By Patsy Isenberg
Local singer Jymi Dill performed jazz and pop standards on a recent Saturday to an appreciative crowd of about 40 at Totem Books, 620 W. Court St. His refreshingly smooth and mellow voice and selection of “torch songs” and jazzy touches got some couples up and dancing.
Dill, a lifelong Flint resident, has been sharing his love of music from artists ranging from Sinatra to Etta James, and even singers who aren’t jazz performers like The Beatles. Using a slideshow featuring many of his favorite performers as a backdrop for his performance, photos ranging from Frank Sinatra and Etta James to Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin added to his performance.
The Totem Books gig
He started the set with his version of “Save the Last Dance for Me,” originally made popular by The Drifters in 1960.
Even when he took a song like “Happy Together” he put his own jazzy spin on it. Partway through that one, recorded by the band The Turtles in 1967, he began to scat some of the lyrics.
But he also sang some jazz greats at the Totem performance, including familiar numbers like “At Last,” an Etta James classic, and “The Girl from Ipanema” which was originally by Astrud Gilberto in 1964 and recorded with Stan Getz. That one, he said, everyone wanted “…a piece of… you’d hear it on Lawrence Welk… change the channel and hear it on Soul Train!”
Dill ended his set with a song made popular by Louis Armstrong which was covered by many other artists: “What a Wonderful World.” Dill’s rendition of that song, so familiar and characterized by such optimistic lyrics and its beautiful melody, was a satisfying ending to the evening’s entertainment.
His mother started it all
According to Dill, his biggest influence is Nancy Wilson. Dill is extremely well-versed in the history of the jazz/pop genre and he shared bits of trivia about the artists between songs.
Dill said some have called him a “torch singer” which was obvious when some of his stylings compelled several couples to get up and dance. He said he first became interested in this type of music through his mother, Annie Mae, who started singing jazz standards and “torch song” classics to him when he was just a baby. He said she continued exposing him to that music throughout his childhood. He said his mom really loved all the old standards, always knew all the words, and instilled in him a passion for the genre.
To Hear and See Jymi Dill
Dill still lives in Flint, but said he doesn’t get many local bookings. He said he did live shows in Las Vegas when he was in his 20s and 30s but now sings mostly at small venues around Michigan. He’s also performed and studied in Detroit. He said he’s recording a CD now, but said you can see him sing a duet of “Unforgettable” with Flint singer Marcia Allen on YouTube here. He’s available at 810-238-2168 for bookings. To find out about future events at Totem Books call 810-407-6402.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.