Tell us about your connection with Jazz standards and classics?
The connection started in my childhood. My dad was from the time of the golden band era and swing street. He was a sax man who played in bands (had one in Alaska during WWII) and had a record collection of 78s and LPs that could fill a library. He eventually became a commercial artist and put his horn down, but he played great recordings non-stop - and made sure, in kind of a manic way, that his whole family listened, too! His brother, my uncle Mike, was Fred Astaire's Music Director in the USO. So the 'American Popular Songbook' including all jazz standards and classics permeated the atmosphere while I was growing up. As a first or second-grader, I was singing along with Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae and also knew I had to put a lid on it when Charlie Parker was playing or Ben Webster was taking a solo... it was an unconscious education...
What's your favorite part of being a singer? Recording? Writing? Performing?
Well, I love the fact that I don't have to lug around any other instrument besides my vocal chords :-) but,... it's all about connecting with the listener. I can strengthen, tone and challenge my chops in all sorts of directions, but if I don't really have something to say, then there's no reason to sing. My favorite part of being a singer is finding the way to communicate anything in an honest, new and unique way. Recording gives me the opportunity to get my music out to so many places I might never be able to get to in person. It also gives me the chance to listen to where I'm at as an artist and to learn and grow from it. Writing possesses the same challenge for me as a vocalist - tell a story, make it honest, universal and make it unique. And while I love the relaxation and intimacy of a recording studio and the quietude of writing, those moments can pale to the excitement and intimacy I can find singing to a live audience.
Are you into discovering new music? If so, who have you discovered lately?
I'm always into discovering new music, be it from another time or today - and be it any format. I love good music and listen to everything! Regina Carter's latest release is beautiful. I really didn't discover Kurt Elling until this past year. We caught him live at Birdland some months back and it was inspirational experience. I work with a lot of amazing musicians who are breaking through in the jazz scene today in New York, and their compositional and performance work is brilliant...
Are you a gear girl? What's in your iPod?
I love my new MacBook which I've been downloading some iTunes tracks onto (we've also had fun using the Photobooth program and distorting all sorts of pictures of ourselves)... However, I haven't made the leap to "Podding" the downloaded tracks...I have to admit that I still use my Sony Walkman to play full CDs. I'll get there soon, there's been only so much time in my day to deejay all the tracks into some sensible playlist...
What are the plans for your next project -- Can you tell?
There are a few projects in the wings. I want to continue to move in a more soulful and less traditional jazz direction. There's also a brass project... The plans are to keep evolving, staying innovative, and continuing to have something to say!
What's your favorite destination?
The place inside my heart when I know I've achieved something meaningful in the world - be it artistically or as a human being. And... the room where I collaborate with my partner Gary William Friedman and anywhere that's beautiful, scenic with surround sound nature!