Concert Review: Carlton Jumel Smith’s Tribute to James Brown Drom NYC 5/31/24.


Concert Review: Carlton Jumel Smith’s Tribute to James Brown Drom NYC 5/31/24.

Worldwide R&B ambassador Carlton Jumel Smith has taken his high-energy R&B review literally around the globe, from his home base of NYC to China, Turkey, and virtually everywhere in between. His is a feel-good experience from a master Artist who leaves a bucket of sweat behind after every show. His 5/31/24 Tribute to James Brown at New York City’s lovely Drom was no exception.
Legendary James Brown bassist Fred Thomas opened the nearly two-and-a-half-hour joyful noise with a funky number backed by Carlton’s tight band. They most certainly weren’t faking the funk on this night. And when Carlton hit the stage, he tore into a slew of Brown hits and lesser-known jams from I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get it Myself) to Hot Pants and Get On The Good Foot on down.
Always a gracious host, he shared the stage with several other worthy artists, including Skyy’s lead singer Denise Wilkinson, who just killed on Lynn Collin’s Think and her own Call Me and more. R&B singer NeNe B came out and did two lovely numbers, and particularly inspiring was young rapper ZaQuel, who not only was performing with a band for the first time, but Carlton mentioned he had never even seen a band live until this experience. 64-year-old Carlton isn’t one of those old-school R&B acts who look down on Hip Hop either- he embraces and champions its exponents and even provides precious experiences like this. It was even more powerful when Carlton requested ZaQuel’s 10-year-old son to proudly stand by his beaming father on stage.
Carlton also called up a slew of dancers from the audience, which is always fun. The worse the dancer, the more enthusiastic they often are, and Carlton has the timing of a stand-up comic riffing on the controlled chaos he has created.
Smith’s shows also have an impressive educational/historical element. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of R&B history and shares snippets of it throughout. For the music aficionados in the audience, this is a bonus to the musical magic he delivers.
Interestingly, they managed to work a Sex Machine riff into such eclectic fare as Come Together [The Beatles], Papa Was a Rolling Stone [The Temptations], Superstition [Stevie Wonder], I Wish [Stevie Wonder], and Pusherman [Curtis Mayfield]. And it came off flawlessly.
Carlton Jumel Smith is one of the world’s greatest living showmen. Add his inspirational messages of self-pride and following one’s dreams, and the packed house walked out feeling lighter and better than when we walked in.
What more can you ask from a performer and a show?
Bravo.

Evan Ginzburg is a published author and was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie “The Wrestler” and acclaimed wrestling documentary “350 Days.” He is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories. He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran.
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