I’ve never fully swallowed the Norman Rockwell images showing big happy families at Christmas, which leaves me much more comfortable coming at Christmas via angst than angels.
No wonder I feel as though I’m on the same page with Christian Jeffries. His latest –presented Friday November 15th—reprises last year’s yuletide show, called “Christian Jeffries: The Truth About Xmas—Live at the Flying Beaver Pubaret”.
We’re through the looking glass now. Our mayor is eating at home, so there’s nothing especially shocking about flying beaver. At one time the gay and lesbian demimonde helped us identify the edges of our world. We no longer have our orientation, our up & down, our left & right, not under the current bizarre circumstances. I felt a curious sense of nostalgia for the old days watching Jeffries, a time when you knew good & bad, and could rely on them to wear the right colour hat.
Jeffries is a complete performer, not just a singer but also a wonderful raconteur who holds the audience in the palm of his hand while drily making commentary on the wacky world we inhabit. I’d love to spend the entire time listening to the singing voice, but then I’d lose that other dimension.
Jeffries sang with a trio, namely Donavon LeNabat at the piano, Dustin Shaskin on bass & Jamie Bird on drums.
While many of their songs are familiar melodies of Christmas, there was rarely anything conventional about the readings. LeNabat & Jeffries often took adventurous routes from one chord to the next, as in a wonderfully jazzy reading of the Christmas Song for example. Jeffries is a deceptive singer because his diction is so amazingly clear –I don’t think I missed a syllable all night—and his pitch so precise. He makes it sound very easy, cruising through changes, bouncing around harmonies that make the most familiar song sound brand new. We sat through an evening of charm & schmooze & effortless singing that lasted well over two hours, but felt like nothing. I didn’t want it to end.
I felt very comfortable as Jeffries offered himself as a kind of therapist for our collective ills. No, we didn’t actually get on a couch, but even so, he spoke to us of how Christmas is challenging, a holiday for misfits. I can relate, and evidently everyone else in the Flying Beaver felt as I did. He can make us scream with laughter or applaud at the top of our lungs, yet for the last part of the second set we were exploring something a bit more serious & touching than just silliness.
Christian Jeffries is unlike any other performer I’ve ever seen or heard. The voice is effortless, fabulously musical, floating up to notes without any anxiety that he can make it. He dresses on the boundaries between male and female, inhabiting a persona with a drag element, but underplayed. Seriously, that sort of description is so inadequate, so negative ultimately. I believe Jeffries –perhaps with LeNabat along for the ride—should try performing something conventionally jazzy. Yes I love the patter, but I simply mean that their chops are so good that they could fly purely on the basis of their musical wings, without relying upon their considerable cabaret skills. From a purely selfish perspective I’d want to keep Jeffries a secret, so that his extraordinary talent would stay in tiny venues like this one, where he must perform so intimately that every nuance is right in front of you. But he deserves a bigger audience, the world needs to see and hear this amazing performer.
I’ll keep my ears open for the next show. I understand something’s probably coming for Valentine’s Day. I will do my best to let people know beforehand.