COMING SOON! HOT HOUSE APP FOR YOUR FAVORITE DEVICE!
Read the latest edition of Hot House Magazine! View and download here in Acrobat: October 2014
Three great “Reasons to Celebrate” brought to you by Elzy Kolb!
Seattle-based singer Kelley Johnson doesn’t get to the Big Apple too often; but, when she does, she usually has something new to share. Her mentor, vocalist Mark Murphy, once told her that artists reinvent themselves every 15 years and Johnson, who has released four CDs since 1998, seems to be right on track. “I didn’t really understand it then, when he first told me that, but it does feel like that’s happening to me now,” she says. “I feel a difference in attitude, in my sense of self, in my sense of the world.”
Johnson also senses new musical developments on the horizon. After her most recent recording, Home, came out in 2008, she got a feeling like finishing a really great book. “At the closing of the chapter, I felt dismay. But once a novel has ended, you have to find another good one. And you have to allow yourself to explore.” She’s been on that path since then. “I rearrange standards with storytelling at the core. Like the great instrumentalists, I’m interested in taking the music past the melody so it feels like the structure is expanding.”
Critics have compared Johnson to vocal icons like Carmen McRae and Sheila Jordan. “They’re both such originals, both storytellers while being excellent musicians,” Johnson says. “They’re my musical mothers and I’m thrilled to be compared to them.” The singer appears at Jazz at Kitano Oct. 15, her first New York gig in four years. She’ll be joined by drummer Jon Wikan, a long-time collaborator; bassist Matthew Clohesy, with whom she’s played occasionally; and for the very first time, pianist Anthony Wonsey. “It will be interesting to see what connections will be formed then and there,” Johnson says. “I’ll be there to celebrate that I love to sing, love to perform for people. It’s important to have new projects, but unmarked celebrations are good, too.”
An autumn date at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola has been an annual Diva Jazz Orchestra tradition. In fact, three of the band’s last four albums were recorded there. This year, listeners are in for a double treat when the band hits the stage at Dizzy’s Oct. 17-19. Besides celebrating the release of Diva’s new CD, A Swingin’ Life (MCG Jazz), parts of which were recorded at the club, there will be the added pleasure of hearing vocalist Cynthia Scott making her debut with the band.
“I’ve wanted to work with Cynthia for years but there’s always been a scheduling conflict. I’m thrilled that this time it worked out,” says Diva bandleader/drummer Sherrie Maricle. The new CD features performances by vocalists Nancy Wilson and Marlena Shaw, but Wilson has retired and Shaw has back surgery scheduled. “I wanted someone at Dizzy’s who will bring the same level of swing and soul,” Maricle says. “Cynthia is very soulful and has a rich, beautiful voice.”
Singing with a big band is familiar territory for Scott, who worked with Ray Charles for years. “When I left Arkansas and went on the road with Ray, that was my beginning,” she says. “Fronting a big band, you have all this harmony under you, all this support that you don’t get with a trio—you get to ride, you get to paint. You don’t compete with the horns; the lines are all written: you say one thing and they say one thing and it all melds together to tell a beautiful story with a lot of voices speaking.”
In choosing material for Diva, Maricle says, “It’s got to swing, it’s got to challenge the band, and it’s got to be accessible to the audience. And the artistic focus—everyone in the band gets to blow at least one time in two sets, so the listeners get the full experience of all 15 of us, the diversity of the soloists.”
The Dizzy’s gig will feature standards, blues, tunes by Burt Bacharach and Diva founder Stanley Kay, and at least one Scott original. The vocalist says, “We’re gonna have a ball, honey. What’s the purpose of getting up on stage if you’re not gonna have a ball? I believe in having fun, I’m tired of fighting the world, I just want to ride.” Sounds like the right attitude for Maricle’s stated mission: “Playing great music and keeping the tradition of great straight-ahead swing.”
When saxophonist/flutist/composer Laura Dreyer moved to New York, she was fresh out of Berklee and having a great time going to jams, playing with her idols and with other up-and-comers. “I wanted to learn and, as woman, I had to prove myself. I had to show I can play fast, and play a million tunes in any key, at any tempo,” she says. “One day, the music sounded old-fashioned, and I thought, ‘This isn’t really who I am.’ I didn’t grow up in the 1940s; the music I grew up with, the music I heard in New York in the ’80s and ’90s has a place in my life. I have to be true to myself.”
Thus began a musical evolution that now encompasses more than 20 years of writing and playing Brazilian jazz, influenced by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins, Hermeto Pascoal, Cesar Camargo Mariano and other greats of the genre. “That’s 95 percent of what I listen to now,” Dreyer says. “It’s an endless source of inspiration. Compositionally, it speaks to my sensibilities. The harmonies are complex but done in a beautiful way, rather than a deliberately confusing or unpredictable way.”
While visiting Rio, she discovered she had to slow down to get up to speed with Brazilian music. “The feeling is so different there. I went to the next level in capturing the flavor I wanted—Rio is where you have to be to get that flavor.” Dreyer was so inspired by the city that she recorded her new CD, Vida. Arte. Amor. (Mayimba) there, in a hilltop studio with stunning panoramic views of Rio and the surrounding area. “You can see landmarks from the decks and hear the bells when the nearby churches chime on the hour,” she says. “I’m sensitive to the vibe in different places: San Francisco, Seattle, New York, they all have a different feel. In Rio I felt like a fish in the right ocean. I don’t have the advantage of growing up in the culture, though I love it. I immerse myself in the music, the style, the sentiment, and I intend to do that for the rest of my life.” Join Dreyer in celebrating the release of Vida. Arte. Amor. at Zinc Bar Oct. 22.
“PJ Rasmussen interviews Bucky Pizzarelli as part of his Boardwalk Jazz concert series. For 17 weeks, PJ brings jazz legends, Grammy winners, and rising talent to the Jersey Shore. See more videos and upcoming schedule at www.boardwalk-jazz.com.”