Margo B - Live at the Hazlett Theater

Margo B
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Margot “Margot B” Bingham is better known for singing the music of W.C. Handy than for singing her own music.  That is due to another one of her identities – that of Daughter Maitland. Daughter Maitland is the jazz singer who performs in the nightclub of Chalky White on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” So if you haven’t caught the series, go on YouTube and watch Margot Bingham’s character Daughter Maitland employ the phrasing of singers from the Jazz Age when microphone technology was still pretty primitive.

Live At the Hazlett Theater finds Margot B – the name Bingham uses when singing contemporary R&B and soul music – performing live in front of her hometown fans at the Hazlett Theater in Pittsburgh. Her hometown paper, the Pittsburgh City Paper, called Margot B’s decision to perform live a bold move. Out of context that statement might sound kind of odd. Bingham is a star on one of the most critically acclaimed shows on TV, after all. Proper context requires noting that Margot B’s live date at the Hazlett and the coverage of the concert took place in August 2010, more than three years ago and a month and a day before “Boardwalk Empire” debuted. Bingham’s character, Daughter Maitland, made her “Boardwalk Empire” debut in this season. Still Margot B arrived at the Hazlett as a known quantity to folks in the Steel City and in the northeast. That’s because Margot B is something of an old school, multi talented performer. Her singing and dancing earned her a role in the 2011 revival of “Rent,” and her debut album Two Thousand Mine dropped four years ago.

So the performer who took the stage at the Hazlett in 2010 was experienced, confident and competent, and it showed. Tunes in this live EP include the mid-tempo love ballad “Complete,” a powerful cover of the Script’s “Breakeven (Falling to Pieces),” and the funky number “Aftermath.”

“Aftermath” is not only a blues/funk hybrid with a dash of funk thrown in; it is also a tune that packs a compelling story of a person trying unsuccessfully to pick up the pieces after a bad breakup. Margot B possesses the vocal skill to make the pain and vulnerability audible to her listeners. She gently handles the dreamy love song complete and the attacks the hip-hop fused funk jam “Weight Of The World.”

There is probably a connection between the buzz that Margot Bingham received as a result of her breakout performance on “Boardwalk Empire” and the release of Live At the Hazlett Theater. Plenty of people who were exposed to the music of the 1920s through the character of Daughter Maitland will be curious to see how Margot B handles tunes from the Contemporary American Songbook.  They will come away assured that Bingham has what it takes to perform live, whether she is singing 1920s era speakeasy jazz as Daughter Maitland or funk, soul and contemporary R&B as Margot B. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes