January: Looking back, looking ahead

We’re in the heart of winter, now, the time of year when one’s morale can drop as low as the temperature.  The remaining snow is barely recognizable as such, having long since turned various shades of drab gray and brown.  The salt strewn on every sidewalk in New York City is beginning to take its toll on the soles of our shoes.  Sunset is still dispiritingly early, with darkness falling around 5:00pm.  And these first few months of the year are notoriously slow for musicians in terms of gigs.

For the past several years, though, I have had the exceedingly good fortune to be a performer at the Water Island Music Festival, which takes place every January on a tiny residential island just off St. Thomas.  This year, the festival’s always-lovely beach days and musical evenings were further sweetened by the knowledge that we were missing a doozy of a blizzard back in New York City (#sorrynotsorry).

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A change of scene…sun and sand on Water Island, USVI.

It’s amazing what an infusion of sunshine and music-making can do for one’s sense of optimism.  Yes, fish tacos on the beach were heavenly, but so were the braised beef short ribs with chestnuts and dates I made upon our return from the Caribbean.  The days are getting longer!  And I find myself inspired, rather than disheartened, by the prospect of open space on my calendar.  What better time to practice, write, and lay the groundwork for a new project than when it’s dark and cold outside?

2016 is a Leap Year, so this February has 29 days: one extra day in which to savor winter’s hearty food, opportunities for introspection, and crisp, cold air.  I’m looking forward to it.

In January, I…
Blogged about: Jane Monheit.  DUCHESS in Israel.  Acceptance.

Read: A bunch of books (my New Year’s resolution to abandon iPhone games/distractions on the subway and replace them with reading has been transformative), but the standout, by far, was Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter.  The storyline, which spans decades and continents, is too sprawling and involved to describe here, but the characters’ respective journeys toward redemption and healing are the heart and soul of this beautifully written novel.  I don’t often cry at the end of a book, but Beautiful Ruins shattered me.  Also read this month: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen; The Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais; The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice, by Laurel Corona.

Watched: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. “They alive, dammit!”  I CANNOT wait for the next season to air.  This show makes me howl.  The Intern. I watched this on the plane home from Water Island.  I enjoyed this film, although it’s not without its flaws.  How refreshing, that the central relationship—between a 30-something woman (Anne Hathaway) and an older man (Robert DeNiro)—was not romantic.  Both characters learned from one another in some important ways, although for a film that was ostensibly about a powerful woman, Hathaway’s character still spent a lot of time getting lectured by men.

Listened to: Catherine Russell, Bring It Back.  Good GOD, get this record if you don’t have it already!  From Duke Ellington-penned standards to century-old trad jazz tunes to contemporary R&B, Catherine Russell inhabits a musical world uniquely her own.  She’s backed by a tasteful, supremely swinging band led by guitarist Matt Munisteri.  Every song sounds brand new in Russell’s capable hands.

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Scenes from the Water Island music festival.  Top: All the festival’s performers (plus a few friends) lunching on the beach.  Bottom left: The view from the performance venue.  Bottom right: Big hat, big glasses, big day at the beach.

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Top: The sun setting over Water Island.  Bottom: Boarding the ferry to St. Thomas, en route to the airport, following another wonderful year at the Water Island Music Festival.

 

 

Word of the Year?

I suppose the preamble to this post is that I am a descendent of a long line of prairie women and farmers, and as such, I am congenitally practical.  Practicality is a key component of my midwestern DNA, as is, I fear, the tendency to regard any dish that contains mayonnaise as a salad.  But I digress.

The point is, as a rule, I don’t go in for “woo.”  I’m not one of those people who believes that the “Universe” is listening to my “intentions” and sending me signs or messages in reply.

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But.

Every year, as December winds to a close, I find that a single word will float, unbidden, to the forefront of my mind, usually many times, and become something of a verbal talisman for the year ahead.  (I know.  If that isn’t “woo,” what is?  I can’t even type this without cringing, because I can just hear my grandmother, her vowels as flat as the South Dakota prairie, clucking in disapproval and asking me why I don’t go to Mass anymore.  Again, I digress.)

In years past, action, faith, and fruition have all been my one-word mantras.  This year, though, the word that kept coming to mind again and again and again was…acceptance.  To put it mildly, I was not pleased.

