Lawrence Williams - - Your Jazz Music Connection - - Your Jazz Music Connection Mon, 22 May 2017 10:27:14 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Tender Trap by Amanda Carr Female jazz vocalists seem all the rage at the moment, yet despite this fact, few seem to gain much attention from the general public. How many people have heard the nam…

Female jazz vocalists seem all the rage at the moment, yet despite this fact, few seem to gain much attention from the general public. How many people have heard the name Amanda Carr? To be quite honest, I hadn’t. But after listening to her latest CD, THE TENDER TRAP, I will pay closer attention to her recording output and touring schedule. Amanda may not possess the best of singing voices, but never mind. Her warm alto voice coupled with her expressive phrasing make her a first-rate vocalist. The CD opens with an attention grabbing "Never Will I Marry." Drummer Kenny Hadley kicks off the tune with a sturdy rhythm and then Amanda joins in for a brief duet. Then things really start swingin’ and tenor sax player, Jerry Vejmola kicks in with a fine solo.

What’s really great about Carr’s CD is her choice of material.... she mixes classic tunes ("The Tender Trap," "That Old Devil Moon.") with the less familiar.... an amazingly haunting version of Abby Lincoln’s "Throw It Away," and groovin’ "No More Blues." She proves herself to be a competent composer with the Latin-flavored "What Are We Asking For?" Carr is backed with a fine rhythm section with includes John Wilkins on guitar, Hadley on drums and Bronek Suchanek on bass. Guest artists add extra flavor to the proceedings, most notably, Arnie Krakowsky’s tenor sax solo on the Duke Ellington classic, "Tulip Or Turnip." The 13-track CD provides the usual mix of up-tempo songs with poignant ballads, but Carr’s fine delivery and easy swinging style elevates what could be standard jazz vocal album to an exceptional listening experience. This is one CD that I’m sure you’ll play over and over again.

]]> (Lawrence Williams) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Mon, 19 Jul 2004 11:09:06 -0500
Movie Songs by George Evans Over the years, jazz vocals seem to have been exclusively female territory. However, with the recent (and dubious) success of Rod Stewart’s standard albums, there seem to h…
Over the years, jazz vocals seem to have been exclusively female territory. However, with the recent (and dubious) success of Rod Stewart’s standard albums, there seem to have been a huge increase of the male jazz vocalist. Peter Cincotti and Michael Buble are two performers most commonly known to the American public. However, Canadian vocalist George Evans has been slowly building a respectable discography of jazz and pop classic discs. His latest is entitled "Movie Songs" and it is exactly that.... tunes from the golden age of the silver screen. The CD opens with a swinging version of "The Way You Look Tonight" from the 1936 Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers musical, "Swing Time." His smooth baritone navigates the tricky changes and he adds a spontaneous feel so even though this oft recorded tune seems new and fresh. "Beginners Luck" is another track that he makes swing. Evans confident way with a song and his effortless ability to swing brings to mind the days when male vocalists ruled the airwaves. It's obvious that he processes an honest appreciation for the classics which can make one believe he may have a contemporary of Sinatra, or Dean Martin.... though this vocal tone and phrasing may be closer to the great Mark Murphy. Despite the fun that Evan generates with his up-tempo numbers, his ballads tend to be on the histrionic side and his tight vibrato becomes over-emphasized causing the listener to conjure up the image of an overly slick and insincere lounge singer. This is unfortunate, because it distracts mightily from the overall talent that Evan obviously processes. The one exception to this criticism is his fine version of "The Shadow Of Your Smile." Here Evan seems to let the lyrics speak for themselves thus allowing on honest emotion to come through. Grade: B
]]> (Lawrence Williams) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Mon, 19 Jul 2004 07:09:06 -0500
Veronica Martell Veronica Martell
The worlds of pop and jazz have always mingled, especially among vocalists. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, such musical icons as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald were quite adept at straddling both idioms. Today we have artists like Antia Baker, Sting and Nora Jones, who expertly incorporate a variety of genres in their music. Now add vocalist Veronica Martell to that list. On her latest CD, "The Art Of Intimacy" (Apria Records), pop and jazz fuse together in a seamless fashion to create a …
The worlds of pop and jazz have always mingled, especially among vocalists. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, such musical icons as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald were quite adept at straddling both idioms. Today we have artists like Antia Baker, Sting and Nora Jones, who expertly incorporate a variety of genres in their music. Now add vocalist Veronica Martell to that list.

On her latest CD, "The Art Of Intimacy" (Apria Records), pop and jazz fuse together in a seamless fashion to create a disc of languid tranquility.

Martell, a native New Yorker, spoke with us about the making of her new album, her musical influences and, oh, yes, about holding the title of Ms. Fitness.

JazzReview: Your latest album, "The Art of Intimacy" is really quite wonderful and the title of the CD is perfect. How did you achieve the art of intimacy when recording this disc? Do you have a favorite album or singer that inspired you?

