"Band of Gold," a blustery R&B/pop nugget from the stellar Holland-Dozier-Holland production team, catapulted 25-year-old Freda Payne to fame in 1970; her brassy, soulful howl blasted from radios everywhere. A succession of slightly less ubiquitous hits followed in the next year or so, including "Deeper and Deeper" and the antiwar "Bring the Boys Home," then she mostly dropped off the pop radar but maintained a busy career on stage and screen. She's always been a versatile singer, a jazz singer at heart as comfortable with Broadway and jazz ballads as soul. Pre-"Gold," in fact, she sang with Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, and Duke Ellington, and her still-glistening pipes now turn out grand versions of her hits, jazz standards associated with the likes of Ellington and Billie Holiday, and even sassy blues like Alberta Hunter's "Rough and Ready Man." Payne is currently touring with a highly praised show in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, which may be headed to Broadway. Her evocation of Fitzgerald's voice is said to be uncanny, and Payne's spectacular, lightning-fast scatting is certainly comparable to the legendary Ella's.
Sun., May 4, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2008