22 Jun 2011
- Written by Dorothy Bracy Alston
Special to the Tri-State Defender
A family-and-friends style benefit concert for the Youth Department at Greater Middle Baptist Church fit those who attended like a brand new, custom-made suit.
The event largely was tailored by Savoyd Beard, a gifted musician who plays flute, saxophone and bass guitar. It was Beard who put together an impressive ensemble of vocalists and musical talent.
The eight-member band, a group of seasoned, artistic musicians who play on the world stage, whooped it up in a 40-minute neo-soul-gospel-themed jam session. They included Winston Stewart on piano, bass guitarist James Kinard, Ignatius Beard on lead guitar, percussion and drums, W.C. Garrison and Calvin King, trombone player Stewart Nunn, trumpeter Phillip Joiner and composer/arranger Beard on saxophone.
Following the instrumental set, the audience graciously welcomed home recording artist, keyboardist and nationally recognized vocalist Vaneese Thomas, daughter of Stax legend Rufus Thomas and sister of soul sensation Carla Thomas.
Thomas graced the podium, not as an artist, but as a friend, a sister and a former St. John Baptist Church choir member, who came home to celebrate the work of Beard – a comrade, arranger and youth activist.
Singing with passion, soul, anointing and conviction, Thomas bellowed out mostly traditional gospel songs, adding a few contemporary gospel songs as well. Her backup singers were lauded as some of the best-of-the-best standalone vocalists in Memphis. They included Cheryl Howard, Bernita Miles, Joyce Small, Debra Manning Thomas and Marshall Bailey.