In times like these, some people turn to comfort food, others to music that comforts and uplifts. And there’s nothing like classic soul music — more specifically, the redoubtable Ray Charles — to recharge the heart and refresh hope.
Family Company’s tribute to Ray Charles at the Teragram Ballroom Saturday night testifies to music’s power to draw people together, with a diverse community of soul and R&B artists performing material popularized by the iconic Charles, who died at 73 in 2004. It follows two similarly structured, sold-out tributes to Bill Withers and Donny Hathaway at other venues. The former was a joyful celebration in 2018 that boasted an impromptu sit-in appearance by the preternaturally soulful, still hilarious Withers himself, openly savoring the adoration of the youthful players clustered onstage for a group sing-along of “Lean on Me.” The latter was a veritable lovefest last spring with rousing performances of Hathaway hits by several of the same artists scheduled to honor Charles, notably Prince protégé Judith Hill, fervent interpreter Louis Cato, dynamic stylist Raquel Rodriguez, husky guitarist Teddy Grossman and piano man Jonah Smith, whose intense, gospel-infused vocal delivery promises to again be a show highlight.
Like the splashy Hathaway night, Saturday’s tribute will feature a full, grooving band with horn and string sections and background vocalists approximating Raelettes-style harmonies. Rather than perform a landmark concert album top to bottom (as was done for Hathaway and Withers), “The Voice” alum India Carney, silken funk crooner Antwaun Stanley, sultry folk-pop singer Monica Martin and retro R&B revivalist Nick Waterhouse, among others, will be reviving standards from Charles’ 1950s-’60s catalog. Song choices shared thus far as preparations have advanced don’t disappoint: “Drown in My Own Tears,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” “Lonely Avenue,” “Night Time is the Right Time,” “You Don’t Know Me.” They’re expected, sure, but like any true standards they’re sophisticated yet straightforward, open-hearted and open-ended enough to adapt to fresh readings by new generations of artists. They dig right down into what’s most elemental in life. Rendered by a nimble ensemble and righteous singers who understand how to climb inside a lyric and inhabit its truth, they’re still cathartic. That’s reason enough to head downtown.
A Tribute to Ray Charles at Teragram Ballroom, 1234 W. 7th St., Downtown LA, 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8; $24. Info: (213) 689-9100. teragramballroom.com