The Betty Bears play music for dreamers and dancers, New Orleans Jazz that makes the room spin like vinyl, a black and white photograph come to life. Walking down Harechev Street in Tel Aviv on a cold December night, I opened the door to The Zone, and found myself on the corner of Bourbon Street, where the night is dark, the men are beautiful and the women have sad eyes and strong voices.
The Jerusalem-based Betty Bears play Dixieland (New Orleans Jazz), Swing, Ragtime and jazz standards with vintage style and arrangements that preserve the authenticity, yet are charged with energy that feels utterly now. Their repertoire covers a range from 1920s to 50s, and this is a band that knows how to party. Betty is the bewitching Ella (oh so well-named) Daniel, whose radiant stage presence casts a spell on the room as her powerful voice makes every song shine.
The ‘Bears’ are an elegant ensemble of wickedly talented musicians, their onstage rapport makes every song feel like an improvised jam, they make the instruments dance and fill the air with an irresistible effervescence. Founded in 2013, The Betty Bears are: Black Betty Ella Daniel – Vocals; Evyatar “Boofer” Hermesh – Doublebass; Matan Ben David- Banjo/Guitar; Yoel Shemesh Gold- Piano; Amitai Mann – Clarinet; Avior Rokah – Trumpet; Ron Silberstein – Trombone; Guy Fleisher – Drums.
I love songs like When I Get Low (I Get High), written by Marion Sunshine and made popular by the great Ella Fitzgerald, or Living in a Great Big Way – songs that put a little syncopation in your step and declare that misery has no hold on you when the music rises so high and dancing feet are flying. The Betty Bears put on a terrific show, with the band harmonizing and hamming it up grandly. They infuse these old songs with sheer pleasure, somehow innocent and decadent all at once.
Nuance is all, and just by taking the tempo down an almost imperceptible bit on Alexander’s Ragtime Band they make it their own, of our time. I remember the clarinet so up and bright on Putting on the Ritz, the jazzy conversations of bass, keyboard and drum with a touch of banjo on Everybody Loves My Baby, the seductive trumpet on If You’re a Viper, and the riotous fun of Eh La Bas (sung in Creole), when Ron went down into the crowd with his trombone, and it was time to limbo!
The floor show was something to shout about with the dancing audience making sure that the energy flowed in all directions with swinging vibes all night!
When the thunderous applause brought the band back for an encore, Ella stopped the action in mid-note, because, as the diva said, “Girl’s gonna stand for what she believes in, that’s what I’m gonna do,”
and she sang “Wrap your troubles in dreams, and dream your troubles away.” Then they wrapped it up with a Louis Armstrong song – Cakewalking Babies from Home, but the night was not over for these dancing fools – Uri Wertheim (Mixmonster) took up his post at the turntable for a dance party on into the night…
Capturing the mood are photographs by MUPERPHOTO – enjoy!
Links: The Betty Bears on facebook; The Betty Bears YouTube; The Betty Bears at the Zone December 23, 2015 – MUPERPHOTO.
Catch The Betty Bears in Jerusalem on December 31, 2015 at The Yellow Submarine!