Detroit talent honors historic Black singers at Black Bottom Jazz event

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Stars and songs from a bygone era will be brought back to life by local talent Saturday night at Bert's Warehouse Theater in Detroit's Eastern Market.

Headlined by the Satin Doll Revue, the Black Bottom Jazz Showcase will bring patrons hours of live music and singing from performers who are well-known in clubs and live music venues across the city. The Revue features 11 women who will perform the songs and dress the part of famous Black women singers in history.

Nina-Simone Neal performs as Dinah Washington in the Satin Doll Revue, which takes the stage Saturday at Bert's Warehouse Theatre in Eastern Market.

Event organizer Sky Covington said she's had the idea for a show like this since she was a little girl, and has been producing some form of it for years.

"It's kind of like a real-life hologram of all these singers, these legends that we are portraying," said Covington, who performs as Billie Holiday, something she's done for more than 20 years.

"The ironic thing about the show is each woman actually looks like the person she's portraying. Dinah Washington is played by Nina-Simone Neal, she's been in the revue the longest. Her poise, her voice, her movements, her smile ... the whole feeling is Dinah."

Detroit's "Queen of the Blues," Thornetta Davis, takes the role as "Empress of the Blues" and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bessie Smith.

"She just has that Bessie smile," said Covington. "She can get real down low raunchy, and then she can get really super hero-ish. She just embodies Bessie so much."

Detroit singer and songwriter Tosha Owens performs as Etta James Saturday at Bert's Warehouse Theatre.

The Satin Dolls are rounded out by Tosha Owens playing Etta James; Denise Edwards as Lena Horne; Kimmie Horne as Sarah Vaughn; Veronique as blues, jazz and pop song stylist Nancy Wilson; Chelly K as the great Ella Fitzgerald; Lady Love performing as Carmen McRae; Faye Bradford singing as Nina Simone; and Ramona Collins portraying "The Late, Late Show" singer Dakota Staton.

"It's kind of scary," said Covington, "To see the women off the stage, and when they go on stage it's almost like being teleported back in time, really."

Covington said the audience is invited to get glam, too, either in jazz-era clothing or dressing up as their favorite jazz singer. The poet, singer and event producer said she wants the show, which has theater-style seating, to honor Black History Month and Detroit's historic Black Bottom neighborhood, so she's stacked the bill with hours of talent.

The Black Bottom Jazz Showcase producer and singer Sky Covington performs with the Satin Doll Revue as jazz legend Billie Holiday.

"I did hire two acts before the show, so people can get a Saturday night like how they used to do it in the Black Bottom," she said. "A show where you would get like 30 people on the roster. Back in the day, for a quarter, you could see the whole gamut. I want people to know they're going to get their moneys worth."

Detroit area singer Olivia Van Goor and her quartet will kick off the evening with a tribute to American jazz singer Anita O'Day. She's followed by Take 5, a quintet of male singers who will pay tribute to Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and more.

The Satin Doll Revue singers are backed up by the Duke Ellington Trio, which includes musicians Gerard Gibbs, Ibrahim Jones and Terrance Neal. Comedian Mike Bonner will host and keep the show rolling.

Covington said she was motivated to start the Satin Doll Revue after she heard a rumor that women in the local jazz scene didn't get along, and wanted to counteract that. She's produced the show for years, but this year, with 11 performers at an 800-seat venue, it's bigger.

Thornetta Davis performs as Bessie Smith in the Satin Doll Revue, headlining Saturday at Bert's in Eastern Market.

"After that COVID hit, I got depressed and I wanted to make sure that if I ever got a chance to go back on stage I was going to do try to do some real quality stuff," she said, adding that some of the women actually reached out to her wanting to be involved this year.

"It's a dream come true for me, I've never done this large of a show ... it's a humbling experience, to be a part of the jazz community on this level in Detroit," she said, adding that people are hungry for entertainment. "They want good jazz and they believe in the city. Jazz is not dead in Detroit."

Black Bottom Jazz Showcase

with Satin Doll Revue, Take 5 and Anita O Day Tribute

5-10:30 p.m. Sat.

Bert's Warehouse Theatre

2739 Russell, Detroit


Purchase tickets at the door or in advance

13 and older welcome

Twitter: @melodybaetens