Tag Archive: Jazz


Carol Kaye Photo Credit: John Meza

Carol Kaye Photo Credit: John Meza

Carol Kaye has recorded more than 10,000 tracks. She began her career as a jazz guitarist playing in clubs. As if by fate, she stood-in for an absent bass guitarist and fell in love with the bassline. In order to make a living she became a studio musician. Some of the best known songs featuring Carol Kaye’s her work are Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” (on guitar), Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” Lalo Shifrin’s themes to Mission: Impossible and Mannix, The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” The Lettermen’s “Going Out of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On,” and The Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” “Sloop John B,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” and “Heroes and Villains.”

In addition to her stellar career as a performer, she is also an educator. Beginning in 1969, she wrote her first of many bass tutoring books, “How To Play The Electric Bass” effectively changing the name of Fender Bass to Electric Bass and began teaching 100s of Electric Bass students, many of them now famous themselves. Since 1949, she has given over 1,000 seminars, taught thousands of musicians and sold over one-half million books. She spent 8 years at the UCLA Henry Mancini Institute and has been in-residence at many universities.

HVUM: Carol it is truly an honor for those of us at HorizonVU Music to have you with us sharing some of your experiences, thoughts and advice. Your career in the music business is long and illustrious. Going back before you started to play in public, what started you on your music career? How did you get started?

CK: Thank you. I grew up poor and was scrubbing floors to add money for my Mom and I and she had saved $10.00 by time I was 13, and bought a steel guitar and some lessons from traveling salesman (we lived in projects in Wilmington, California, close to shipyards)….my girlfriend at school was taking guitar lessons so I tagged along with her, taking my steel. Her teacher liked the way I played, knowing I was poor, he asked me to work for him and taught me on guitar too…within 4-5 months I was working semi-jazz gigs, playing standards at age 15….everyone learned fast back then (pre-rock) as teachers taught chordally so everyone learned their chords and chordal notes to play the more-difficult standards chords and soloing (and eventually Jazz, which comes from the Standards)….to earn monies to help put food on the table was over-powering….no-one grew up in the 1930s and 1940s with “entitlements” at all, it was a struggling time.

HVUM: Are there any particular individuals that motivated you to become a musician?

CK: Not really, music was important to everyone just after WWII…..music was the way everyone expressed their feelings back then. Being a poor kid, with disabilities, music was something I could do well, that’s all.

HVUM: As you think about your career, what do you consider being the most difficult barrier to your success and how did you overcome it?

CK: I never thought like that, I could play music, they hired me, paid me money to buy food with, no thought involved. Like I said prior, no-one thought like people post-rock and roll thought at all…we were not rich, no-one was, you don’t “plan” your life at all…you work for money to buy food and to put a roof over your head is all. I studied hard, practiced hard, didn’t make the doper-mistakes I saw others make, I didn’t even smoke cigarettes….didn’t drink booze, all that stuff that was detrimental.

HVUM: There’s no doubt in our mind that you’ve had many great moments in music. We’d love to know what stands out in your mind as your greatest moment in the music business.

CK: There never is any “one great moment”…but yes, many a great time of success with some of my favorite recordings I recorded, one of which was after 32 live takes of playing a dum-de-dum plain written bass line as the conductor insisted on of the single of “The Way We Were”, on the 33rd take,
I disregarded his instruction and went for it, adding notes all over the place. The weight of the huge orchestra dictated more notes on the bass in the slow song…and I chose right, the drummer Paul Humphrey smiled and added more too…and that is the hit you hear!….Everyone loved that last take ….the arrangement needed a better bass part.

Another time was Hikky Burr, theme of the first Bill Cosby TV show 1970s which also was a hit recording: Quincy Jones had parts for everyone but me, and he said “play what you feel”…this was a time when producers were starting to constrain me in my creative notes for bass lines (”play less notes Carol”), so I let out the energy on Q’s fine theme and it became a nice hit for Cosby and a standard along with another recording I did for Music School bass tests around the world (that line is in my Electric Bass Lines No. 2 book).

