The groundbreaking song stylist Bessie Smith, universally acknowledged Empress of the Blues, has rarely been accorded the veneration and recognition she earned. Hell, you hear people raving about Robert Johnson every 15 minutes, but in Smith's case, her historic rep is centered far more around her tragic 1937 death than her artistic achievements, and even then, it's been straight-up short shrift: Smith lay in an unmarked grave until 1970. She was a singer of mesmerizing intensity and flabbergasting color and atmosphere, and her stunning, soul-deep blues have been righteously upheld each recent Yuletide by the local cult of cognoscenti who bring us the annual Christmas With Bessie revue. Always featuring a far-ranging, free-thinking gaggle of performers who do everything from rock, jazz and dance performances to old-school blues and indie-experimental eccentricities-- with each act focused on reinterpreting Smith's rich catalog of indigo masterpieces-- the third edition boasts some powerhouse artists. Keep an ear out for fabulous vocalists Ruby Friedman and Suzy Williams, prepare to be boggled by offbeat puppet troupe Unknown Hands, lose yourself in the beautiful golden tones of trumpeter extraordinaire Charles de Castro. With additional Smith-sonian celebrations courtesy of Dorian Wood, the Evangenitals, and the resolute honky-tonk hokum blues of Marissa Gomez and the Ghosts of Echo Park, Christmas With Bessie goes a long, loving way to reasserting the singer's magnificent legacy. Pig foot optional.
Sat., Dec. 4, 8 p.m., 2010