Veronica Martell: Well, I have a lot of different influences. There’s the Diana Krall influence she gets that real warm intimate vocal sound. But my voice is very influenced by pop and R&B. On one of the ballads I can remember I was kind of referring back to a Sarah McLachlan tune, "Angel," because it had this real warm reverb on the vocal. And I was listening to a lot of pop at the time. There wasn’t a particular album that came to mind, it was more like I would pull songs from here and there which I liked the sound of and tried and catch that feeling in the mix.

JazzReview: Your varied musical influences really come through on this recording. I love what you do with Fleetwood Mac’s "Dreams." It really works well as the opening track on your album it perfectly sets the mood.

Veronica Martell: Oh, thank you! That’s great to hear because I was a little apprehensive about putting it as the lead track because it’s a cover and it’s Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks but I’m glad you like it there. That was recorded several years ago and then we went back and polished it up: we did some guitar over-dubs, and I did a new vocal on it.

JazzReview: How long did it take to record the entire album?

Veronica Martell: This whole CD has kind of been evolving over time. It took us from start to finish, maybe a year and a half because we started with the thought that we would follow up "Lucky" [Veronica’s 2001 swing album] with another big band record and we kind of went off in a whole new direction (laughs).

JazzReview: Did it surprise you to go off in such a different direction?

Veronica Martell: It didn’t. I always felt that I wanted to. I want to expand and show growth as an artist and I that’s what I think we accomplished in the end. I knew it was going to take a while to find the exact right tunes. And when you’re writing tunes, you go through re-write after re-write after re-write, so I anticipated it taking that long.

JazzReview: What is it about a song that appeals to you?

Veronica Martell: As far as original songs, nine times out of ten it hits me immediately. When I heard the track "Blind" by my friend John Smatia, it hit me immediately. It was such a strong hook, it was kind of simple, but yet melodically it really spoke to me. When I’m looking for a cover, I try to find unique things that haven’t been done many times over. On this particular project, I wanted to find a strong pop tune and obviously "Dreams" came to mind. "Dreams" was a song that I kind of grew up with. It was on "Rumors" one of the first albums I ever bought. It was something imbedded in my childhood and I thought, ‘Let’s try it and do something interesting with it.’ So I try to find unique and different covers. Even when I was doing my standard records, I would try to find one or two really unique ballads that hadn’t been done many times and incorporate them into the mix.

JazzReview: Do you have a favorite track on this album and why?

Veronica Martell: A lot of them are personal like the three I wrote ["Better With Time," "So Different Now," & "Eleven Seventeen"] are personal so they’re kind of special to me. But, I love "Blind." That really spoke to me. I love "Dreams." But as for my favorite, I might have to say, "Why Do People Fall in Love?"

JazzReview: What is that song so special to you?

Veronica Martell: Well, from a production standpoint, getting to sing with that string section and Allen’s [Farnham] incredible arrangement. It’s a Linda Eder tune, and Allen just took that arrangement and took it to the next level and I just think it’s really beautiful. I love singing that song and I think it’s a nice match for my voice that’s one of my favorites if I HAD to pick a favorite (laughs)!

JazzReview: What do you hope the listener will feel after listening to your album?

Veronica Martell: Well, what I think I was aiming for was a calmness and peacefulness. I think it’s a very relaxing CD. I know a lot of people would talk about the Nora Jones record and say, ‘You know when I’m driving home in my car after work or after a long day or when I’m really stressed out, I pop in that CD.’ I think I was trying to achieve that same sort of vibe where someone would put it in the car stereo on their way home from work or late at night and just have that peaceful/calm feeling.

JazzReview: Well, you definitely achieved that.

Veronica Martell: Thank you. I have people say to me, ‘I had friends over for dinner and we put the CD on and everybody thought it was really cool and they love "Dreams" and that it’s so mellow and yet there are a couple of tracks on there that you can really groove to.’ So that was what we were trying to achieve.

JazzReview: How did you become associated with Apria Records?

Veronica Martell: Actually, through Dave Bennett at Bennett Studios. Steve Wilkinson, the owner of Apria Records, was recording saxophonist, Ada Rovatti and they introduced us and we started talking and I told him about my project and I gave him a copy of it. It’s funny, he didn’t listen to it for a while, maybe for a month or so And then, like I just said to you, he was coming from somewhere one night and popped it in his CD player in his car and then he gave me a call the very next day and said, ‘I want to work with you.’

JazzReview: Since it took him a while to get back to you after you gave him your demo, did you think he didn’t like your music?

Veronica Martell: I just kind of figured that it was just another one of those ‘Here’s my CD give me a call’, type of thing. I’ve been through rounds with different labels, and you know they have it for months and they say they’re going to listen. But it’s funny because Steve did exactly what we were hoping someone would do with it.

JazzReview: How did you discover the world of jazz singing?

Veronica Martell: I started singing jazz because my parents were the original "Swing Kids" -- they were of that generation, so I grew up with that type of music and I always had a love for it. So when I started singing jazz my voice and the music were a pretty good marriage. Also, it is just of my basic love for the music of Ella and Louis Armstrong and Miles. I just started to listen to this stuff when I was young, so even though I grew up listening to pop music, which I loved, it just kind of evolved the way it has. My passion for music comes from within I just feel it’s what I do and it’s what I am and I just think it’s probably the only thing I’m any good at (laughs).