The other one was Mel Torme’s “Games People Play” where the drummer was tired from the road I think and we had a hot arrangement with the band but the line I made up for the tune and Mel’s la-de-dah way of sort of humming the tune didn’t fly, the drummer kept slowing it down….so when a trumpet player pleaded “do something Carol!”…after a few bad takes….I did something: played some exciting 16th-note lines totally out of character for the tune and the singing style…..balls out, and begged them to do the “real hit now that the drummer is going good”…they laughed and refused…I went home thinking I failed the fine Mel Torme, musical genius and wonderful Jazz musician/composer/singer. Well, that turned out to be his biggest

Carol Kaye with Brian Wilson

Carol Kaye with Brian Wilson

money-making hit record.

The day I quit in 1969 for some months…I stopped all recording, and it was fun to finally say NO to all contractors, movies, record dates, and TV-show films…was so burned out…and when I went back later on, I refused ALL rock dates and ALL work for Motown too…and took ONLY the DATES I wanted to work: the great music of the Movie scores, the TV-film shows and hand-selected record dates with Mancini, Glen Campbell, and Ray Charles etc…that was fun. Everyone was shocked since I was the NO. 1 Call since 1964 for everyone in Hollywood and to quit at the very top is everyone’s dream, but I’m the ONLY one who did it! My publishing company Gwyn Publishing Company, Inc. had taken off with shipping 10s of 1,000s each month worldwide of my bass books in 1969 offered me the living for my 3 kids I needed and so I quit but finally went back to doing film recording mostly (had been doing films since1963) and kept up playing with Joe Pass Jazz live …and that was a thrill to like music again.

HVUM: As you know, many of our followers are young, female musicians looking to find their way in the business of music. Music education is a broad topic, but if we focus on music education for aspiring professional musicians, what do you consider to be most important in terms of background and education to move an artist along a successful career path?

CK: Ignore the mania of “note-scales”, that’s mistakenly taught as the way to do Jazz…it’s not, chordal notes and chordal movements is the right way everyone was doing it in the 1950s when I played with the finest in Jazz – no one “analyzed” like they try to do today……..they need to know the HISTORY of the fine women in Jazz who have always worked with the men since the 1910s….that’s not being taught at all today…plus they need to forget the “woman” name, I never thought of myself as a “woman” this or that, do men think of themselves as “men this or that”? No…they’re guitar

Carol Kaye with Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Forrest White

Carol Kaye with Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Forrest White

players, bass players etc…professionalism speaks mountains…and don’t be late, but of course all women know that….it’s much worse the prejudice is today because music has dumbed down tremendously, so have the ears of players so how would they know if a woman could play or not? Men back in my time knew women could play in Jazz etc…no problem, even if a few didn’t like to work with a woman, so what (don’t ever cry!)….if you had your act together they quickly respected you…don’t blame the men if you can’t play…I always blasted them with my music, and held myself in good professionalism, that always works..

HVUM: Some authors suggest that success in music has a lot to do with personality. Do you agree with that? If, so what helps make a person “right” for the music business?

CK: If you had 2 musicians, one had a bad personality to hire, which would you hire? Simple as that. Don’t be late to work, be reliable, don’t do bad habits, or have ego, don’t diss people all the time, there’s a lot of good things to do to get work but first one? BE a FINE MUSICIAN and GREAT PROFESSIONAL. Music speaks for itself, you still have to be the best you can be, talking is NOT music. No-one smooched their way into being No. 1 Call for Recording, the tape don’t lie but with more competition, yes you watch your turf, that means be the best at not being late, taking good direction, getting along with others (doesn’t have to be “pals” no, I’ve recorded many a record date with a couple I couldn’t stand!)…as well as being the best musician.

HVUM: In one of your recorded interviews, you brilliantly point out that musical notes are not male or female. Never-the-less, taking the music business overall, we see that there is a gender gap. Is there any specific advice that you pass along to young women looking for a career in the music business that might not seem as relevant to men?

CK: It is worse now than in my time, simply because there are many “men” who can’t hear real music due to the dumbing down of music these days…and erroneously think that women can’t play as good as the men. Read the Quincy Jones book “Q” he dumps that myth with “some women could play better than the men and leave them in their dust”…it’s important NOT to complain about the “men” but be more like men…grown up and self-assured about your music, and that comes when your musicianship is together and you get some playing experiences under your belt.

HVUM: Again, referring to one of your recorded interviews, you point out that so many people in the business are all about “me” and forget about “we”. As you think about your career and involvement is there a period of time that the business lost a spirit of team play? What happened?

