I first encountered Christian Jeffries in the Soup Can Theatre cabaret show Love is a Poverty You Can Sell 2 at the Fringe in July, the most memorable performer we encountered for two brief numbers.
CJ was back last night, ably supported by Music-director Donavon Lenabat on keyboards & Jamie Bird on drums, at the Flying Beaver on Parliament St. It was titled Songs From The Couch: An Evening Of Skeletons, Therapy and Self Medication. I’d seen lots of talent in CJ’s brief appearances in July, but wondered if the show could sustain interest.
Oh yeah, and then some.
I knew CJ could sing, and I’d giggled a bit at the comic gifts I’d seen in the Fringe show. This was much more however. On the basis of this, I’ll be sad if CJ doesn’t go to NY and perhaps Vegas, to hone that huge talent, and to develop that larger-than-life personality.
I need to see and hear CJ again. The voice? I knew I had to attempt to characterize it, even though we heard several different personas, several different sounds. I believe CJ channels influences as though the act of performance were a kind of psychic connection.
The luscious legato line sometimes reminded me of Barbra Streisand, sometimes KD Lang, but CJ is capable of various harsher sounds, including one that reminds me of a cross between Louis Armstrong & Krusty the Clown. At one point, singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” I thought I detected an intriguing influence at work, as Joni’s rougher folky singing might be infusing CJ’s polished broadwayesque fluidity with something not so flawless, and more extemperaneous.
The delicate head-voice first reminded me of Neil Sedaka (think of the sweet sounds of his intro to “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”), although as I was straining to identify the right influence, he banged me on the head with it, by singing a Culture Club song: in other words, at times I heard Boy George. But truly, Christian is an original, a marvellously flexible singer who was on pitch all-night, except when the moment called for something bent or rough sounding. I look forward to the day that the voice is so well-known that CJ is the vocal touchstone, the influence upon younger artists.
Christian’s not so young. It’s a lived-in body to go with a lived-in voice, telling us tales of love & pain. The therapy conceit of the title was explored effortlessly. This artist has much to tell us, as none of what we heard between the songs felt artificial or contrived, but confessional & authentic. I am a sucker for parenthetical asides, as though the workings of this mind sometimes bubbles over spontaneously. Sometimes it was hysterically funny, sometimes poignant and heart-wrenching (even though these moments also elicit laughter from some in the audience). We were hearing songs framed in a larger confessional about self-acceptance, something genuine and real.