Chester Gregory's Benefit Concert for the Doe Fund
by William Gooch
published December 23,
Like many folks from the theatrical community, Chester Gregory not only wows audiences with his vocal acuity, but he also gives back to those
less fortunate. Still blowing audiences away with his portrayal of James Thunder Early in the Apollo Theater's production of
Dreamgirls, on December 7, Chester Gregory (along with some songbird friends) gave a benefit concert at Gospel
Uptown for the Doe Fund. Founded in 1985 at the
height of the homeless crisis in New York City, the Doe Fund provides job training and work opportunities, housing assistance, advocacy, and
support for homeless and unemployed people. In other words, the Doe Fund gives a helps out, not a hands out.
“Ready, Willing and Able” is the slogan of the Doe Fund's work project. And the Doe Fund helps facilitate homeless and unemployed people in
New York City who are ready to change their circumstances, willing to work toward that goal and able with the help of the Doe Fund to
manifest that aspiration.
At this benefit concert Chester Gregory demonstrated that he is one of the unique artists of his generation who can interpret a song that was
written decades before his birth and inject the right amount of nuance and authenticity. His soulful rendering of Carl Weathers “Got a Thing
for You” solidifies Chester Gregory's status as a singer who can cover another artist's music without sacrificing the style and message of
the lyric. Though he is blessed with an unforced, high falsetto, Gregory expertly uses this vocal embellishment as an accompaniment rather
than a pyrotechnical flourish.
This concert included duets with Broadway peers from the many musicals Chester has performed in. Gregory's melancholy duet “Someday” with
Shoshanna Bean of Hairspray fame was the perfect melding of the type of voices now heard on the Great White Way. These new types of
Broadway voices, though classically trained, speak to the influence of R&B, pop and jazz music that most versatile singers must be able
to sing in order to have any longevity.
The highlight of this concert was Chester's duet with the great Melba Moore. Their “Your Love Keeps on Lifting Me Higher” was a further
demonstration that Chester is adept at adapting his vocal style to an artist of Ms. Moore's range and ability. Not daunted by Melba Moore's
mastery of R&B trills and flourishes, Chester was able to compliment Ms. Moore's sound without overpowering.
After first appearing on Broadway almost 40 years ago in Purlie, Melba Moore has lost none of the versatility and excitement of the
sound that electrified the stage some years back. The tone is still clear, the pitch is still perfect and her personality still bubbles over
the footlights with a freshness and authenticity that still delights audiences. “I Believe,” from her new CD The Gift of
Love, was sung with a compelling sense of purpose and resolve.
With the release of his debut album, In Search of Higher Love, Chester Gregory is carving a special niche for himself in the
R&B/Soul genre. And he is also giving back to worthy causes and charities. A new album, a starring role in Dreamgirls, charitable
work for needy causes ... hmm, I think the brotha's got it going on!!
williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com
For information about the Doe Fund, go to doe.org. And for more information about Chester Gregory, go to chestergregory.com.