CK: IMO, the “ego” became more important in the 1970s…and gradually, our experienced group of musicians left in the 1970s and 1980s like I did earlier (actually the fine Barney Kessel was the first one of us to leave, in the late 1960s, before I did – he couldn’t take the rock-grind anymore and left the business to resume his fine Jazz concert touring of Europe etc. But he did come back like I did to only do what he wanted to do in 1970 on – some film calls etc.)

The whole society, probably because of the “self-esteem” popularity of the 1970s, grew to think of themselves first, the me-me-me was in and the old ways of creating records was out…usually from too many machines doing musicians’ jobs (synthesizer 1-man movie scores and records etc.) and then the stage-stuff which was more stage shows then too…not knocking it, but that’s what happened imo…..

But then economy dictated something else….working so hard just to put a roof over your head, and spoiling the kids to make up for the loss of time with our kids etc….our whole society changed….not to mention also, the education system started to focus on note-scales as a way to educate musicians …NOT good….completely different than the earlier (pre-rock) musicians were educated to play the more-complex Standards and Jazz…Chords, chordal notes, substitute chord patterns etc…no one today was alive back then to know how people taught and learned, only a few of us oldies.

Several things contributed to the me-me-me generation….phony singers (auto-tune), stage stuff more than real music, lack of good training and that’s just the music biz…and of course recording changed, music edged downward because of all these factors and engineers with millions of channels and toys, having fun but not knowing how to really get the natural sounds of big-bands, etc…too, all the ins that former engineers paid attention to, even coming in the Studio to make sure they were getting *our* exact musical sounds, those of us from big-bands, jazz who knew what to put on records. Music became “one-on-one” rather than larger groups and bands playing together too…a number of anti-real music things like that led a downward spiral to what we have today: rap and drone “music”…

HVUM: Thanks for that – plenty of food for thought. So, what is Carol Kaye up to today? Are there any specific projects you are working on or that you plan to start?

CK: Since so much needs to be done teaching-wise, I love teaching and now on Skype Jazz lessons for 3 years now, it’s been fun and a great way to learn to really play for musicians world-wide! When I got on Facebook 3 years ago, things opened up for direct access to people who wanted to know the truth behind our Studio Musicians and what we did also, so that’s been exciting to tell them too as well as spread the word about instruction in music to help them get away from ear-killing talent-destroying note-scales.

Parts of my book, writings I’ve done over the years (literally stack a foot high) are being compiled and my autobiography book out…I have some difficulty sometimes with a bad back but mostly am good for 79 years old. It paid never to be a drinker, and am not a drug-user, not on pills either – I never believed in destroying myself with bad habits……some herbs and good diet and exercise yes…I have fun now, but still working too hard. I don’t like the music today and stopped recording, but thinking of going live again playing Jazz Guitar, a career I had to stop to do Studio Work, but it all worked out OK. Also, there are new educational projects being planned for my company.

HVUM: Carol thanks so very much for taking time with us. If we get our way, you’ll be back on our site sooner than later! We remind our followers that you can learn more about Carol, her work, and check out her online educational resources at https://www.carolkaye.com/

Maria001_smallMaria Zubova, Media Writer, Music

Maria Zubova and “Maria’s Sound Space…” is a regular column for HorizonVU Music. Maria has a passion for music and she likes to communicate about it. Maria is herself a trained musician. She is follows photography, arts, fashion, and travel. Of course, she frequently attends different concerts and rock festivals.

Today I’ve decided to enrich your music taste by sharing my views on Markeisha Ensley last EP called “Talk to Me”. Rich, soft and simply unforgettable – the voice of this artist is combined with soulful R&B-jazz melodies. To begin with, Markeisha, who is originally from Aurora, Colorado, is a singer-songwriter, so everything she presents is comes directly from her heart and soul. She is the winner of the 2011 Abe Olman Scholarship Award for Excellence in Songwriting from the Songwriters Hall of Fame/Songwriters Guild of America. Her debut album, Ready, was very successful and Markeisha has received numerous awards and honors. Two songs from that CD, “The Strangest Thing” and “Loving You”, received an Honorable Mention in the Billboard World Songwriting Contest.

