By Risa Wheat
On Friday, April 27th, 2018 there was a sold out, standing room only party going in the Pavilion Ballroom at the Four Points by Sheraton in beautiful San Diego, California. Were you there? Hundreds of people were moving, grooving, dancing and enjoying the show so perhaps we might have missed you in the crowd.
But, if you weren’t there, then, sadly, you missed the incredible vocals of incomparable Singer, Songwriter, Broadway Actress, author, and humanitarian Ms. Eloise Laws.
You certainly missed the silky, smooth riffs of legendary Saxophonist Mr. Ronnie Laws, and you definitely missed the funk and the flair of world renowned Jazz Trumpeter Mr. Tom Browne.
Browne and Eloise Laws had already gotten the party started earlier as they double headlined at a popular venue in Hollywood, California a couple weeks prior. Those two brought the house down! With Ronnie Laws now added to the mix bringing his own special flavor to the San Diego bash, these amazing artists, along with the help of a few friends, and to the delight of several hundred adoring fans, brought the Jazz, the Blues, the Funk, and the party to San Diego, California.
Talented, popular singer Daneen Whitley Wilburn, a San Diego local, lent her rich vocals to the evening in a special performance. Accomplished Mistress of the keyboard, writer, and producer Gail Jhonson, also known as the First Lady of Smooth Jazz, served as Music Director for the event. The rest of the fabulous band consisted of Dale Williams on guitar, Mike Parlett on saxophone, flute, and EWI (electronic wind instrument), Jermone Randall on bass, and Tony Moore on drums. On- air personality, DJ. John Phillips, of KSDS San Diego’s Jazz 88.3 served as host and emcee for the evening’s festivities, provided lively commentary, and kept the show moving smoothly along. A young lady with a beautiful afro provided additional vocals.
In an unprecedented collaboration, these amazing three producers Robin Parker, CEO of Carezma Entertainment, Chuck Dennis, CEO of Chuck Dennis Productions and Floyd A. Smith, CEO of Music Therapy for Veterans had the vision to bring this impressive lineup of artists together to present an amazing show. They were all on hand to welcome close to six hundred guests who had come out to enjoy an evening of Jazz and Soul in the beautiful coastal city of San Diego.
The seemingly endless line of people waiting to get in started at the door of the Pavilion, spilled outside onto the patio, and continued into the next, adjoining building. While, most had come from San Diego and surrounding communities, many had come from Los Angeles, and several shared that they had traveled all the way from Arizona. News of the RET tour was traveling fast! Ronnie Laws! Eloise Laws! Tom Browne! What a lineup! Everybody knew this was going to be an awesome party!
One guest, worried that there were so many people, asked if he would get a refund if he didn’t get in. “Don’t worry,” Carezma Entertainment CEO Parker assured him. “Everyone who has a ticket will get a seat. You’re in for a great show”, she further assured him.
Upon entering the Pavilion ballroom, the guests were able to purchase and enjoy cocktails from the bar. They were also treated to a dazzling display of unique and distinctive custom made jewelry available for purchase by SOJ Designs created by Edwina Chong, who was on hand to deliver personal customer service. While waiting for the actual live performance to begin, several people went to the dance floor and began their groove to the interim, soulful music being played by the DJ.
Gail Jhonson, First lady of Smooth Jazz and her merry crew of band members opened the show with an upbeat song called “Do Something Else” from her album “HERSTORY” as they warmed up the crowd.
The incomparable Eloise Laws is known worldwide for her powerful, R&B vocals. Showing off her brand new, beautiful necklace that she had just purchased from SOJ Designs, Eloise began her set with one of her newest releases, “Don’t Move, Don’t Blink” which has rapidly become a fan favorite. Strolling down memory lane, we reminisced and remembered those early days of being in love as she crooned her ever popular, and timeless songs “Love Comes Easy” and “You’re Incredible”.
A member of the legendary, musical Laws family, and a performer in demand, Eloise Laws is also a humanitarian, business woman, philanthropist, and activist. “You men, be quiet, “she playfully demanded. “This next song is for the ladies.” Co-written with a friend, “Can’t Let Myself, Hurt Myself” is, a catchy, sing along tune. The song sends a timely message of empowerment, resonates strongly with the ME TOO movement going on nowadays, and is on her ‘must sing’ list of songs. The ladies happily sang along. Eloise then heated up the party quite a bit as she sizzled into a funky, bluesy number called “Steppin’ Out. She drove the audience wild with her sassy, high stepping, and booty shakin’ dance moves! Toning things down just a bit, Eloise ended her set with a moving rendition of “More Than You’ll Ever Know“. The applause was deafening as she left the stage.
