Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kid Creole & the Coconuts at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

Bronx-born Thomas August Darnell Browder left his older brother's successful band, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, and formed Kid Creole and the Coconuts in 1981. Choosing to go by his two middle names, August Darnell adapted the moniker of Kid Creole for the new band from the Elvis Presley film King Creole. The Kid Creole image was inspired by Cab Calloway and the Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s. He styled the new band as a campy rock cabaret act, with the men wearing zoot suits and the women backup singers dressed in skimpy outfits. Darnell and his large band fused kitschy pop songs with Latin American, Caribbean and big band arrangements. Kid Creole and the Coconuts' 14th and most recent studio album, I Wake Up Screaming, was released in 2011. Darnell is now based in Sweden.

Returning to New York after a 14-year absence, Kid Creole & the Coconuts reprised many of its signature songs and rhythms tonight at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill. Fourteen vocalists and musicians squeezed onto the stage to present a colorful and genre-defying cavalcade of sights and sounds. Wearing a grey fedora, two-toned shoes and a purple suit of long coat and high-waist trousers, Darnell and his Coconuts began the set with "Caroline Was A Dropout," featuring a solo by original tenor saxophonist Charlie Lagond. The new generation of Coconuts, Eva Tudor-Jones (Mama Coconut of 18 years from London), Roos Van Rossum of the Netherlands and newest member  Jessica Forsman of Finland, sashayed in unison, sang choruses, and were the foil for Kid Creole's egocentric ladies' man persona. Never smiling at or patronizing the Kid, they instead feigned intolerance and ridicule. The musicians also shared the spotlight, frequently coming forth for solos big-band style. The versatile multi-national ensemble was at times a funk/soul revue band, and at other times a tropical band playing Latin, calypso or reggae-inspired songs. "Don't Take My Coconuts" segued into "Lifeboat Party" and "Flip, Flop and Fly," a jump blues-style song originally recorded by Big Joe Turner in 1955. The band revisited disco when featuring guest vocalists Stephanie Fuller, Cory Daye and Fonda Rae for one song each. The musicians jammed on songs from the its 1980s catalogue, including "Stool Pigeon," "Endicott" and "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy," ending with "My Male Curiosity," the band's contribution to the soundtrack of the 1984 film Against All Odds. While the personnel has changed over the past 30 years, Kid Creole & the Coconuts presented a pleasing concert with spectacular flair, brilliant showmanship and ace musicianship.

Visit Kid Creole & the Coconuts at www.kidcreole.com.