John Boutte'


June 02, 2004

Boutte was a mellow bug as he and a guitarist, drummer and bassist moseyed through swingin' vocal jazz, soul and gospel numbers Wednesday night at d.b.a.

Boutte sat in the audience as his band ripped through a boppin' gypsy jazz number to start the show. Before he sat down, Boutte joked and said, "I'm gonna see if I still wanna play with you guys." Boutte's charisma and sense of humor made the night fun and made me feel comfortable.

Boutte's first vocal number was a swingin' romantic ballad. It was fun to watch Boutte. He moved his body and arms through every syllable that came out his mouth. His fist clenching motions and contorted faces complemented his subtle vocal delivery very well. He shined on "That's My Desire," popularized by Louis Armstrong. Boutte was an extraordinary singer, but he didn't hit me over the head with his talent. Instead, he picked his moments and exhibited a diverse array of emotions that made his exceptional craft difficult to recognize. In other words, he made singing look easy.

He and his band were tight, and though the first three or four songs were generic but enjoyable romantic numbers, the next two were gospel songs. Boutte sung Mahalia Jackson's "It Don't Cost Very Much" and the traditional "Down By The Riverside," which got the crowd clappin' for a moment. With its chorus of "Ain't gonna study war no more," the song sent a chill through me as I considered our current war. Boutte finished the first set with "Unchained Melody," popularized by The Righteous Brothers but recorded by every vocalist worth his or her mettle. Boutte's version was enjoyably stilted, and he broke down the bridge so that it was slow, dreamy, and maybe a little bit spooky.

Boutte and his band took their time between songs, but it was a laid back evening anyway. Boutte proved last night he's a New Orleans vocal treasure.

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