Christie Lenée Trio, Chasing Jonah Light Up the Night in Largo

[Color photographs courtesy of Michael McCoy; black & white photographs courtesy of Kathleen Wolf Thompson]

The Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo, Florida, shimmered Friday night (June 3) with the sounds of two brilliant women from Florida and their accompanists: Christie Lenée and her trio and Ashley Dudukovich, performing as Chasing Jonah with a cellist. Lenée is now based in North Carolina, while Dudukovich is from St. Petersburg.

It was a night filled with joy, heartache, wonderful music, and superb stories about the songs the ladies played. The rapt audience were enthralled song after song by these two musical magicians.

 

Chasing Jonah began the evening with a beautiful selection of her songs, including all four tracks from he brand new EP Canyon. She was accompanied by cellist Tom Kersey, whose work throughout the set was a perfect match for Dudukovich’s lilting vocals. First up was “It Wouldn’t Be Right” from the 2013 album Prelude. She played acoustic guitar for the first two songs.

Chasing Jonah. 📷: Michael McCoy

As she moved to electric piano for “Forgive Me,” she asked Kersey to play one loooong note on the cello while she got herself situated. Her approach on both guitar and piano is to provide simple foundations for her beautiful lyrics. “Forgive Me” is one of her new songs, and she followed with the other three from Canyon: “Hollywood,” “Strange,” and the title track. For the latter two she went back to guitar.

Chasing Jonah. 📷: Michael McCoy

To close her set, she offered up a stripped-down version of a tune originally created for an electro-pop band, “No Hero.” As with every song in her set, her explanations and feelings about them were heartfelt and soul-baring. She closed her too-short set with “Better Days.”

Chasing Jonah. 📷: Kathleen Wolf Thompson

[CJ: It Wouldn’t Be Right, Run, Forgive Me, Hollywood, Strange, Canyon, No Hero, Better Days]

 

Timeout for a brief but critically important rant about the sound in the hall. The sound engineers had Chasing Jonah dialed in to perfection, catching all of the nuances of the music and her voice and cello. For whatever reason, those same sound engineers deemed that Lenée was a rock & roller and that they should crank up the volume to completely unnecessary and unpleasant levels. The two main things people came to hear were Lenée’s voice and her guitar playing, the two things lowest in the mix. She is a superstar and deserves much better than this. Numerous attendees confirmed this.

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

Despite the worst efforts of the sound engineers, Lenée and her trio shone for nearly two hours. Sometimes she plays solo, sometimes in duets as she did with saxophone player Mike MacArthur recently. This night she was working with multi-instrumentalist Joe Cosas playing keyboards, electric bass, and melodica and drummer Jonathan JT Thomas. There was much discussion of her upcoming album, due out this fall, and how these songs deserved the trio treatment.

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

Lenée began on 12-string guitar and Cosas on bass for “Coming Alive.” They switched to electric guitar and electric piano for her ode to Mother Earth, “Beautiful Ride.” Like Dudukovich, she gave beautiful explanations to each song, equally heartfelt. “Wildfire,” she explained, was written originally about the California fires but noted that metaphorically it applies to the pandemic and to numerous other facets of life. Thomas grabbed brushes for this one, with Lenée on 6-string.

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

As she changed back to 12-string for “Another Day Goes By,” she offered a great shoutout to Wayne Tagle of WMNF, sitting front and center, one of the hosts of In the Groove on Tuesday nights. Tagle and partner Thor Bendicksen have always featured Lenée’s music, most recently an interview last week where she debuted three tracks from the new album. 

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

One of the really touching stories was about a neighbor in Asheville who showed up the day she moved in with an armful of greens from his garden. He talked about the various window panes through which we view the world; hence, “Window Panes.”

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

Lenée next gave a shoutout to some of the most important people backing local music whom you likely don’t know: Bob and Dolores “Dee” Lowe Macchione. They have supported Lenée for years as well as Mike MacArthur and others; they are credited on Chasing Jonah’s Canyon. Dee and Kathleen Wolf Thompson videoed the entire set, and the Macchiones are executive producers of the new album. They are true patrons of the arts, and our community is most blessed to have them.

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

With that, the trio played the new single “That Voice,” due out July 1. The group persevered despite bass rumblings and volume entirely too loud. Cosas and Lenée traded back and forth gloriously during the intro. Thomas’ time was spot on, as it was all evening, subtle when required, roaring when needed. The refrain was “I’m not listening.” For fan favorite “Stay,” Lenée encouraged a sing-along and followed up with “Daylight Comes.”

Christie Lenée. 📷: Kathleen Wolf Thompson

Lenée gave Cosas and Thomas a break to play some solo music. She had her stomp box and her foot tambourine ready to go. She mentioned that “Full Moon” was recorded with 21 cellos, but she would do her best, utilizing her looping pedals, to match the recording. That would be an understatement; she was incredible. Then, at her mom’s request (she always “suggests” songs!), we heard “Cleopatra’s Eyes.” Lenée reminded that it was originally a duet she performed with Tommy Emanuel: two 6-string guitars. She played it with 12 strings!

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

This is as good a place as any to mention that there is something that eclipses even her songs, vocals, and guitar playing: Lenée’s smile. It lights up the entire room with sheer joy. If you’ve seen her, then you know.

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

She had broken a string on her 6-string, so she asked Cosas to play an interlude while she lamented not having a guitar tech to take care of such things! He offered some lovely electric piano, then changed tempo for a bit. When she was ready, Cosas went off for a moment while she played a song that she said truly changed her life: “Song for Michael Pukac.”

Christie Lenée Trio. 📷: Michael McCoy

Thomas and Cosas returned for the grand finale, beginning with Lenée on electric guitar; she gets a magnificent tone from it. After the soaring “Fly Away,” she grabbed the 6-string to finish with the eclectic “Free World Citizen,” a brilliant close to a brilliant set.

[CL: Coming Alive, Beautiful Ride, Wildfire, Another Day Goes By, Window Panes, That Voice, Stay, Daylight Comes, Full Moon, Cleopatra’s Eyes, Joe Cosas interludes, Song for Michael Pukac, Fly Away, Free World Citizen]

 

If you have the opportunity to see Christie Lenée or Chasing Jonah, grab it and hold tight. You can thank us later.

 

Chasing Jonah
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Christie Lenée
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Tour

 

Christie Lenée

07/07  The Sofia | Sacramento CA
07/09  Guitar Bliss w/ Daniel Champagne | Redwood City CA
07/12  Mt. Shasta | Mount Shasta CA
07/13  Mandala Sanctuary | Eugene OR
07/14  Sunday Guitars in Bend Oregon | Bend OR
07/16  Live at Andre’s | Nine Mile Falls WA
07/18-22  Andy McKee’s Musicarium | Cambria CA
07/24-30  Swannanoa Gathering | Swannanoa Hills NC
07/30  Indiana Fingerstyle Guitar Festival Saturday Evening Concert | Nashville IN
09/01-04  Floyd Yoga Jam | Willis VA
09/13-17  AMERICANAFEST | West Nashville TN
10/22  Russ & Julie’s House Concerts | Oak Park CA

 

 

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