Solo Valerie Simpson solid as a rock 

click to enlarge New show: Valerie Simpson is singing Ashford & Simpson tunes as well as material from her latest album at the Rrazz Room. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • COURTESY PHOTO
  • New show: Valerie Simpson is singing Ashford & Simpson tunes as well as material from her latest album at the Rrazz Room.

Valerie Simpson has got a solid solo act.

On Tuesday, in one of her first performances since the death last August of her husband and musical partner Nick Ashford, the veteran R&B singer-songwriter charmed her Rrazz Room audience, showing no signs of being nervous, though she said she was.

“The hardest thing for me to remember,” she said, “is to keep singing. I’m used to singing half the song.”

Her six-night gig has special sentiment in that her final appearances with Ashford were here in The City. She said, “I’m here because you think I can do this – I am up here trying to do this.”

She sounded strong and sultry and looked sexy in a sparkling, tastefully revealing dress as she made her way through Ashford & Simpson’s catalog, from the disco opener “Bourgie, Bourgie” to their biggest hit, “Solid (As a Rock”) in the rousing closer.

In between were renditions of songs they wrote for others: “California Soul,” (Fifth Dimension), “I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles) and “The Boss” (Diana Ross).

At the piano, she gave “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – the two-time hit, first for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and later for Ross – a dynamic instrumental treatment.

Touching, but not overwhelming, memories of Ashford came to the fore with a particularly soulful “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” also at the piano, and the heartfelt, upbeat “(I’d Know You) Anywhere,” during which vintage family photos (great hair-dos and clothes from the 1970s and ‘80s!) flashed across screens onstage.

Keeping things in the family, Simpson’s notable backup singers included protégé Clayton Bryant, a regular at her New York club Sugar Bar, and lovely daughter Asia.

Proving she’s got the mettle to move on, Simpson sassily plugged, and sang from, her new, odd by somehow appropriately named solo album, “Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again.” She began working on it 11 years ago; it’s time has come.

REVIEW
Valerie Simpson
Where:
Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. today-Friday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday 
Tickets: $45 to $55
Contact: (800) 380-3095, www.therrazzroom.com

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Leslie Katz

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