Award-winning vocalist brings soul to Maui – Lisa Fischer

Lisa Fischer (above) and her trio Grand Baton perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater in Kahului. The show will have a dance floor for orchestra ticketed patrons. Tickets are $35, $50 and $65 (plus applicable fees). For information and tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go to www.mauiarts.org. • Djeneba Aduayom photo

One of the amazing background singers featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” Grammy-winner Lisa Fischer has performed with such legends as the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Sting.

A remarkably gifted, soulful vocalist, in the last couple of years she has emerged from the shadows as a solo artist to rave reviews.

“If ever a singer could be said to possess a powerful vocal instrument, it would be Fischer,” praised the Portland Press Herald. “Whether stretching and bending lyrics to suit her expressive purposes or moving off into wordless wails and cries, the passionate 58-year-old commanded each moment of her performance.”

Growing up in a musical household, she initially began singing in church.

“I was really impressed by the passion of the music in the church, so I joined the choir,” Fischer recalls. “But I was never a lead singer. I would always sing the parts in the background. I was always happy and comfortable doing that. The supportive role for me was the best.”

Jim Brickman add to this weekend’s abundance of concerts at the MACC.

Fischer got a major break in 1983, when she was hired by soul legend Luther Vandross as a backup singer, and she subsequently worked with him until his death in 2005.

Releasing her debut solo album in 1991, she won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her single, “How Can I Ease the Pain,” and tied with Patti LaBelle, whose award-winning project, “Burnin’,” also featured Fischer on background vocals.

“I was shocked just to be nominated,” she says. “I think singing background has made me feel this lovely space of being invisible most of the time.”

Though she felt most comfortable in the background, for 25 years Fischer would upstage Mick Jagger in concert when the Rolling Stones launched into “Gimme Shelter,” and she stepped up front.

“There are many nights when Lisa Fischer finds herself onstage in a sold-out arena stealing the spotlight as she sings circles around the leader of what is reportedly the world’s greatest rock & roll band,” noted the L.A. Weekly.

Gary Mauer add to this weekend’s abundance of concerts at the MACC.

Fischer had been invited to audition for Jagger after his publicist had seen her perform with Vandross at a Madison Square Garden concert.

“It was a little nerve wracking,” she recalls. “In 1988, he was on a solo tour as the Stones hadn’t gotten back together at that point. I found him so magical, and then when the Stones got back together they decided to keep me on.”

Performing with the Stones up until their 2015 Zip Code Tour, she was featured singing on their albums “Steel Wheels,” “Flashpoint,” “Stripped,” “No Security,” and “Hyde Park Live.”

“Lisa’s as powerful as the rest of the guys put together. She has an amazing power, energy and projection,” Keith Richards once commented.

Her most recent Stones’ assignment saw her join Richards to sing “Gimme Shelter” at New York’s Apollo Theater.

Other career highlights have included teaming with Aretha Franklin on the dance hit “A Deeper Love,” touring with Tina Turner on her 50th anniversary tour and singing with Sting on his album “If on a Winter’s Night.”

The success of the “20 Feet from Stardom” documentary became a dramatic launching pad for her solo career.

“It was one of those things you could never plan in a million years,” says Fisher, who won her second Grammy for the film.

Since starring in “20 Feet,” she has been wowing crowds fronting her exceptional trio, Grand Baton, led by Guadeloupe-born guitarist JC Maillard, which fuses African, Middle Eastern and Caribbean rhythms, with rock and soul to reinvent familiar songs like the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

Other concert highlights have included covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a sizzling rendition of “Fever” and her seminal R&B ballad “How Can I Ease the Pain.”

“Each song has its own magic, its own life force,” she says. “I love exploring all that. It’s like a roller coaster ride in an amusement park. I feel complete peace and joy when I sing. Even when I was little I felt that joy.”