JazzReview: Well, that’s actually great to be doing something you are good at and have passion for. Now looking at your bio, you also had a passion for working out you were named, Ms. Fitness in 1997. How did that happen?

Veronica Martell: I’ve always been into fitness. I started working out when I was probably twenty twenty-one. Then I just got into it a little heavier and then someone approached me and said, ‘You know, you should consider doing these fitness competitions.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And then I went down and saw one and because I have stage presence from performing, I guess that kind of helped me in the competition. They’re kind of fitness/beauty contests. There are these different rounds ‘evening gown round,’ ‘swimsuit round,’ ‘fitness round.’ It was kind of a whole separate entity from my life as a vocalist, but it was a fun and I was in much better shape at the time (laughs). I’m not as insane about working now!

JazzReview: Do you think being physically fit helps you stay strong as a singer?

Veronica Martell: Oh, I think it definitely does.

JazzReview: You are still quite young but has your voice changed over the years?

Veronica Martell: I think I’ve grown stylistically. I think there’s definitely a maturity that’s in my voice that I didn’t have ten years ago. Of course, my music sensibility has grown and that has changed how I approach songs. But as far as range and things like that, I think I’m still in the same place that I was ten years ago.

JazzReview: How would you describe your phrasing?

Veronica Martell: You know, I don’t consider myself a "jazz singer." I think I have many influences. I love pop music and R&B as well. Sometimes people will come up to me and say, ‘You’re an R&B singer singing jazz!’ or ‘You’re a pop singer singing jazz!’ And I think that’s true because I do have those influences. My first record was a ‘neo-swing’ record, my second record was pretty much a straight-ahead jazz record and I think my phrasing evolved from singing that type of music and getting to play with the rhythm and making the lyrics swing. I think my phrasing comes from a combination of styles.

JazzReview: You have a four octave range does your voice ever surprise you?

Veronica Martell: Yeah some days it frustrates me and other days it surprises me.

JazzReview: How does it frustrate you?

Veronica Martell: You know some days I wish I could sing like Chaka Khan. If I could come back as anyone it would be her. It can be frustrating that your voice is limited by physical restrictions it’s not like a guitar or a piano. And it can be frustrating when you have to turn off your phones because you need to give your voice a rest that kind of thing. But then there are those times when it surprises me, when I do something and I go, ‘That really felt good.’ But I’m a perfectionist so those times are few and far between (laughs).

JazzReview: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you about being a singer?

Veronica Martell: Well, I think the best advice, is to be true to yourself. And I think the best advice I’ve ever heard no one ever gave me this advice directly was to read the reviews, but don’t take the great ones too seriously and don’t take the bad ones too seriously. People will say wonderful things to you and you say ‘Thank you so much’ and then go to work and do what you do. That’s kind of how I approach it. You just have to believe in yourself and do the best that you can. There’s going to be people who think you’re wonderful and then there are people who think you’re not you just have to go straight ahead. That’s kind of my motto. You have to keep trying to grow as an artist and create good music.

]]> (Lawrence Williams) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:24:46 -0600
Simone Kopmajer Simone Kopmajer
April 2005 At the tender age of 22, Austrian vocalist, Simone Kopmajer (pronounced Cop-myer), possesses a voice of incredible depth. Unlike the current staple of young pop singers being groomed for instant accessibility, Kopmajer’s approach to a song is understated sincerity. Her new album, "Romance" hits American shores on May 3rd. Since she resides in her homeland, our interview was conducted through the modern miracle of email. When she sent back the answers to my interview questions, she …
April 2005 At the tender age of 22, Austrian vocalist, Simone Kopmajer (pronounced Cop-myer), possesses a voice of incredible depth. Unlike the current staple of young pop singers being groomed for instant accessibility, Kopmajer’s approach to a song is understated sincerity. Her new album, "Romance" hits American shores on May 3rd.

Since she resides in her homeland, our interview was conducted through the modern miracle of email. When she sent back the answers to my interview questions, she wrote, "I hope my English is good enough!" Well it is. And when you listen to her singing, you will realize that this young woman is knows how to communicate.

JazzReview: When did your interest in music begin?

Simone Kopmajer: My interest in music began very early because I grew up in a musical family! I started playing classical piano at the age of 8 and I always sang along with my father’s [records] such songs as "Feelings," "My Way," "Volare," and "Hello Dolly."

JazzReview: You come from a musical family. Are they professional musicians?

Simone Kopmajer: My parents are both music teachers. My mother plays flute and my father plays classical trumpet. He played in a professional band for years and he was my first "vocal teacher."

JazzReview: Are the other members of your family musical as well?

Simone Kopmajer: I have one brother, his name is Philipp and he is 20-years-old. He’s played the drums since he was four and we’ve always played together. Philipp was the dummer on my first record, "Moonlight Serenade" (Venus Records).

JazzReview: Do you remember the first song you ever sang?

Simone Kopmajer: I was about 10-years-old when I was invited to sing two tunes with my father’s band at a garden party. My brother played drums and I sang "Beir Mir Bist Du Schon" and "Quando, Quando."

