Out & About

April 25, 2013

Brooklyn singer heavy on tradition

PLATTSBURGH — The late Julia Porterfield Rice was a strong woman.

Her maiden name is the P. in her granddaughter’s band, the Alexis P. Suter Band.

The bodacious bass/baritone performs with her bandmates — Ray Grappone (drums), Jimmy Bennett (guitar), Benny Harrison (keys), Peter Bennett (bass) and Vickie Bell (background vocals) — Friday at the Upper Jay Arts Center (Recovery Lounge) and Saturday at the Chateaugay Town Hall with special guests Russ Bailey and Franz Pope.

“Back then, when people of color had employment, they were the help,” Alexis P. Suter, a Brooklynite, said of her grandmother’s days.

“She worked for the man who invented the television. She was his help. We used to go by his house all the time. After my grandmother retired, the family would give her different things and go over there to her house. They were very nice to my grandmother.”

Not a singer, Rice was a holy woman.

“She was very involved in the church,” Suter said. “She was a missionary. She traveled. To me, in my eyes, she was like Mother Teresa. She wanted to help anybody. She was the greatest cook. None of my aunts, not my mother, could touch my grandmother’s cooking … pot roast and homemade bread, oh my God.” 

Suter’s mother, Carrie Rice Suter, 91, was born in Columbia, S.C. Carrie’s hardworking father, Sam Rice, relocated his family to New York.

“My grandfather had different jobs and was very involved with the church,” Suter said. “When he passed away, my father (Alfred Suter) took on his responsibilities at the church. My father (a Manhattan postal employee) was also a deacon in the church.” 

The Brooklyn church was Pentecostal, where the Holy Spirit moved people to run up and down the aisles, get happy and speak in tongues, Suter said.

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