More recently her recording projects have included working with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble singing “Heart and Soul” with Gregory Porter on the CD “Sing Me Home.” She was also featured on jazz pianist Billy Childs’ wonderful tribute to Laura Nyro, “Map to the Treasure,” singing the title track. And piano legend Lang Lang invited her to sing on his album “New York Rhapsody,” where she fused a stunning “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” with Lou Reed’s “Dirty Blvd.”

“You get to be a chameleon, and you get to vibrate sound with different people,” she says. “Everybody has their own unique fingerprint of what that is, and to get close enough to rub against it vocally and ignite an energy with them, I live for that.”

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Multi-platinum pianist Jim Brickman will present “Pure Piano: The Greatest Hits” at 7:30 in the Castle Theater tonight. One of the most successful pianists with sales of more than 7 million albums worldwide, Brickman is recognized as the most-charted Adult Contemporary artist, earning 21 No. 1 albums.

Born and raised in Ohio, he began his music training at the age of four. From a career as an advertising jingle writer, he began reviving romantic standards.

“I begged my parents to buy me a piano,” he recalled in New Age Music World. “I had a lot of piano teachers growing up, and they all wanted me to play in what I call ‘their style.’ It wasn’t until I studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music that I found a teacher who helped me develop my own style. It evolved out of my classical training and my love of pop music.”

Known for songs like “Valentine,” “Angel Eyes,” and “Love of My Life,” Brickman’s vocal collaborations include working with Carly Simon, Lady Antebellum, Michael Bolton, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton-John and Kenny Loggins.

“I love writing with different people because each one draws something new out of me,” he reported. “As I write, I hear a specific sound singing the vocals.”

With popular albums including “Hope,” “Faith” and “Peace,” Brickman’s fourth volume of his best-selling “PURE” Series features a soothing collection of contemporary movie songs, ranging from “Let It Go” (“Frozen”) and “Falling Slowly” (“Once”), to “Love Me Like You Do” (“Fifty Shades Of Grey”).

* Brickman presents “Pure Piano: The Greatest Hits” at 7:30 tonight in the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $35, $45 and $55 (plus applicable fees). The $55 tickets include a post-show meet-and-greet. For information and tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go to www.mauiarts.org.

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The Maui Pops Orchestra presents its annual “Broadway Pops” concert on Sunday featuring guest artists Anne Runolfsson and Gary Mauer performing a range of show tunes. The program will include Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites such as “It’s a Grand Night For Singing” from “State Fair”; “Younger Than Springtime” and “A Wonderful Guy” from “South Pacific”; and “Edelweiss” and “The Sound of Music” from “The Sound of Music.”

Runolfsson recently completed a two-year run on Broadway as the diva Carlotta Giudicelli in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” the longest running show in Broadway history.

Prior to that, she made a splash in “Victor/Victoria,” as standby to Dame Julie Andrews and Liza Minelli. She performed the title role over 120 times to acclaim and went on to recreate the role in a national tour.

Other Broadway and national tour credits for Runolfsson include the role of Gretta Conroy in James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Fantine in “Les Miserable” and Roxane in “Cyrano-The Musical.”

Mauer was seen on Broadway as the Phantom in the Hal Prince production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Previously he starred in the Broadway production of “Les Miserables” in the role of revolutionary leader, Enjolras.

* The Maui Pops Orchestra’s “Broadway Pops” concert is presented at 3 p.m. Sunday in the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $20, $35, $50 and $60; and half-price for students 18 and under in the $60/$50/ $35 price sections (plus applicable fees). For information and tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go to www.mauiarts.org.

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Coming up at Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia on Saturday is the Grateful Dead-inspired band ABear’s Choice, featuring Dave Hebert (Melvin Seals & JGB), Scott Buberman (Phil & Friends), Greg Koernier (DSO, Gent Treadly), Troll Garcia (Maui Pranksters) and John Hanrahan (Shakedown Street).

* Tickets are $15 presale and $20 at the door. Tickets are available at Charley’s and at www.CharleysMaui.com. For more information, call 579-8085.

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