JazzReview: When did your interest in jazz begin?

Simone Kopmajer: I would say at the age of 12 when I started playing piano in a teenaged big band.

JazzReview: At what age did you start singing professionally?

Simone Kopmajer: At the age of 15.

JazzReview: Have you ever wanted to sing other types of music besides jazz?

Simone Kopmajer: At the age of twelve I mostly listened to Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. But I got my first jazz album called "100% Jazz" with Nina Simone, Ella and Louis, Glenn Miller, Stan Getz and I loved it!

JazzReview: Do you still listen to other kinds of music besides jazz? If so, who are your favorite artists outside the jazz world?

Simone Kopmajer: My favorite artists outside of the jazz world are Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Prince and Eva Cassidy.

JazzReview: What is it about jazz that makes you want to sing it as opposed to other types of music?

Simone Kopmajer: You can sing a jazz standard with out knowing the original version. You sing it the way you feel it and in the end it [becomes] your song. I think [with jazz] you have more freedom than other kinds of music where everybody would say, "That doesn’t sound like the original version." I love jazz because you can improvise!

JazzReview: What does singing jazz mean to you? How does it make you feel?

Simone Kopmajer: It’s music where you can take a lot of risk. Together with the band you create music which is always different.

JazzReview: What is the hardest part about singing jazz? Simone Kopmajer: I think the hardest part is the phrasing; you have it or not!

JazzReview: How would you describe your singing style?

Simone Kopmajer: This is a difficult question. I don’t know how to descript it!

JazzReview: What singers and/or instrumentalists have influenced your style the most?

Simone Kopmajer: Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong. But also the younger musicians like Kurt Elling, Diana Krall and Kevin Mahongany.

JazzReview: What music are you currently listening to? Simone Kopmajer: Right now I don’t listen to a lot of music because it influences me too much.

JazzReview: You studied singing with Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan How did that come about?

Simone Kopmajer: They were both vocal teachers at the University for music in Graz where I was student.

JazzReview: What impact did Murphy and Jordan have on the way you sing and perform today?

Simone Kopmajer: Sheila Jordan and Mark Murphy were very important for me: Ms. Jordan, for example always believed in me and gave me the opportunity to study at the workshop, „Jazz in July" in Amherst, Massachusetts. Mark Murphy tought me how to choose the right tune, arrange songs and how to work with a band.

JazzReview: Do you still take voice lessons?

Simone Kopmajer: Twice a year I take speech level singing lesson to keep in shape. (SLS is a special vocal technique).

JazzReview: Let´s talk about your new album, "Romance" How did the album come about?

Simone Kopmajer: Heidi Deleuil, who owns Heidi’s Jazz Club in Coco Beach, Florida, gave my demo cd to Mark Murphy who hadn’t heard me sing for a few years. He sent it to Todd Barkan, who then invited me to a studio session at Avatar Studio in New York City.

JazzReview: You sing a variety of songs on "Romance," from classic tunes such as "A Blossom Fell" to more contemporary songs, like "Calling You" [The theme song to the 1990 film, "Bagdad Cafe") and Bill Withers’ "Whatever Happens." How did you choose the songs for this album?

Simone Kopmajer: I chose the tunes together with producer Todd Barkan. It’s funny because I picked older songs such as "A Blossom Fell" and "Just Squeeze Me" and he introduced me to "Calling You" and "Whatever Happens."

JazzReview: How do you put your stamp on songs that have been done so many times before by very well known artists?

Simone Kopmajer: I just sing it and [see] what happens. The voice gives the song a new color and the phrasing puts my stamp on it.

JazzReview: Is there a song on the album that is a personal favorite? Why?

Simone Kopmajer: My personal favorite is "How Do You Keep The Music Playing" because for me it’s one of th most beautiful ballads I’ve heard so far.

JazzReview: What makes you want to sing a particular song?

Simone Kopmajer: First of all I listen to the melody if it touches me I check out the lyrics then I take it.

JazzReview: When will you be touring in the United States?

Simone Kopmajer: In Autumn of 2005.

JazzReview: Do you find there is a difference between American and European Audiences? If so, what?

Simone Kopmajer: The American audience is much more enthusiastic than the European audience and they often know the lyrics to the standards they can sing along with you that’s cool!

JazzReview: You are only 23. What would you hope to achieve in your career?

Simone Kopmajer: I’m from a small village in Austria and all my dreams have already come true! So the only thing I can think of is that I would like to sing as long as possible and create music that touches people.

JazzReview: What makes Simone Kopmajer the happiest?

Simone Kopmajer: That I have a family that loves and supports me!!!

]]> (Lawrence Williams) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:24:34 -0600
Tony DeSare Tony DeSare
Tony DeSare hits the top ten jazz charts with his 2007 sophomore Telarc release Last First Kiss, delighting listeners even more so than with his first Telarc debut release in 2006, Want You. DeSare isn’t just a vocal pianist, he is an exciting new songwriter of the first order, and his new CD is testimony to that fact. Filled with luscious compositions of his own and reinvented standards, DeSare lures his listeners from the first kiss to heartfelt flights in a wa …
Tony DeSare hits the top ten jazz charts with his 2007 sophomore Telarc release Last First Kiss, delighting listeners even more so than with his first Telarc debut release in 2006, Want You.

