Performance & Recording Artist, Songwriter, Lyricist, Voice-over Artist
Born: Biloxi, Mississipi
Resides in: El Cerrito, CA
Favorite Food: Anything made at Potala’s Vegan Restaurant in Albany
Relationship Status/Children: I am in love with my boyfriend; I’m friends with my ex-husband and I have a daughter, two grandchildren and two dogs.
Why jazz? I’ve often thought about this question. I think it’s the natural richness of the harmonies and rhythm, the thrill of improvisation, the comfort of the blues… The history of our country is so tied up in Jazz, civil rights linked to jazz, we send our best jazz musicians out as ambassadors. We’ve created a whole educational curriculum dedicated to this art form and people of all races and cultures are drawn to it like bees to nectar. It’s compelling!
What's the first music you remember hearing? I’m not certain but it must have been my mother’s beautiful voice. She would sing while she vacuumed! You see, I was number 6 in a family of 8 children. There was always somebody making music. I would harmonize with my sisters (I have 5 of them). The family lore includes stories of me climbing up on the piano in the middle of the night when I was a chubby toddler. I recently had a conversation with my Mom about the music we listened to when I was growing up. I discovered my Mom was the one who liked Etta James and Isaac Hayes and my Dad was the one who loved the refined voices of Jack Jones and Barbra Streisand.
When did you start writing your own songs? I have a book of material; pieces of songs that I have jotted down over the years. They’re collecting in a binder full of verses, hooks, and minor to major chord progressions. Honestly, I found collaborating with someone, as I did on my last CD, helped me to finish and refine my ideas. It’s easy to become timid in finishing your own material. That inner voice can be destructive by telling you your work is not good enough. Another perspective and a generous and collaborative spirit can bring out the most amazing ideas.
What do you in your spare time? Fix up houses. I am a home improvement junkie and am beginning the remodel of another house. My 3rd full house remodel! Crazy, I know!
What kind of music do you listen to in the car? I adore the music of Richard Bona (Cameroonian Bassist) and listen to his 10 Shades of Blue CD often. It’s wonderful travelling music!
When did music first come into your life? I discovered it as a vocation when I was in college. I hadn’t discovered jazz at that point; I was a music education major and in those days there was no jazz curriculum for vocalists except what you could learn on the bandstand. I did studio work and sang as a backing vocalist for a Country & Western band. But I was not a fan of the music. My voice was strong and I was well trained in choral music and classical arias but found myself drawn to Earth Wind & Fire, Rufus & Chaka Khan and Yes. It wasn’t until I became a disc jockey after dropping out of school that I heard Betty Carter and I fell in love with jazz.
Did you always want to be a musician? Nope! I wanted to be a Nun and save the world first! Then I fell under the spell of science fiction and wanted to be an astronaut discovering new worlds and THEN I wanted to sing and sing and sing again…
What did you listen to as a teenager? My parents had a Readers Digest Compilation of several LPs. It had selections from Spike Jones, The Andrew Sisters, Peggy Lee, Harry James. Lots of Big Band music. I ate it up!
What do you listen to now? I still listen to a variety of music, from Sting to Miles Davis. I love the music of Herbie Hancock and I have long been a fan of Pat Metheny.
Do you work in a home studio? Yes, I am creating a home studio in my basement and we (the Beyond Standard Jazz Band) had our inaugural rehearsal there just this week. I plan to develop the studio into a recording, teaching and rehearsing space.
If you couldn’t have been a musician, what would you like to have been? A teacher.
Your latest CD Beyond is a fusion of jazz, world and popular music, where did you get your inspiration? I have long loved the fusion music of the 70s and early 80s. I like the blending of cultures in fusion. Beyond was a musical milestone for me. Not just in the rare quality of the musicians I worked with or even the amazing experience of recording at Skywalker. Beyond was a learning experience about being open to possibilities. We created music that sounded like jazz but went beyond the category and it was bold, different and very passionate!
Where can we see you perform? I’ll be at the Bay Terrace Theater in Vallejo for the Vallejo Jazz Society’s July presentation on Sunday, July 14th at 5pm. I’m bringing the Beyond Standard Jazz Band with me and we will perform selections from my release Beyond as well as a slew of covers ranging from Joni Mitchell to Chick Corea. Expect the unexpected!