“Acceptance,” I thought, was rather too closely aligned with “defeat,” or at least “surrender.”  And what exactly was I to accept, anyway?  I mean, I have practicing to do, weight to lose, and career milestones to hit.  No.  Another word, please.  ANOTHER WORD.  Try as I might, though, I couldn’t come up with another word that carried the resonance of “acceptance,” so I began to explore what acceptance might mean for me in this new year.

ba78f14d1dd1068111fdfd5185af3d74What would it feel like to accept, rather than fight, the hilariously obvious reality that I am older now, and trying to regain the physique I had ten years ago would not only be a battle, it would be a perpetually losing one?  My life a decade ago was one of waiting tables, climbing the stairs of a fifth-floor walkup multiple times a day, and never cooking at home (let alone hosting dinner parties, which is one of my favorite things to do).  What would it feel like to just work out because it feels good?  What if I just accepted my body exactly the way it is, without any apologies or complaints, and decided to just wear my swimsuit and have a great fucking time at the beach?

What if I decided that my career is fine just the way it is, with some gigs that are fancy and exciting, and other gigs that are not at all glamorous, but are nonetheless opportunities to sing and be surrounded by musicians, some of my favorite people on the planet?  What if the things that seem effortless for so many of my singer friends—harmony, form, improvisation—will never, ever come easily to me, and that’s okay?  

Well, we’re a few weeks into 2016 by now, and I can, unequivocally, tell you this: embracing “acceptance” as my one-word touchstone has been a goddamn revelation.  I am here and it is now.  Neither my body nor my musicality can be described as “perfect” (whatever that even means), but nonetheless, I’m going to show up every day and do the best I can with what I’ve been given.

Here’s a little secret that I didn’t know when the word “acceptance” stubbornly insisted on being my North Star for 2016: acceptance is more about self-love and kindness than it is about defeat or surrender. Choosing to better the things I can and be at peace with what is immutable is, as it turns out, right in line with the pragmatism that is my midwestern birthright.  Perhaps my grandmother would not be clucking in disapproval, after all.

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Spotlight On…Jane Monheit

janemonheit_photo_billwestmoreland_webAs is true for many fans of vocal jazz, I first became aware of Jane Monheit when she burst onto the jazz scene over 15 years ago after wowing the judges and crowds at the Thelonious Monk Competition.  As her star rose in the ensuing years, Jane was rapturously received by audiences and critics.  At the same time, some skeptics wondered aloud how—or, indeed, if—someone as young as Jane (she made her first album at 20 years old) and (gasp!) as attractive as Jane could really be a true jazz singer.

Amidst the flurry of all that attention, which I imagine must have been overwhelming, Jane coolly went about her business, touring and recording virtually nonstop.  Today, with eleven solo albums to her credit, any debate has long since ceased: Jane is unquestionably one of the foremost voices in jazz.

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Jane and the gals of DUCHESS.

Jane is also a highly collaborative artist, and an enthusiastic supporter of other singers.  During her year-long residency at Birdland, where she hosted a weekly jazz party, I had the immense pleasure of sharing the stage with Jane for a duet of “Corcovado.”  More recently, she made a cameo with DUCHESS, joining us onstage at the Jazz Standard for a lovely version of “Que Sera, Sera.”

Jane Monheit is a class act, a nice person, and she happens to be hilarious (if you’re not following her on Twitter, you really should). She was kind enough to take time out of her touring schedule to answer a few questions for my blog. Thank you, Jane!

Who or what inspired you to pursue a life in music?
I grew up singing, among musicians, hearing music every day. I literally never even considered a career outside of singing! It was just a question of genre, since I was surrounded by so many different kinds of music at home. I think deep down I always knew it would be jazz, though.

In the course of your musical development, what has come most naturally to you? What has been the most challenging?
Most naturally….that’s probably just my actual sound. I’ve always believed in singing in the most natural way, as opposed to cultivating a sound that seems to match a certain genre or trend. Our simplest, most sincere voices tell the most truth, I think. Most challenging….that would be just dealing with the daily pressures of this business. Growing a thick skin. Knowing when to say no. I’ve always been an overly sensitive person, and show business can be pretty harrowing if you let certain aspects of it get to you. I am far better at dealing with this now, at 38, than I was in the beginning!!