DeSare isn’t just a vocal pianist, he is an exciting new songwriter of the first order, and his new CD is testimony to that fact. Filled with luscious compositions of his own and reinvented standards, DeSare lures his listeners from the first kiss to heartfelt flights in a way that is refreshingly new and exciting. And if you have opportunity to see him perform on stage, he will draw you in like a moth to a flame. Without a doubt, Tony Desare is on his way to becoming one of this year’s top performers of his genre.

JazzReview: This is your second recording with Telarc so fans will be listening to your new CD, Last First Kiss, and comparing it to your debut album, Want You. What have you brought to Last First Kiss that you didn’t on your debut album?

Tony DeSare: Well, first of all, with my debut album, I originally started it as a demo to try to get a record deal in the first place. So I’m just kind of finding my way. Some of the songs are from the first sessions I ever did in a recording studio, and also with Bucky Pizzarelli. I was awfully nervous, too. Straight away with the second one, I was much more confident with what I was doing and had much more of an artistic vision. I also brought other elements I’ve developed since-sort of a bluesy element.

JazzReview: That’s interesting that the songs on Want You were part of your demo to get a deal. How did that all come about?

Tony DeSare: Well, I met a producer in New York who wanted to help me out, Billy Terrell.

JazzReview: He produced this CD too, right?

Tony DeSare: Yeah, he produced this one. So we got studio time, a cheap $75-an hour studio, and recorded. That eventually became Want You (Tony’s debut CD). It was, you know, a nice studio, but still, it was done on a really tight budget. There were certain compromises that I made on the first CD that I didn’t have to make on First Last Kiss.

JazzReview: On your new CD, you reworked Prince’s song "Kiss," which you’ve certainly proved, works fabulously in your own genre. What was your thinking in giving this and Carol King’s "I Feel the Earth Move" a whole new jazz approach?

Tony DeSare: I was out in New York one night with a friend. They were playing a bunch of 80’s songs in the bar. When "Kiss" came on, I was thinking to myself what a cool song it was, great lyrics. So after eight, when I went home, I just started messing with it on the piano. I slowed it down and put a swing into it. I thought it could really work. People thought I was really crazy to try it, but it finally came together. I’m really proud the way it came out. It proves it’s a really good song because it can work so well the way Prince does it, and it also works well when you take it in a completely 180 degree, different direction.

JazzReview: I’m a believer now. When I first looked at the track titles and saw "Kiss," I thought, "Hmmm, how’s this gonna work?" Once I played it, I loved it.

The wonderful thing about you is you’re not just a vocalist, but a musician and songwriter, as well. What inspires you with the creative writing process?

Tony DeSare: For me, it’s always interesting because there are three different aspects of what I do-the songwriting aspect, the vocal aspect and the piano playing. All the influences are all very different. For songwriting, I’ve always studied different songwriters I really liked. The last two years, I’ve gotten into Randy Neuman actually.

JazzReview: Oh really? He’s great isn’t he?

Tony DeSare: Yeah, I love the way he is able to write these beautiful melodies on piano and match them with interesting lyrics and ideas. So he’s been my latest influence, but my core foundation, of course, is the Great American Songbook-Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. I also like pop music and the things that are coming out today.

JazzReview: Did your career begin as a vocal pianist?

Tony DeSare: My first instrument was actually classical violin. From there, I started playing piano and singing. I started working as a piano player and vocalist when I was about 18-years old.

JazzReview: That’s interesting. When I think of jazz pianists, usually they’ve begun with classical piano training. Is there any difference in the conversion from classical violin to piano?

Tony DeSare: I don’t think so. I was always fascinated with the piano and I would love to have started earlier, but my parents didn’t have a piano or access to one. The violin was the very first instrument in school that I could take as a kid. I knew I like music, so I grabbed the first thing I could get lessons on.

JazzReview: What piano sits in your home right now?

Tony DeSare: I live in a little New York apartment and I have a keyboard, but I’m a Steinway artist so I’m able to go one subway stop away and practice at Steinway Hall. I play a Steinway Model D Concert Grand piano.

JazzReview: Let’s talk about your compositions that are included on your new album Last First Kiss. They are very romantic, yet modern. Your CD would make a great Valentine’s Day gift.

Tony DeSare: Yes, the CD is all about romance. The two words I had in mind when I was formulating the CD was "sexy" and "stormy."

JazzReview: The CD certainly is that, and then some. Your compositions aren’t written off the cuff--they are beautiful songs filled with emotion like someone in love. Are you in love?

Tony DeSare: [Laughs] I went through a lot the past year. I was married for six years, went through a separation life is great, but being single again after 10 years

JazzReview: Well, like I was said, you can’t compose songs like that unless you’ve been through the experience.

Tony DeSare: I think you are right. One of the things I like so much about this CD is the fact that I was given the freedom by the record company to do what I wanted to do. I can say that every single song on the CD is "me," in one aspect or another. That’s why I feel like I’m communicating with people because it’s an honest work. I didn’t write or do any of those with the intent of trying to sell records or emulate anything. I did it because I love music and it’s honest.

