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| Dana Masters live in The Black Box, Belfast
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Dana Masters live in The Black Box, Belfast

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The Venue

The Black Box

Hill Street, Belfast

The Lineup

Dana Masters

Holly Rose

The Details

9th January 2016


Afternoon jazz brings out the best of Belfast...

They run a slick operation the Out To Lunch crew. Sold out gig, everyone in seated drinks on tables and support act on stage just after 2:00 pm. No messing.

No messing with or from Dana either, dressed all in black jumps on stage accompanied by musical director and mentor Lindley Hamilton and four other band members and starts belting them out. Actually it’s much better than belting; there is much light and shade.

Most people here know the back story, raised in South Carolina, now married and living of all places Lisburn. Discovered by the aforementioned Mr Hamilton has been gigging around and about including a Saturday jazz session in McHugh’s basement. Word spreads and she finds herself singing at pensioner’s birthday parties over in Cyprus Ave. Great taste some seventy year olds.

The set is wider than what I have heard he do before, soul, gospel, blues, jazz, standards and notably self penned. Some really big powerful stuff, starting with ‘Something So Strong’, ‘Nature Boy’, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’. All delivered with great style, power and conviction. Dana can sing who are we to argue with Van.

The band is I think a mix of some she has worked with before Lindley and Johnny Taylor on keys and others maybe debuting, Collie McClean guitars, Hammy Hamilton drums and a bass player that I have to admit I didn’t catch his name. The newness of the band showed at times but overall that played their parts well.

It really is all about Danas singing. Great version of ‘Motherless Child’ and outstanding ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’.

In introducing these Dana talked about her childhood and background in South Carolina. In particular she referenced the “strong women” in her family. She also talked moving about the civil rights struggle in America and coming to see a black man be sworn in as President. A black woman from Lisburn singing and talking civil rights on a Saturday afternoon in Belfast, A change is gonna come?

Dana is in the studio working on an album and included several self penned song in her set. It always difficult to intersperse these alongside such strong material but on first hearing most of them stand up well. One very strong one about the struggles of a friend. It wasn’t always clear what the title of the her own songs were.

Nice version of ‘Funny (or funky) Valentine’, nice trumpet solo and ‘Smile’. I noticed that there wasn’t a note of a backing vocal sounded, just Danas big powerful graceful voice. Takes a bit of doing that.

Oh and Holly Rose the sixteen year old Derry girl who did support ended up joining and then replacing Dana during the final number. Brave but terrifying it looked.

Not a bad old way to spend a January Saturday afternoon in Belfast. If the Arts Council are interested in my opinion, and they should be I am a tax payer, CQAF are making very very good use of the few very few pounds they get.