Smooth soul from Jerry ‘The Iceman’ Butler

Classic soul doesn’t get any better than what Jerry Butler is serving up at the Rrazz Room.

The former lead singer of the Impressions — dubbed “The Iceman” by a disc jockey decades ago — still sounds as cool and smooth as he did on records as far back as the late 1950s.

At 74, he doesn’t move too quickly, but he nonetheless had the audience both rocking and in tears at his opening night show, singing everything from upbeat songs from the 1970s “(I’m Just Thinking About) Cooling Out” to his heart-rending first Impressions hit, “For Your Precious Love.”

His act is a bit of a family affair — with a band including his brother Billy on lead guitar and sister Mattie on vocals, along with musical director Charles Matthews on keyboard, Malcolm Banks on drums and David Service on bass.

Another amazing vocalist, Terisa Griffin, managed to bring down the house with an “American Idol”-style version of “My Funny Valentine” and her duet with Butler on “Ain’t Understanding Mellow.”

Calling what he does “the same old blues” and commenting that “jazz ain’t nothing but the blues after you take it to school,” he referenced Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and Duke Ellington in addition to performing evocative renditions of his own plentiful soulful top hits, the likes of  “He Will Break Your Heart,” “Only the Strong Survive,” “Let It Be Me,” “Hey, Western Union Man,” “A Brand New Me,” “Never Give You Up,” “Moon River” and “Make It Easy on Yourself.”

Toward the show’s opening, Butler — who’s also in politics, serving as a commissioner in Cook County, Ill. — advised patrons to be patient if they heard something they didn’t like, because it would be over soon: “None of these old songs last more than two minutes and 45 seconds,” he joked.

But it was quite an unnecessary warning. He had the audience at full attention for 90 minutes, and left them wanting more.


Jerry ‘The Iceman’ Butler

Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 25-26, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Aug. 27, 7 p.m. Aug. 28  

Tickets: $40 to $45

Contact: (800) 380-3095;

artsentertainmentPop Music & JazzRrazz RoomSan Francisco

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