen next these days, so enjoy it while it lasts!