Last Friday I had the pleasure to catch Better Shirley at the JuJu Bag's Grooving and Grilling Friday set. It was a bit cool outdoors so the set was moved to the dining room where it bacame a very intimate set that fit the night's featured artist to a “T”.
Betty Shirley's voice was made for soulful singing and she is its master. It is filled with harmonics like when Charlie Parker played alto sax. There was the main note but over and undertones as well, such is the quality of her distinctive sound which invokes shades of Nina Simone, Roberta Flack with just a dash of Queen Latifa's real singing voice, bluesy and sultry, but with a sharp edge.
Listening to Betty Shirley is to hear each note attacked, bent or slid to communicate so much more than the words of the song. She uses every note as an opportunity to make you feel what the song means. If she sang in another language you would still know exactly what she means. I'm always impressed by her mastery and vast repertoire of jazz standards, blues, classic r&b and yes gospel.