How do you choose your repertoire? What makes you decide to sing a particular song?
It has to be a gut-punch. I have to have no choice. If you choose to sing a standard, a song that has been done a thousand times, and done by legends and icons…you’d better have a reason, and a good one! It needs to be personal. It needs to be true love.

09_jm_2010-282x300If you were to choose another profession, what would it be?
Oh I have no idea!!!! I’d have most likely gone into musical theater. Still singing, of course!!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, on or off the bandstand?
Once, when I was twenty and had just placed second in the Monk Competition, Wayne Shorter came up to me and said, “It’s all about reconnaissance.” I dont think, back then, that I listened quite closely enough. I understand now what he meant.

Fun fact:
I’m a full-on crazy cat lady. I live for horror films and novels. (And naps.) I’m a vegetarian. I have the sense of humor of a fourteen year old boy and my ability to curse is the stuff of legend [Ed. note: Gurl, I feel you.]. I’m watching South Park in my pajamas as I type this. I am not a grown-up!!!

Jane Monheit will be back at Birdland this Saturday, January 16, performing music from the Ella Fitzgerald songbook.  Keep an eye out for her next album, also a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald, produced by Nicholas Payton!

December: Looking back, looking ahead

Ah, December.  I know the holidays aren’t everybody’s favorite time of year, but this month has been fantastic all the way around, with lots of touring, singing, and holiday celebrations.  The month began with a trip to Israel with my DUCHESS cohorts, Amy and Melissa.  We had an extraordinary experience performing at the inaugural Jerusalem Jazz Festival and taking in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  (DUCHESS has had a pretty amazing 2015; you can check out our year-in-review here.)

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A few sights in Jerusalem, including a panorama of the Old City, Mt. Oliva, and the Tower of David.

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The Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. Overwhelming.

An abundance of wonderful food, family, and friends made for a relaxing and joyful holiday season.  I returned home from Israel on the first night of Hanukkah.  Ours being a multi-culti household, we had friends over for a pot roast dinner for Hanukkah; then, on Christmas Eve, E. and I made our traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes at home.  Christmas Day found us at Bouley for an exquisite many-course dinner with family and friends.  On Boxing Day, we traveled to Bensonhurst for Sicilian-style pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens, then took in the dazzling Christmas lights in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood, an excursion that I hope will become a new holiday ritual.

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Dyker Heights’ Christmas lights extravaganza; our Christmas table; Sicilian-style pizza in Bensonhurst.

I’m closing out this festive month with back-to-back nights at the Jazz Standard with DUCHESS, followed by a marathon New Year’s Eve gig at a swanky NYC restaurant.  I love these last days of the year, when we’re teetering on the edge of a brand new beginning; I love the proverbial clean slate.  Then again, New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap, and with good reason: nothing sets us up for failure like deciding to make sweeping, life-altering changes literally overnight. Whether one’s goals involve greater self-care, self-improvement, or self-discipline, I agree with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: “The beginning is always today.”

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That said, I can’t help but be invigorated by the cosmic turn-of-the-page that comes with a new year.  Once the Christmas decorations are all put away and the holiday excesses have died down, I invariably find myself reflecting on the potential and possibilities contained in the year ahead.  True, I do have some big hopes and dreams for 2016, but my actual New Year’s resolutions are small, do-able actions that will, I hope, bring about larger shifts in my attention span and the scope of my imagination:

  1. Listen to podcasts at the gym instead of my same old workout music playlist.  As usual, I’m late to the party, but I am having the best time exploring the world of podcasts. My time on the StairMaster goes by a lot faster when I’m happily listening to an interview with a singer I admire or tales of Old Hollywood.
  2. Read on the subway; no more silly iPhone games.  It’s a well-known fact that I loathe the subway.  Overcrowded cars (which is to say, most of them, most of the time) make me claustrophobic; the long, unexplained stops between stations make me panicky, and the smells…oh, God, the smells!  BUT…all of the above notwithstanding, the subway is still the quickest, most affordable means of getting around NYC and I don’t anticipate getting a chauffeur any time soon, so why not make the most of my time on the train?

In December, I…
Blogged about: Autumn.  My Six Months with Sinatra. DUCHESS’ Year in Review.

