joseph riley land
I have known Chester Gregory for a little over a year, but have never had a chance to see him perform live. Last week, however, he headlined a charity event at Gospel Uptown and I finally got a chance to hear him. Now I see what all the fuss is about; he can sing. Like, really sing. The show, which had Chester bringing his friends onstage, was enjoyable from start to finish. Both Chaz Lamar Shepard and Syesha Mercado – co-stars of Gregory’s in the revival of Dreamgirls – were on hand to lend a voice for the cause. Shoshana Beam and KimberlyNichole also joined Gregory onstage before Broadway legend Melba Moore came on to help Gregory close out the evening.
I managed to snag seats at one of the tables just in front of the stage; Love that. Gospel Uptown is a cavernous place, but they seem to have found pretty solid footing with the ongoing roster of shows they have been scheduling. The night of Gregory’s event was no exception. People came out in support of the Doe Fund, Inc.’s Ready Willing & Able program, which helps transition NYC’s homeless population into the workforce. I’m sure the names on the flyer helped fill many of the seats, but in the end, as Gregory explained to me, the important part of the evening was securing additional funds to help keep the program running.
Jason Liberatore started off the evening, performing a nice acoustic set, followed by Nazarine Griffin, the Doe Fund’s program director. Then, Gregory took the stage and set the pace for the rest of the evening. Singing “Search In” from his debut album, In Search of High Love, Gregory showed off his five-octave range that makes the critics throw in an extra star whenever they review anything that includes opening his mouth to sing. Syesha Mercado (American Idol) joined him onstage next for a rendition of “I Only Have Eyes 4 U,” another track from his debut album.
Chaz Lamar Shepard (Set It Off) joined Gregory on stage next to perform “Come Together,” a song they co-wrote and produced. Then, KimberlyNichole slinked onstage to do a vampy performance of the Seanmichael Rodgers-produced “Secret.” Up next was Shoshana Bean (Wicked), doing a song written and produced by Grammy-winner PJ Morton, “Let’s Be Together,” which is available as a free download.
And finally, Melba Moore came to the stage to show off her legendary chops. After sharing a song from her new project with Phil Perry, Gregory rejoined Ms. Moore onstage and they closed the show with the final track from Gregory’s album, “Higher and Higher.”
In a post-show conversation, Gregory said, “I am truly honored to be able to represent and be part of such an amazing cause that empowers self-sufficiency for those in need in our community.” He also pointed out that this show is just the first of many. As he tours with Dreamgirls he will host other benefit concerts around the world.