JazzReview: It definitely comes through in your music. What do the words "Last First Kiss" mean?

Tony DeSare: The whole idea about it is your first kiss with someone is obviously your last first kiss with that person. The whole song is painting a picture of a really nice first kiss and kind of exploring the fact that it’s going to be your last I’ve always been fascinated with small, life changing moments. Of course, everybody knows the big ones, but there are all those little things that change your life, like that first kiss. It changes your relationship with that person forever.

JazzReview: Sounds like you are a romantic at heart [Laughs].

Tony DeSare: [Laughs] Maybe I am. That’s just how I feel. That’s what that song is about.

JazzReview: Unlike many recent male vocalists, you are not a cookie cutter, Sinatra-sounding clone. Your vocals and piano are so fresh and new, even with the old standards. How did you develop your own great style?

Tony DeSare: I don’t know. It has certainly taken time for me to do that. It’s an interesting thing because I’ve always refined what I do until I know what I am--know how I sound and what I would and wouldn’t do. I think there’s a time you go through when you’re learning, when you study there was a time when I was struck with Frank Sinatra, a time when I struck with Tony Bennett. You learn from these people by emulating them, and then you mix everything together. All of a sudden, your unique voice comes out of that.

Jazzreview: Your style can appeal to listeners all ages.

Tony DeSare: Part of that is my intent, because I don’t intend to make something that is the nostalgic Sinatra, rat pack thing. I really and truly just love this music. The genre is new music to me. That’s part of the reason I like writing in it. Even though there were so many songs written for it in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, I feel that there is still stuff to mine out of that genre.

JazzReview: If you take notice, there aren’t many good, new songs being written today.

Tony DeSare: No, who’s writing in this genre these days who is really serious? There are Broadway writers, but even Broadway isn’t writing new stuff any more. In the pop market, they’re either writing country songs or songs for, like Christine Aguilera.

JazzReview: Exactly, and we’re losing our culture. It’s great that you are composing all these great songs for this genre of jazz.

You mentioned Broadway. You’ve starred in off Broadway, composed and performed the title song for the award winning My Date With Drew. You were also selected by Sam Arlen to perform with the Ellington Orchestra for Birdland’s Harold Arlen centennial celebration. Are you still involved with like projects?

Tony DeSare: I’m always doing something. When things come along as they do, I find new ways to get my music across to people. Right now, I’m focusing on getting my CD out and performing in jazz clubs. I love performing more than ever now. Hopefully, in the near future I can perform more and more. I didn’t always love it. These days, I love what I’m doing so much and really believe in it. I just can’t wait to get on stage and share it with people.

JazzReview: You are currently touring your new CD. Fans can find your tour information on your website, correct?

Tony DeSare: Yes, on my website.

JazzReview: What’s your favorite place to perform-small clubs, concert halls?

Tony DeSare: I think my favorite place to perform is in a small theatre, like a 300-seat theatre that’s large enough to feel like a big show, but intimate enough to connect with everybody. But of course, I like jazz clubs and small cabarets, because that’s where I got my start in New York.

JazzReview: What are your hopes for your CD on the west coast? The New York scene is so different and many times east coast artists and their music just don’t seem to gap that bridge to L.A.

Tony DeSare: I’ve got to say that whenever I come to the west coast, I especially love it. Like yesterday when I got on the plane at JFK, it was seven degrees outside. I landed here and it was seventy-five! [Laughs]

JazzReview: Are you hoping to perform in Europe anytime in the near future?

Tony DeSare: As far as international travel goes, I’m going to Australia in June [2007]. My managers have contacts in France and Germany and I know that will happen. It’s just a matter of firming dates. I’d love to do it, and as soon as I can, I will.

JazzReview: Thanks so much for your time, Tony. I look forward to seeing you perform at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood on Thursday. Best of luck to you with your fantastic new CD.

Tony DeSare: Thank you.

]]> (Lawrence Williams) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:35:10 -0600
Lea DeLaria Lea DeLaria is one of the hippest jazz singers around. Her innate skills and deep love of standards shine through on The Live Smoke Sessions. Unlike her first two CDs, which offered innovative twists of Broadway tunes and rock songs, the latest effort has DeLaria taking on classic jazz numbers. In creating an album that recalls the great live jazz recordings of the 1950s, DeLaria has created her most personal record to date. She swings and scats hard with guest voca …

Lea DeLaria is one of the hippest jazz singers around.

Her innate skills and deep love of standards shine through on The Live Smoke Sessions. Unlike her first two CDs, which offered innovative twists of Broadway tunes and rock songs, the latest effort has DeLaria taking on classic jazz numbers. In creating an album that recalls the great live jazz recordings of the 1950s, DeLaria has created her most personal record to date.

She swings and scats hard with guest vocalist Ian Shaw on "Puff" and reinvents "Miss Otis Regrets" as a delightful New Orleans-style number. She also shows another side with several tender turns, including remaking the usually big and showy "Come Rain or Come Shine" into a gentle ballad.

