Amazed and grateful as the day was here. Opening Night of The National Symphony Orchestra and Renee Fleming VOICES Presents: “MAXWELL – A Night At The Symphony”. Finally, a dream come true. I’ve always imagined it and yearned for the day I would get to experience Maxwell’s vocals resonate over an incredible orchestra such as the National Symphony Orchestra. As I sat in the Concert Hall of the internationally known Kennedy Center, I was wowed at the fact that the merge of Soul music and the brilliance of classically trained instrumentalist would exclusively create this everlasting bond that I would get to witness and leave with the sonic memories of, to reminisce about forever.
As the extravagant night began, we were presented with wonderful poetry from a group of intelligent young adults from “Split This Rock Spoken Word Ensemble“. Setting the tone for a thought provoking journey we all were about to take, this ensemble was dope and right on time. Round of applause to a wonderful group of youthful minds doing great things and motivating others to do the same.
There was a stillness of blissful thought as I looked around and saw the anticipation of Maxwell and NSO pondering in the facial expressions of the packed out Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. There were some fans that were so happy, that they had tears in their eyes (I may have been one of these individuals). Some audience members fidgeted constantly as they tried to compose their excitement, and some were even doing deep breathing exercises because they could not wait to be in the same room as Maxwell. People made me smile as there pre-show reactions spoke volumes to their personal attachment to Maxwell but mainly the respect level they have for his beautiful gift.
All of a sudden, the lights went down and his signature mood lighting filled the room. Maxwell entered the stage and as the spotlight caught him, the audience went wild. Of course, because Maxwell was finally before us everyone was cheering but also because he surprised us with his physical look as well. He was nicely rocking a cornrowed hairstyle (letting us in on him growing his hair back out to his Woman’s Work music video look) and stunned us with a tailored just right, black suit with a white dress shirt and black tie. I have always been a believer in a man looking good in a suit and he definitely made that statement a fact.
As the National Symphony Orchestra lead by the amazing conductor Steven Reineke began the first song, I gasped as the beautifully stunning arrangements of “Bad Habits” shook everyone to their core. This and every other musical arrangement this audience would have the pleasure of hearing was immensely incredible! These incredible arrangements skillfully composed by two time Grammy Nominated prolific arranger and composer Tim Davies with additional arrangements by Jeremy Levy and Jordan Siegel. You could not escape the pull of each song on your heart as the string section captivated your soul. The brass section created a magical vibration of harmonic pleasure. The woodwinds section provided a smooth mesmerizing vibe. The percussion section reset our pulse, synchronizing us all rhythmically and the pianist (Keyboard section) brought the tones and accents of melodic masterpiece to the forefront. The National Symphony Orchestra came to slay and excelled all expectation!
Composure of one’s self was hard to maintain as the favorite soulful sensual songs Maxwell performed kept coming. Songs such as: “Fortunate” in which he added in a snippet of Prince’s song “Do Me Baby“, “Lifetime” that he dedicated to wrongfully incarcerated men, “Sumthin’ Sumthin’“, “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever“, “Til The Cops Come Knockin’“, “This Woman’s Work“, in which he took a moment to give a special shout out to a woman in the front row who just completed her last Chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer as he dedicated this song to all survivors of cancer. Then he hit us with “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” and ended this amazing show with another hit we all love so much: “Pretty Wings“.
There were moments where he would let the audience sing the hooks, I could see how appreciative they were to be included, and grateful Maxwell was to have all of his audience singing from memory, his songs back to him. Maxwell joined NSO but he made sure to bring his loyal talented friends with him and also highlighted their talents. His main supporting vocalist Latina Webb, who has been with him for years shinned as she released lovely tones perfectly aligning with Maxwell’s voice. Two-time Grammy Award Winning Derrick Hodge who is Maxwell’s creative director, arranger and bassist impressed us with his smooth ability to play so effortlessly. Darryl Howell his drummer with true precision played the heck out of the drums. Maxwell’s main collaborator and longtime friend, Guitarist Hod David who wrote almost every song on “BlackSUMMER’Snight“, made a statement wonderfully playing his electric guitar with the orchestra. Lastly Maxwell’s marvelous pianist Shedrick Mitchell who moved us all with his masterful skills on the keys. Every time any of these talented individuals played it was fantastic, and because of their friendship, musically they really moved as one and that alone was breathtaking.
It is so refreshing to see Maxwell thrive and be honored in every capacity of his greatness. Fresh off of his Lifetime Achievement Award in the arts just last week at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, he comes to THEEE Kennedy Center for 4 days straight to present his magnificent 90 minute intriguing live musical performance. Maxwell is an artist of substance, style, grace, and projected humility that transcends his talents even further than just music. This gentleman touches lives and inspires many all while honoring the responsibility of practicing what he preaches.
Maxwell to me is the equivalent of a warm embrace because you can feel his voice soothe you. He is the equivalent of a nice breeze that hits you just at the right time during a hot summer’s night. The majestic quality of his voice illuminates the atmosphere and you feel as if you are floating and his melodies fill you with peace and happiness. His music is music therapy to your entire day, stripping you from any trialed experience you may have gone through. When there is any discussion of “real music”, Maxwell MUST be mentioned as he is a standing force of musicality all wrapped up in a genuine passion to express and create. Real music has a shifting power within its core that solidifies the art in music itself.
This special unique encounter was one that you travel for to make sure you do not miss. Realized by all as historic and a tangible indication that music will live on forever and continuously, this movement shapes the future while never losing sight of its founding structures. Maxwell with an orchestra was all a music lover could have ever desired and his fans would love to see much more.
Story By: @MarquitaCheron
About The Author: Marquita Cheron is a Jazzy-Soul/R&B Singer/Songwriter, Correspondent, Writer and overall Music Enthusiast; who has a love for every positive angle of the Music & Entertainment industry. Simply on a quest to reveal the greatness of amazing artists and their music to the masses, while also being a contributor of it herself.