By Emily Macel
B.B. King Blues Club, NYC
July 31, 2008
There’s a Capezio ad from the 1980s with Savion Glover leaping into the air, a huge grin on his face. It reads “Savion Sizzles.” Well, that eager little boy has grown up, but he still sizzles. And swings. And slams syncopated rhythms into the floor. And scats with his feet.
For one night in July, Glover performed an evening-length jam at B.B. King Blues Club. In the dark, intimate setting, Glover came to life connecting with the audience and himself in ways that aren’t possible in a large venue. Essentially a solo, featuring brief interludes of duets with musicians and other tappers, the audience was privy to an evolution of Savion. Wearing white linen pants, a red T-shirt from a Jimmy Slyde birthday celebration, and a white linen long sleeved shirt overtop, Savion’s bright green tap boots completed his elegant yet casual look. He began the evening standing tall with a water bottle in one hand, his head cocked to the side and his eyes closed. He tests each of three raised wooden stages (he travels with his own floors for the best sound quality) with light steps first, then really throws himself onto them.
Savion became a man possessed. The conversation between his feet and the floor was so hypnotic that he slipped into a trance-like state. He reached for a microphone, opened his eyes slightly and saw an audience member: “I can see you,” he said. And then, more urgently. “I can see you. I can see you.” Then he paused to tap, and as the rhythm boils up inside of him, he spurted out “Are the stars out tonight,” and broke into a spoken word, half-sung vocalization of “I only have eyes for you.” His voice was somewhat alarming, given we’re used to hearing his music only coming from his feet. To hear song coming from his mouth and shoes seemed like a feat, and feast for our senses.
He was joined onstage by fellow tappers Marshall Davis Jr. and Maurice Chestnut, as well as a bassist, drummer and keyboard player. Of course he couldn’t help but steal the spotlight. Davis gave a noteworthy solo performance (it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s given the nickname in the tap world as “heels” for all those hundreds of heavy-hitting heeldrops.) Yet the interaction between Glover and the bassist was the most enjoyable of all. When the musicians were on stage, Glover kept his back to the audience—not out of disrespect, but because he was so drawn in by the music. At one point he noticed a girl at the edge of the stage taking a video of him dancing. He jokingly asked her, “You’re not gonna put that on YouTube or anything, are you?”
His tall stance was long gone by the last part of the show. He was hunched over and really digging into the floor during the improv jam with the musicians. At times it was hard to tell who was mimicking whom; whose rhythmic riffs came first. A drum rhythm lead Savion into a set of cramp rolls and shuffles that caused the bassist to hit a certain syncopation and then the piano chimed in with the unmistakable sounds of “A Few of My favorite Things.” And just to show he can do tricks (or maybe can’t help but do tricks at times) Savion pulled out a crazy set of spins with hundreds of hits beneath his feet, sending him flying from one floor to the next—his own rendition of what raindrops on roses would sound like. This performance goes on my short list of favorites for the year.