Read: Invisible City, by Julia Dahl.  I’m not usually a big mystery-novel reader, but this one is set in Brooklyn, specifically in the Hasidic community.  It was a fast and engaging read, and I’m curious to check out more of Dahl’s work.  My Kitchen Year: 136 recipes that saved my life, by Ruth Reichl.  I’ve long been a fan of Reichl’s writing, and her cookbook/memoir is a beautifully photographed, thoughtful meditation on how what we cook and eat reflects the seasons of the year and of our lives.

Watched: A few movies I’ve been eager to see.  Joy boasted a great cast and a true rags-to-riches story; I’ll watch Jennifer Lawrence in just about anything.  Spotlight was somber and brilliantly acted.  Brooklyn was heartwarming and sweet.  There are still lots of movies I want to see (the final installment of the Hunger Games, Trumbo, and The Big Short, among others), but these were my top three.

Listened to: Podcasts!  Janis Siegel gave a wonderful interview on The Third Story with Leo Sidran; my culinary hero, Nigella Lawson, chatted with Bon Appétit; You Must Remember This took me back in time to the Hollywood of yore.

My Six Months with Sinatra

25303_103754032996556_2094529_nWhen I was a kid growing up in the decidedly un-jazzy wilds of Alaska, I spent hours in my room singing along with Frank Sinatra’s recording of “You Make Me Feel So Young.”  I didn’t know it at the time, but a couple of decades later, I’d spend six months singing with Mr. S. himself.

You see, in 2010, I was the onstage “girl singer” in Twyla Tharp’s Broadway show, Come Fly Away.  The show was, essentially, a ballet set to Sinatra’s music, and Twyla had the good sense to know that, when it comes to the Chairman of the Board, one should accept no substitutes, so she found a way to incorporate the real Sinatra into her show.

Through the magic of technology, Sinatra’s actual recorded voice was extracted from original recordings and piped into the theatre, backed by a live, onstage big band.  Every night, thanks to Twyla’s vision and the technical team’s ingenuity, I sang a few solo numbers and, yes, a couple of “duets” with Frank Sinatra, including, poetically enough, “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

comeflyawayCD300Over the course of Come Fly Away’s six-month run, I began to think of Sinatra’s iconic songs—and, by extension, Sinatra himself—as old friends (handsome, elusive, mysterious, sexy old friends, that is). With each performance, I was fascinated anew by the swaggering bravado of “Learnin’ the Blues,” the defiance of “That’s Life,” and the cool resignation of the barroom soliloquy “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).”

There are countless books, articles, and documentaries about Sinatra’s life and career, including his politics, alleged mafia ties, and of course, his tumultuous love affairs.  And yes, his life was by turns salacious and sad and he was, by every account, a complicated man.  But on his centennial, my feelings about Frank Sinatra are simple: I am forever thankful to him for the ways his artistry has shaped the course of my life.

Sinatra pulled me out of my waitressing career and onto a Broadway stage.  His sense of time, phrasing, and devotion to bel canto singing are the cornerstones of my own vocal approach. Thanks to Frank Sinatra, I believe in love and solitude and show business, not to mention the power of a good suit and a stiff drink.

The grand finale in Come Fly Away was “New York, New York.”  Every single night, Sinatra’s voice would fill that big Broadway theatre, as he sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere; it’s up to you, New York, New York!”  And every single night, as I remembered singing along with those Sinatra records in my little room, in my little Alaska town, tears of gratitude would fill my eyes.

Thank you, Frank Sinatra, and happy 100th.  I love you madly.

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Autumn: Looking back, looking ahead

The fact that I’m writing one recap for all three months of September, October, and November from a hotel room in Jerusalem while on tour with DUCHESS is probably sufficient information for you to gauge the overall level of busy-ness this fall.  I’ve been doing lots of traveling and lots of singing, which has made me happy, if a bit harried.

September’s highlight was the week DUCHESS spent on the west coast, bringing #girlongirlharmony to California.  We had an amazing time on tour, beginning in Los Angeles and culminating in our debut at the Monterey Jazz Festival.  After the tour ended, I hung out for an extra day to spend some time with my parents.  I’m including a couple of pictures here, but a more comprehensive rundown of our tour is here.

The L.A. leg of our CA trip began with a wild & crazy night at Rockwell, singing with Jeff Goldblum. Reggie Watts made the hang, too.

