Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Art of Reinventing

Yesterday was my debut performance with Nursing Homes Swing, a non- profit that brings jazz music into local nursing homes. This marks an exciting new direction for me and I feel I am really hitting my stride reinventing myself as a jazz artist! Perhaps it was always in the making waiting for me to discover. I say this because when I was a child, my mother worked as a waitress next door to a jazz club (in Chicago). She used to take me there and I have very faint memories of standing in that smokey room with the exotic sounds of jazz filling the atmosphere. My mom became friends with one of the jazz musicians then, Jimmy Smith  and to this day, those memories are my mothers' favorites to talk about.

I learned a lot of new repertoire for this gig and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge!  Something about jazz that is very freeing is that you find your own way to sing the song. When I was working on learning a new song, I would listen to the great singers such as: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennet, Judy Garland, Brenda Lee,  and each version was different! It was impossible to learn the "right" melody from these recordings because every singer had their own unique interpretation. And so I worked to find my own. If the notes that were written on the musical score were beyond my vocal range, I found a note that harmonized with it and sang that. It was so freeing and so much in the spirit of jazz! One does not need to sing exactly what is written, that is just a map or a recipe. For those who like to cook, you know what I mean by this. When you look at a recipe, you can alter the ingredients, adding your own flavors and spices to your own liking. No one's pot of chili is the same. Some like it hot, others don't. (I like it hot! :)

It's the same with jazz and me. Here are some of the songs I sang yesterday: "Moonlight in Vermont," "How High the Moon," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "My Favorite Things," "Smile," "Nature Boy," etc. Learning a new genre of music is like learning a new language. I wonder where this new direction will take me? Stay tuned!  

What new direction might you be taking with this new year?