Vocalist, Laura Walls under the artistic pseudonym, “Olori” performed at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival in Den Haag, Holland on Friday, July 8, 1994 and Saturday July 9, 1994 inspiring two-standing ovations each night to sold out crowds. This recording is from the second night’s performance. An All-star band led by Robert Irving III (pianist/arranger/nine-year Miles Davis collaborator) actually featured two prominent drummers: Terri- Lyne Carrington (on the first night) and Perry Wilson (The Crusaders and Sonny Rollins) on the second, trumpeter/Flugel-Horn player, Walter Henderson (Jack McDuff, Buddy Guy, Steve Coleman’s Inner Drive) Canadian saxophonist/flutist/film actor, Doug Richardson who played the opening theme for the Bill Cosby Show.
In the dark quiet room, Irving’s gentle piano intro set up the entrance of an unseen, beautifully melodic sounding voice breaking through the loud silence. A glimmer of light revealed Walls (Olori) on a cordless microphone behind the audience. The spotlight followed, embellishing her face, growing into a fiery ball of light that created the illusion of magnetically thrusting her towards the stage while the audience gasped, clapped and cheered. Ms. Walls majestically sauntered onto that massive stage, interacting with the audience as if they were old friends.
It was a hot summery night in Holland as Wall’s sweet and passionate delivery of the rubato intro of George Gershwin’s classic “…hush little baby, don’t cry little baby because your mama and daddy are standing by,” crescendoed into a festive gospel groove with Musical Director Robert Irving III’s spirited-funky jazz arrangement of “Summertime”. The connection between the artist and audience felt purely electrifying as Ms. Walls energetically took them to church. A memorable musical journey ensued that clearly marked the arrival of a special world-class artist onto an important international stage. At one point Ms. Walls sat on the edge of the stage creating a heartfelt intimacy with the audience who were predominantly Dutch, German, Austrian with a contingency of French, Swiss and Scandinavian. If music is considered the “universal language” crossing all barriers regardless of color or creed, Ms. Walls had mastered that theme and connected with them thoroughly. She recalls, “They were filled with joy, smiles, and tears; it was enchanting and their honest, open appreciation was felt deeply in my Core…it was like love at first sight.”
Her performances at Mondriann Zaal Auditorium rated par-excellence as her voice loomed large with full-bodied soul and hints of classical phrasing. Although, she remained virtually unknown to American audiences outside of her hometown Chicago in 1994, Walls was not an absolute stranger to European connoisseurs of North American artistry. Three months prior to this performance, Rod Echlos of WHBK Jazz Radio in Chicago wrote; after hearing a demo of her studio album, ‘Free As A Child’ “I feel that this project rates as one of the top two vocal projects I’ve heard this year.—-It stands along-side of Dee Dee Bridgewater's’ new CD…it’s refreshing to hear some new vocal repertoire.” March 1994 . But, after such high accolades and the magnanimous European performances, why would the release of this music be delayed for some 24-long years? Every great back-story starts from the beginning.