The L.A. leg of our CA trip began with a wild & crazy night at Rockwell, singing with Jeff Goldblum. Reggie Watts made the hang, too.

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DUCHESS at the Monterey Jazz Festival, onstage, at our CD signing, and with Jazz at Lincoln Center bari saxophonist Paul Nedzela.

October began with a fairytale trip to the south of France with my husband and in-laws.  Our “home base” was the tiny mountain village of La Garde-Freinet, home to a charming, twice-weekly outdoor market, mountain trails leading to sweeping vistas of the French countryside, and a sizable expatriate community, as well as natives Jean-Jacques the butcher, Hervé the wine purveyor, and Valerie, proprietress of La Freixenet bakery.

We took day trips to St. Paul-de-Vence, Cap d’Antibes, St. Remo (we hopped the border for an afternoon in Italy), Eze, St. Tropez, and Ramatuelle, taking in the breathtaking scenery and sweet villages.  And, oh, how we ate!  We greeted every morning with Valerie’s croissants (the Platonic ideal of pastry), and rosé accompanied every meal.

The charming Provencal village of La Garde-Freinet.

The charming Provencal village of La Garde-Freinet.

A gorgeous afternoon in Eze, with lunch at La Chèvre d'Or.

A gorgeous afternoon in Eze, with lunch at La Chèvre d’Or.

November was a whirlwind of more travel and great DUCHESS gigs, which you can read about on our blog. Another huge November highlight?  Oh, no biggie…I JUST GOT TO MEET NIGELLA LAWSON, THAT’S ALL!  She appeared at the 92nd Street Y in conversation with the wonderful chef/writer Gabrielle Hamilton, and afterward there was a book signing.  (For the record, Nigella was luminous and poised. I was supremely awkward and starstruck.)  Then came Thanksgiving, which was just as it should be: filled with family, friends, delicious food, and the acquisition of a Christmas tree.

NIGELLA!!!!

NIGELLA!!!!

I am very thankful for the extraordinary privilege of traveling freely and sharing the joy of music with others.  Looking ahead, as we enter the holiday season, I hope we can all extend one another peace and kindness, which are needed now more than ever.

This fall, I…
Blogged about: The 20-year anniversary of my year in Italy. rené marie. Dorothy Parker’s thoughts on New York City. Kendra Shank.

Read: Simply Nigella (OBVIOUSLY). Her sweet potato mac & cheese recipe was a hit at Thanksgiving. It’s what I do: a photographer’s life of love and war, by Lynsey Addario.  A riveting memoir by a Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer.  The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel. Another haunting, lyrical novel by the author of Station ElevenThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, by Matthew Dicks. A fun and poignant novel about the ways our high school years can shape the rest of our lives. 

Watched: Bridge of Spies. Trainwreck. This incredible mash-up of old Hollywood musicals, set to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”

Listened to: Recreational Love, the new album from the bird and the bee. Rufus Wainwright. Roy Ayers.

Spotlight On…Kendra Shank

29814_425967602577_1299491_nBack when I lived in Seattle, I knew Kendra Shank only by her reputation as a great jazz singer who also enjoyed a career as a guitarist and folk singer.  We met for the first time in New York City shortly after I arrived in 2003; we were both in the audience at the Cornelia Street Café, where our mutual mentor, Jay Clayton, was singing.

Kendra was warm and friendly, with a disarming candor about the rigors of pursuing a singing career in New York City.  Her unassuming nature belied her impressive credentials: Kendra toured with Bob Dorough early in her career; her debut album, Afterglow, was co-produced by none other than Shirley Horn; and Kendra recorded as a guitarist with Abbey Lincoln and received Lincoln’s blessing to record the critically acclaimed album, A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook.

Thank you, Kendra, for sharing your insights with us!

Who or what inspired you to pursue a life in music?
Music was in my life from the beginning.  My mother sang me to sleep with torch songs and lullabies.  When I was five years old she played Mrs. Peachum in a university production of Brecht’s Three Penny Opera and took me to rehearsals and performances, so by closing night I knew all those Kurt Weill songs.  My father created the Theatre Department at UCD and I acted in plays from age 5 – 8 (until my parents’ divorce), so it felt natural to be on stage.  At thirteen, my brother inspired me to learn guitar and I played and sang for hours as an emotional outlet and wrote my first song that year when my best friend died in an accident.  But I didn’t realize music would become my profession until after college (my degree was in Art & French and I’d envisioned a life in the visual arts).

