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  • Jonathan Widran

QUEEN ESTHER, Things Are Looking Up

Boasting a fascinating breakneck creative background that makes her official bio at least if not more fascinating than her famous counterpart in the Hebrew Bible, the eclectic deep soul Black Americana artist known as Queen Esther boasts an array of major guild associations (SAG/AFTRA, Actor’s Equity, Dramatist’s Guild, Recording Academy) help us understand the sense of depth and drama she brings to her album Things Are Looking Up.


Called by some the “Black Lucinda Williams” and “the unknown queen of Americana,” the singer, songwriter and vocal interpreter extraordinaire has fashioned a masterwork paying homage to Billie Holiday in her own inimitable jazz, blues, gospel, country and bluegrass melting pot style. Instead of more torchy versions of “Stormy Weather” and “God Bless The Child,” Queen Esther’s got a different sort of agenda in mind as she weaves her hypnotic, rootsy magic through a batch of lost and rarely heard Holiday tunes and alternating between a quartet and trio format led by the astonishingly intuitive pianist Jeremy Bacon.


Starting the sly strut of “Having Myself a Time” and the lightly swinging “Detour Ahead” and on through Leonard Bernstein’s slow simmering “Big Stuff,” Queen Esther’s goal, admirably achieved, is to highlight the positive side of Holiday’s life to combat the darker images of Holiday as victim that have long plagued the legend’s legacy. Alongside gems penned by Rodgers & Hart (“Glad to Be Unhappy”) and the Gershwins (the charming, lighthearted “Things Are Looking Up,” the singer includes a handful of originals (penned by Lenny Molotov) that artfully capture the slightly sunnier side of Holiday, including the bright, plucky “Blow, Blossoms,” the bluesy, seductive “Flashin’ In Front of My Eyes” and the even bluesier burning of the ballad “Clean Blue Flame.” Among her many extramusical endeavors,


Queen Esther is currently playwright in residence in the 2022-2024 WP Theatre Pipeline PlayLAB, with an upcoming Off Broadway staged reading upcoming. There’s simply no end to the expression when Queen Esther is looking up!    

 

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