Howard Leu

Passion and soul, dished out at The Cooke Book

Darrian Ford perfectly captured the sound of the King of Soul at the Marcus Center.

By - Mar 24th, 2013 02:30 pm
The Cooke Book 2 | Marcus Center

Darrian Ford channelled the spirit of Sam Cooke at the Marcus Center Friday night.

Darrian Ford brought the charisma, energy and emotion of Sam Cooke to the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall Friday, with The Cooke Book, a vigorous, soulful tribute to the man who largely pioneered the genre.

The audience was captivated almost from the minute Ford’s band – Benny Joseph on piano/electric organ, Garrett McGinn on upright bass, Alfonzo “Spanky” Jones on drums and music director John “Chick” Cicora on guitar – took the stage, diving into a soul jazz montage from Cooke’s songbook. Ford didn’t waste time either; the moment he walked onstage and grabbed the microphone, he started into “Twistin’ the Night Away,” accenting the song with foot tapping, hip swaying and a charismatic gaze that made his enthusiasm and dedication to Cooke’s spirit immediately visible.

Sam Cooke’s sensational vocals came from his ability to make each note silky-smooth and gruff in the same breath, as well as the sincere, soulful delivery of his phrases. Ford nailed both on the head. Whether it was a seamless string of pop hits, like “Wonderful Word,” “Only Sixteen” and “Chain Gang,” or soulful and tender love songs like “Nothing Can Change This Love,” “Rome (Wasn’t Built in a Day)” and “Cupid,” Ford embodied the Cooke sound, occasionally evoking howls and swaying in the audience.

Ford also proved he knew his material on a nonlyrical basis as well. At one point, he amusingly demonstrated the fine line between religious gospel music and secular soul music by singing Cooke’s 1963 somber love song “Lost and Lookin'” while interchanging the words “baby” and “savior.”

The most anticipated song of the night was Cooke’s 1964 civil rights anthem “A Change is Gonna Come.” Spirits swelled in the audience from the first note in the bluesy arrangement, a noticeable shift from the original recording that helped highlight the anguish and hope within the lyrics. Ford delivered Cooke faithfully throughout the night, but with “Change” he transcended.

Ford seemed to close the show with a festive “Having a Party,” but he didn’t keep up the charade long after walking off stage. You see, he hadn’t played “You Send Me” yet. “Even Sam wouldn’t end the night without playing ‘You Send Me,'” he said with a smile.

If there were any critique of the show, it would be this: The audience seemed a bit too timid. This goes for me as well. I regret at times during the night not getting on my feet and throwing my arms up. To me, the energy exulted from the stage called for that kind of participation. Perhaps everyone else was just waiting for someone to do it first.

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