The multi-talented DeLaria has also starred on Broadway and made people laugh with her bawdy stand-up comedy. She was the first openly gay comic to appear on national television in the United States. Many also know her for her work in films and on television even though she jokes that she is the only working actor in New York who has never appeared in an episode of "Law and Order."

There’s no doubt that her career has stretched into different areas, but The Live Smoke Sessions (Ghostlight Records) reminds us about one very important line in her resume: Jazz singer.

DeLaria tells us about the new CD, why there isn’t much scat singing these days, and what makes her laugh. Begin by taking us behind the scenes. Tell us about the night that you recorded the CD.

Lea DeLaria: We recorded over two nights. We did three shows a night, so we did six concerts in all. We recorded live at Smoke. It was great. All six shows were packed. It was just electric in the room. I think you get that on the album. We were pushed by that audience that was really into us. Smoke is probably my favorite jazz club in New York. I really love Smoke. It was great to be there and do it. Did you modify your show in any way because it was being recorded?

Lea DeLaria: Absolutely not. It was exactly the sort of show I always do. In terms of the editing, we edited out almost all of my talking so we could just get the music. We purposely made that choice because on the old live recordings from the ’40s and ’50s when they would record stuff like "Live at the Vanguard" you would never hear them talking between the song. You know they were, but you would hear them playing and occasionally saying "thank you" or something like that. We were looking for that. We were looking for an old-school sound and style. It’s striking because the CD has a timeless, classic quality. It could have been recorded and enjoyed anytime in the last 40 years or so.

Lea DeLaria: Thank God. That’s what I’m hoping for. What is it about that era that you like?

Lea DeLaria: That’s the beginnings I guess. The beginnings of the music. I wanted it to be a throwback. My first two records were so not throwback. Even though they were swinging jazz, they were very contemporary in their sound and style.

I was doing this interview while I was touring in Europe, and the interviewer said, "It’s almost like you are afraid to do standards." Well, no, I’m not. It’s that everybody does standards. I like to shake things up and be different. This is my way of going right back to the roots and beginnings and saying this is what I would do with standards. Live recordings can be tricky. What did you want to do and not want to do?

Lea DeLaria: I knew I didn’t want to have a lot of chatter. I knew I wanted it to be about the music. The one place that I did have the chatter was just to give people a taste of that. That’s the introduction to the song "Puff." That’s the only contemporary song on the record.

And this is more about what I wanted: Sometimes no matter how great a record is when it’s in a studio it sounds sterile. I was looking for that raw, lively sound and energy you get from a live audience and a live production.

Even when I record in the studio, the band and I are all recording at the same time. I don’t track. That’s just crappy jazz to do that. You all want to be creating that sound at the same time. Even though I do that, what’s missing in the studio is the fifth musician the audience. When we get that that musician, the audience, it pushes all of us to a different place. I think that really shows on this record. We should mention that Gil Goldstein and Seamus Blake are among the people on the album. They were on your first album.

Lea DeLaria: On my first two albums. Most of the arrangements on the first one and all of the arrangements on the second were by Gil Goldstein, who played piano on quite a few of the songs on the first one and then he played piano on all of them on the second. Seamus Blake played tenor sax on the first one. I also had Vincent Herring on the first one. Seamus came in and was the guy on the second one. It’s all Seamus on that. Those two particular musicians, Gil and Seamus, I just click with them. We click. The three of us have a very silly sense of humor. We make each other laugh when we are in the studio and when we are on stage. We’re just jokers. We click musically. We really listen to each other. There’s a real rawness that Seamus and I both share. You know, really balls out. Gil is very, very, very what’s the word that I’m looking for? I want to say musical, but it’s deeper than that. He’s so in-tune to what’s happening around him and exactly what the right thing is to fill on the piano. When the three of us create this sound, it’s an interesting cool sound. I can’t imagine recording without them. Let’s talk about some of the songs on the album. "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" swings and is fabulous. Is there a favorite one that you have?

Lea DeLaria: That’s one of my favorites on this CD. I also like "Love For Sale" very much and "Jumpin’ with the Symphony Sid." I’m a scat singer. There aren’t a lot of us out there. There aren’t many chick singers or male singers left that blow over changes. Not just rhythm changes but changes, that can read a score and blow. I do like the ones where I’m blowing on this record. When I trade with Seamus, we’re just pushing each other further and further, laughing and having a good time. It’s great. Why do you think there isn’t more scat singing happening?

Lea DeLaria: Because no one in jazz encourages singers to actually know music anymore. Singers, especially female, are encouraged to be pretty and have a pleasant voice. That’s about it. The whole industry of jazz has turned into this place where if you can’t cross over, by that I mean if your records don’t get play on pop radio or smooth jazz radio, then the label itself won’t sign you. We’re almost losing sight of what jazz is. What is jazz any more? As far as I can tell, the new jazz is country. Most of the music that they put out and say is jazz, I’m like "That’s country music." I don’t know why they call that jazz. How is that jazz?

