Lena Hall’s Take on Villa Satori

18 Jan

Lena Hall returned to Feinstein’s at San Francisco’s  Nikko Hotel January 15 with her latest opus, Villa Satori, the name honoring the Carvajal home where she grew up. I sat with the proud parents, Carlos and Carolyn, watching their daughter in a black body suit ringed with sequins at the hems of the short pants, around the neck with an ingenious combination of support and bare skin at the back.  She was supported by two guitar players, a pianist and a drummer and played an electronic guitar herself towards the end.

Hall recounted an amazing collage of stories and sang songs with a description of the Carvajal household and their welcoming attitude. Hall’s specific memories of growing up in San Francisco as the daughter of two dance professionals with Calliope (Calli) sister five years her senior (for a time an utterly remarkable belly dancer, now mother of a beguiling daughter just over a year old) struck a chord for this second daughter with a sibling nearly four years older.

Except for a vastly different social landscape, the number two child of the same gender encompasses initial closeness until adolescence makes for marked differences.  In between numbers Hall’s recounting her desire to be like the rockers Calli was thick with, “smelly bad because they didn’t want water on their Tommy hawk hair styles.  I wanted to be smelly too.”

These confessions  were interspersed with songs, rendered with considerable range and strength, from soft, nurturing croons to a forceful blast at the right places.  Several times she started her experiences prefaced by “apologies,” or “sorry, Mom,” disclosures from her diary; her refuge in practicing the piano; a planned virginity loss that didn’t happen; cutting school one day that morphed into an encounter with a shotgun toting man. Hall exhibited shades of amusement, amazement, chagrin, and dead level frankness with skill.

One of the amazing comments Lena Hall made was recounting Carolyn Carvajal’s dream of swimming with a surrounding group of cats.  “Two months later, I joined the cast of Cats.”

Sitting in front of Carolyn were two men who obviously knew every tune and all the lyrics Lena was providing.  One bobbed his head enthusiastically.
As the rest of the audience applauded, I venture at least two dozen friends of the Carvajal family, Lena’s tribute to Villa Satori provided all manner of chords.  Father Carlos was clearly over the moon with pride.  As he once
remarked to me, “From Manila zarazuela to Broadway in four generations.”

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