On Tuesday night, Oakland natives Mara Hruby and Chris Turner blessed their native soil with an inspiring performance worthy of the historic Yoshis venue. Mara’s brand of elegant jazz dove to new emotional depths and soared to new vocal heights, while Chris’s experimental soul and immense range treated the audience to a funky falsetto expedition. He looked quite ready for a physical expedition as well, as he was decked out in boots, cargo pants, a lumberjack plaid vest and wide brimmed hat. Chris and Mara are both known for their distinct fashion sensibilities – each very fitting of their music – but on this particular evening their voices took center stage. The show led off with Chris harmonizing with Mara on her slow burning cover of D’Angelo’s “Send It On” off her From Her Eyes EP. Chris and Mara ping-ponged back and forth for the duration of their shared set, each offering pitch perfect back up to the other. Mara’s cover of Sade’s “Is It A Crime” wowed the audience thanks to the full bodied tenacity of her typically ethereal voice. Chris shortly followed that performance up with a stank-face and head nodding industrial soul rendition of “Jane & Eve,” a song about his feelings for two different lovers – one being a woman and the other a smokable plant. It was one of those moments when you realize how much better live music is when you are witnessing performers who can really blow and are backed by talented musicians who can help take the music in unique directions.
Mara then slowed things down with a couple melancholy cuts from her recent jazz standard project of Julie London covers. Chris segued with a delicate piano arrangement of “My Foolish Heart” before blowing it out with hard drums, percussive bass and scrambling piano accompaniment. Later he would employ a call and response with the crowd on “For You” and then take the crowd to church with an emotional plea to God, “Heal Me,” that he wrote in a European restroom while on tour with Esperanza Spalding. The audience soaked it up and erupted in a standing ovation when Chris’s desperate pleading came to an end. All these performances highlighted Chris’s ability to travel with songs, explore new nooks and crannies, and expose his flaws and lows in a raw and beautiful way. By comparison, Mara is the cooler and more collected one, but she wrestles with her emotions too, especially on her cathartic new EP Archaic Rapture.
Their set had to be cut short due to a fast approaching ten o’clock show, but not before Chris launched into a truncated version of his signature song, “Liquid Love.” It seemed only right to end such a beautiful night on a high note. Fans of their work and those with virgin ears all left Yoshis equally amazed by their muscianship. Hopefully they can take this show on the road and spread love the Oakland way.
In the meantime, check out the latest work from Chris and Mara below. Mara and Van Hunt are featured on a dope new track from The Decoders entitled “Respect,” while Chris’s vocals grace “If I Ever Lose This Love,” a Harvey Mason Sr. composition with strong Grammy buzz. Enjoy!