20600_10153593156377578_8318472735150606366_nAfter busking in the Paris subway and gigging in restaurants all through college (solo with guitar), I decided to try it full-time after graduation, and within a couple of years realized this was my life’s passion.  My early inspirations included Joan Baez, Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Barbara (a French singer-songwriter), among many others.  When a friend played me a Billie Holiday record, my focus turned to jazz and my devotion to music deepened to the intensity of a spiritual path.  I’ve been inspired and encouraged on this path by several mentors to whom I’m hugely grateful, including Jay Clayton (my primary teacher, who introduced me to improvisation & included me in various ensembles), Bob Dorough (who took me on tour in 1991), Nancy King (who had me sit in at her gigs), Shirley Horn (who got me my first record deal, co-produced the album, and showcased me at the Village Vanguard in 1992), Abbey Lincoln (who had me play guitar on her album Over the Years and at the Blue Note in 2000), and Rhiannon (who taught me new approaches to improvisation).  And there are so many more musicians and others who’ve inspired me — too numerous to list.

In the course of your musical development, what has come most naturally to you? What has been the most challenging?
Telling a story, interpreting a lyric, came naturally to me—perhaps because of my early exposure to theatre and my roots in folk music.  Melodies come naturally—I improvise them as I walk down the street.  Accepting the sound of my voice was a challenge.  When I first fell in love with jazz, I wished I had a dark, husky, whiskey-stained voice.  I was once told by a club owner that he didn’t want to book me because my voice was too “pretty.”

Ironically, Abbey Lincoln (whose voice I love for its rough edges) once said to me “I wish I could love the sound of my voice,” so I guess I wasn’t alone!  But I’ve now embraced my sound (at least, on the days I’m not full of self criticism—another of my challenges).

How do you choose your repertoire? What makes you decide to sing a particular song?
A song has to call to me—it has to feel that it’s my story, as if it could’ve been written for, or by, me.  Often I’ll hear a song and just know—I have to sing that.  It was this way with Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue” which I first heard on a Chet Baker recording.  Sometimes I’ll be attracted to a song, but then when I sing it, it turns out not to be a good fit and I have to let it go (like a dress that looks great on the rack, but then doesn’t look good on you).  The lyrics are essential—if I can’t believe in the lyric, I won’t sing the song.  I’ll occasionally sing a tune as a vehicle for improvisation that has a less-than-brilliant lyric, but the message still has to be something I can relate to.

10688226_10152836981227578_372638332881355686_oI love a song whose lyric is at the level of poetry and the melody and changes are sublime, like “A Timeless Place” (aka “The Peacocks” – music by Jimmy Rowles, words by Norma Winstone) or Abbey Lincoln’s “Down Here Below.”  But I also love a very simple lyric and melody like “Motherless Child.”  A song can come from any source, but I do have a fondness for seeking out original music from musicians I play with.  I generally prefer not to hear another vocalist’s version beforehand — so that I can come to the song fresh.  Whatever goes into my ear is likely to come out my mouth, so I prefer to listen to an instrumental version, or just learn it off the page.  Lately, I’ve also been drawn to tunes without lyrics which I sing instrumentally, or occasionally I’ll add a lyric.  I also sometimes improvise a song, with words, on the bandstand.

If you were to choose another profession, what would it be?
If I still had the physical capacity for it, I’d go back to glass blowing (what I’d planned on doing before music became my life).  I love making things with my hands.  Or I’d do something in the healing arts, in service to others.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, on or off the bandstand?
Be True to Yourself.

Fun fact:
I like to body surf, especially in the Pacific Ocean.  It’s thrilling to feel the power of the ocean in such an immediate way, and it reconnects me with my place in Nature and the Oneness.

The Kendra Shank Quartet will be celebrating its 16th anniversary (!) with this Thursday, October 15 (sets at 8 and 10 pm), at Kitano here in New York City.  The New York Times’ Nate Chinen calls Kendra an “assertive and open-minded jazz singer.”  Treat yourself to a night on the town and go hear them!