As Emcee John Phillips introduced legendary Funkateer Saxophonist and Jazz great Ronnie Laws to the stage, Ronnie treated his audience to the first few notes of a fan favorite, “Every Generation” eliciting loud whistling, clapping, and yells of “Ronnie!!!” coming from the crowd. Grooving with Gail a little first as he got to the stage, Ronnie then shared that the song was inspired by his grandfather, a street musician, and is dedicated to the legacy of his family.
What a pleasant surprise for everyone when he called Eloise back onstage to sing with him, particularly, on this poignant and personal song. Ronnie put his saxophone aside for a short while as he showed off his impressive vocals with this number. Meanwhile, the dance floor was packed. The party was in full effect. “Come on now!” somebody shouted as they recognized the chords from the next song, “Miz Mary’s Place,” a song inspired by a juke joint of the same name the Laws siblings recall from their childhood. It was just across the street from their family home where they would hear the music of legendary greats Muddy Waters and BB King wafting from within the walls.
Ronnie and Eloise both give a great show separately, but, there’s a whole different vibe in seeing them perform onstage together as they danced, sang, and scatted with each other. It was amazing and wonderful and just made the party even better. After giving his legendary long saxophone intro Ronnie told everybody to “get up” as the band blazed its way into “Friends and Strangers,” an extremely popular treasured gem. Those who weren’t on the dance floor were dancing and partying by their seats. Some were grooving in their seats. Many were live streaming as they boogied to the beat, and a couple of people waved their canes from their seat. Ronnie then played his Grammy nominated “Settle Down” which was a huge hit with the crowd. All too soon, the sexy sound of Ronnie’s saxophone came to an end as he brought his set to a close with the well-loved “Always There” as his final song. Screams of appreciation and thunderous applause echoed as he finished his set and left the stage.
It’s easy to understand why San Diego loves its very own Daneen Whitley Wilburn with her beautiful smile and sultry voice as she sang “Déjà Vu” and “Love, Love, Love.” Emcee John Phillips kept the audience entertained, mentioning that San Diego really supports live Jazz, and also shared that he had never seen so many people at this venue as there were on this night. After some birthday recognitions and some free ticket giveaways, Gail Jhonson and the band treated us to one more musical interlude called “Red Baron”.
And, then there was tumultuous applause as Singer, Songwriter, and legendary Jazz trumpeter, multi gold album artist and Billboard “Best Of” awards recipient, Tom Browne was introduced to the stage. Known for bringing the flair as well as the funk, Tom began his set from the floor, as he serenaded his audience and partied his way to the stage playing “Sweetest Taboo,” a nice, long, Cha Cha song, which was perfect for all the partiers on the crowded dance floor.
Tom told us that he always gets into trouble with his wife when he performs fan favorite “Thighs High“. But, we hope Tom’s wife will understand because he will always get in trouble with his audience if he doesn’t perform it. “Thighs High“ is a great song to dance to, and this crowd loved it. “Mandela”, a song from Tom’s ‘LEGACY’ CD is a tribute to the late South African President Nelson Mandela, someone Tom greatly admired. It’s got a catchy chant that encourages audience participation. The audience was quite happy to oblige. Things got real funky after that with that sweet, sweet blare of Tom’s trumpet signaling it was time for the always and forever popular “Funkin for Jamaica“, probably one of the best boogey down songs ever recorded. And, this crowd could boogey down with the best of them. Tom looked as though he could go on the rest of the night, but as we all know, all good things must come to an end. He brought his set to a close with another great party song, “Grooveline,” then brought back all the artists to the stage for a rousing finale singing “All I Do”.
This party had that nostalgic “old school” feel reminiscent of house parties given back in the day when the whole neighborhood would be invited. They would crank the music up and everybody, young and old, would cram in, boogey down, and just have a great time. The RET TOUR performed an amazing show! And, with all the slow dancing, line dancing, chair dancing, aisle dancing, heads bopping, fingers popping, screaming, shouting, and standing ovations, it was obvious that the audience loved this show. The RET TOUR is on the move! Ronnie! Eloise! Tom! Get ready, world, because here they come!
Carezma Entertainment CEO Robin Parker, known for her uncanny knack for spotting great talent, had correctly predicted that it was “going to be a great, sold out show.” She is looking forward to more collaboration in the near future and wants you to keep your eyes open and your ears peeled for exciting news about the RET TOUR.
For more information on these artists or upcoming shows, keep your eyes on the website www.carezma.com or call 310-895-5729.
Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News. She covers politics and the economy.