You’ve got a large quantity of singers out of there who have never learned to read music, never learned the language of jazz, never learned the theory or the math of jazz. If you don’t know those things, you can’t scat sing. Some people try, and you know when they try and they don’t know that stuff. They sound like the Sweeney Sisters on Saturday Night Live. In the liner notes, you meant it to be funny, but it’s true when you said you prefer to be called a "chick singer with balls." It’s kind of what you are talking about.

Lea DeLaria: I did mean it to be funny. This is the first time that I’ve really written the liner notes. In the past, I would write a dedication or that sort of that thing. I’ve wrote the liner notes on this one. People expect me to be funny because of my background in stand-up comedy. That’s my sense of humor. All I mean by that is I’m an adventuresome singer. I like to take a risk. I don’t like to play it safe. Even when I am singing something like a standard, I’m going to be adventuresome with it. When have you heard anybody do anything like what we did with "Miss Otis Regrets?" That’s what I mean when I say "I’m a chick singer with balls." I’m adventuresome. Who else would you consider a chick singer with balls?

Lea DeLaria: There are a lot of women that I like. You know who is ballsy is Dianne Reeves. When she blows, oh my God. It’s really nice when she gets away from the modal blow and goes into the be-bop sound, which you don’t hear a lot of with her. It’s an interesting time. I don’t know. Even when I listen to the Ella tribute record, I was like "Where’s the real hard-core musician, the one who can scat from top to finish, with the most amazing vocal quality and musical knowledge?" That’s who Ella is. That’s why the big boys let her play with them. That’s why she was able to conduct the Chick Webb Orchestra after he died. When in that time would a woman be able to be the musical director of a big band? She was in charge because that girl knew music. Where does your interest in jazz come from?

Lea DeLaria: I’m a second generation. My father was a jazz musician. So, you grew up listening to jazz.

Lea DeLaria: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. My mom liked all the big band stuff. My dad was a be-bop head. I had everything. I had everything at my disposal. It was a musical house. Music was always playing. Jazz was the first music that I heard. I listened to jazz before I heard rock ‘n’ roll. She didn’t scat, but I like to imagine you hanging out with Rosemary Clooney for some reason.

Lea DeLaria: Maybe because we have the same birthday. We were both born on May 23, not the same year for God’s sake but the same birthday. It just seems like you two would have gotten along.

Lea DeLaria: I went to see her concert. She did this thing with the Boston Pops, her and Linda Ronstadt in the ’90s. We had the same agent. I was in the front row. We had a couple of great moments of just acknowledgement. I went backstage and met her. We talked a little bit, and she was magnificent. You’ve got to love her. On the cover on the new CD, you’re barefoot, but there are some other photos of some great, old worn boots. Tell us about those boots.

Lea DeLaria: Those boots have been with me a very long time. That was the whole concept of the boots that the music has been around for a long time. I’ve been doing this kind of stuff for a long time. I have walked through this music for a long time. That was kind of the idea of the boots. And, then having them off was that it was still fresh and new.

The boots I got from a show that I did I did 15 or 16 years ago in Canada. It was wardrobe. I told them I wanted to buy the boots. I’m going to get in so much trouble for this. (Laughs) When you do a movie or television, and they have wardrobe for you, you can generally say I would like to buy that and then you get it at a discount. Very rarely do they give it to you. You’ve got to buy it. I said I want to buy those boots He said no and then left the room. I went "OK. I offered to buy them." I was catching a plane so I put them in my bag.

I have worn those boots in many a stage piece in New York. I just recently wore them in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" when I played Bottom. I’ve worn them in three different movies that I’ve made. Those boots have been around. What were you like as a child?

Lea DeLaria: I was loud. Yeah, I was loud. I was pushy. I needed a lot of attention, but what child doesn’t really? In that respect, I was a pretty normal child. Once when I got to 10, 11, 12, or 13 in that vicinity, that’s when I started reading more and watching movies and listening to music. I guess I was more that kid. You are so funny. Many people know you for your stand-up comedy. What makes you laugh?

Lea DeLaria: The current administration makes me laugh really hard. Sarah Palin makes me laugh or I would cry. Those are the sort of things that I laugh at because if I don’t I would kill myself. I’ve a real interest in what’s going on in the world and how those things affect me. Then there’s stupid humor. When someone slips on the street, my initial reaction is to say to them, "Are you OK?" then I laugh really hard. I’m that guy. Initially, I’m like "Oh my God, I hope you are OK," then I’ll start laughing. What haven’t you done that you would like to try?

Lea DeLaria: I want to do a way out there jazz record that everybody is going to say no way no one can do that then I’ll do it. I have a few ideas. And, I wouldn’t mind somebody writing a Broadway show for me. More immediately, are you touring with the new CD?

Lea DeLaria: Big time. We’ve got a record release concerts here at Smoke on this Monday [Sept. 29] and then the following Monday [Oct. 6] and then I’m in Provincetown on Cape Cod for five dates. I go back to England to do a record release concert there and then I’m doing a tour of Australia in November. Then I come back to New York in December. I’m doing Christmas shows here and in Boston. I take January off and then I do the West Coast, including Hawaii, San Francisco, Seattle, and Santa Fe. Then I tour Europe.

]]> (Lawrence Williams) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:38:22 -0600