'Take 5' concert to honor legendary jazz singers at Aretha's Jazz Café

Erica Hobbs
Special to The Detroit News

While most jazz legends may be gone, Thursday’s debut Take 5 concert aims to make sure they are not forgotten. “Take 5 - 5 Jazz Greats Perform 5 Jazz Legends,” hosted at Detroit’s Aretha Franklin Café, will feature some of the area’s best singers impersonating male jazz icons: Louis Armstrong performed by David Greene; Frank Sinatra performed by Paul King; Nat King Cole performed by Smoke Jones; Dean Martin performed by Ben Sharkey and Leon Thomas performed by Kenny Watson.

David Greene will portray Louis Armstrong in “Take 5 - 5 Jazz Greats Perform 5 Jazz Legends,” hosted at Detroit’s Aretha Franklin Café.

Organizer Sky Covington said the performers were good and talented people she had worked with before. 

“The men that I picked all have beautiful hearts,” she said. “Outside of being incredible artists, they’re’ very easy to get along with, they touched my life.”

Each performer will sing four songs, followed by a group closing number.

Music Director Scott Gwinnell said the song selection was a collaborative decision that they felt would exemplify the historic artist they are representing. While the singers are impersonating other performers, he said, they’ll still have their own creative touch.

“It will pay homage to the past musicians but at the same time allow the current performers to stretch, with the artistic license to express their interpretation of Frank, Pops, Bobby and the rest,” Gwinnell said. 

Covington, herself a longtime Billie Holiday impersonator, is also the founder of the Satin Dolls, the female equivalent of Take 5 that started in 2018 and continues to perform regularly.

“I imagined, if we have the beautiful women that we’re featuring, what if I also put together a spinoff with men?” she said. “One of my favorite songs, ‘Take Five,’ inspired me to use that name, and that’s how the show was invented.”

Like the Satin Dolls, Covington hopes Take 5 will become a regular show in Detroit and eventually would like for the two groups to perform together. Both groups are part of her “Out of the Mouth of Jazz” music series under her Preservation of Jazz foundation with a goal of maintaining and perpetuating the music and legacy of jazz. 

Ben Sharkey will perform Dean Martin in “Take 5 - 5 Jazz Greats Perform 5 Jazz Legends,” hosted at Detroit’s Aretha Franklin Café.

“A lot of our youth don’t know who Billie Holiday is, they don’t know Louis Armstrong, they don’t know women wearing gowns down to their ankles with pearls,” she said. “I want to keep pumping this jazz out, where you can just go to a show and just go back in time for a minute, a minute to just be crooned to.” 

To attend the concert, guests must wear masks when not seated at their tables.

Grinnell said Take 5 is a great opportunity to have a fun night while also learning about past musicians and some of Detroit’s outstanding male artists. 

“(Guests) will go and feel the groove and pulse of a veteran rhythm section,” he said, “one that knows how to put a charge behind this music and bring the past into the present.”

'Take 5 — Jazz Greats Perform 5 Jazz Legends'

8 p.m. Thursday

Aretha's Jazz Café in Music Hall, 350 Madison, Detroit

Tickets: $35 at the door or here

Call Sky Convington, (248) 383-3385