Markeisha sang in her hometown church when she was a child so gospel has become the foundation of her music taste and preferences. In addition to her church life, Markeisha benifted from her parents’ record collection which included Sam Cooke, Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Carole King and others. Later, she opened herself to the world of piano music and poetry, so today, we Markeisha joins her very strong and at the same time “honey” textured voice with great piano accompaniment, jazz interludes and gospel-flavor singing.

“Talk To Me” is a music melting pot. Five songs of this EP reflect of Markeisha’s travels to France and the Caribbean. The listener can easily feel the spirit of these wonderful places. The first track of this five-song release is called “Maybe”- a very passionate and emotional song that helps us understand the truth of the artist’s talent. Deep mid-tempo R&B melody combined with rich piano accompaniment and vocal support creates a special atmosphere holding listeners till the end. “Maybe” is followed by “Still Yours” – a very energetic, positive and openhearted pop/R&B song that brings us back to 50s. It is a great example of how Markeisha can be different and many-sided in her music.

Talking about the third track, let’s mention that it’s the EP’s namesake so we can already can feel its importance. As for me, it is one of the brightest songs. It shows artists’ nature, character, and furthermore, it is very balanced in all senses. Mild sounds, jazz spirit, passion, French lyrics, beautiful voice and an unforgettable ending that presents the height of professionalism of Markeisha as a vocalist. The title of the fourth song,“Break Free”, conveys the strong sense of character and energy. It starts with an a’capella part giving the rhythm and creating the necessary atmosphere. It is the message of a woman who is finally free from weight of old relationships. She is very persuasive and enthusiastic so the track has strong beat and chorus sound support. The fifth and the final track of “Talk to Me” album is titled “Someone to Love”- a love song that slows us down. Beautiful melody, romantic lyrics and so understandable: it is prey for some special person who can understand what it means to be the missing part of the soul – someone to love. String instruments make it very emotional as well as full of feelings.

All in all, this wonderful EP gives us so much pleasure of the pleasure and joy of R&B music, jazz interludes, beautiful melodies, soulful gospel. Strong, but uniquely mild, the voice of Markeisha makes “Talk To Me” and EP that I strongly recommend it for everyone. It can be a great beginning for those who still haven’t bought her other ecordings as it is a solid, but rather short way to understand whom she is and the depth of her music. Every song is a highlight and a self-sufficient single. Hope to listen to new albums of this talented artist rather soon. Don’t forget that improvisation and live sound makes R&B and jazz songs speak to its listeners, and knowing that, Markeisha is a great performer, I would like to see her live (at least) once.

Maria Zubova

Maria Brodskaya

Maria Brodskaya

Recently, we had the pleasure of being  introduced to Maria Brodskaya. Maria is a singer, songwriter, pianist and violinist, as well as an actress and photo model.

She was born into a musical family Belgorod, Russia.  At age four Maria began studying music, playing the violin and piano. By the age of seven she began writing music. With her first two songs she earned her first composer award at the famous Ukrainian contest “Young composers” in Kiev. Maria has won many contests as a singer and songwriter. She has performed in Moscow (Russia), Kiev (Ukraine), Berlin (Germany), Copenhagen (Danmark), Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Maria’s  debute album “Apple-Moon” is now available. The CD brings to the fore a blend of pop, soul, slavic folk, jazz and ambient music. It unites the modern and ancient musical traditions. East and West.

So, tell us a bit more about your background and your introduction to music?

MB: I was born in Russia, in a small town Belgorod, in a family of professional musicians – my father was a composer and a pianist, and my mother is a concertmaster and music teacher. When I was six I entered The Special Musical Schoolfor Gifted Children, affiliated with the Conservatory, that was a border school in Kharkov (Ukraine), and five days a week I was living there, because that was the nearest special music school. Then when I finished it ahead of time, cum laude, I entered the Conservatory in two departments – violin and piano. And then, after my studying there for two years, I moved to Moscow and entered the Russian Academy of Music as a singer and songwriter. And I graduated from there cum laude too:) So, now I’m in Moscow. And actually, when they ask me about my nationality and etc – I always answer: “no matter where I am from and where I am know – I consider myself a person without age and nationality, and I’m just a human creature of this world and a citizen of the Earth planet:)

Once you had your focus on music, how did you begin your journey towards becoming a professional ?

MB: Well, actually, apart from my musical education, that was starting when I was four – I began studying music, playing the violin and piano in a music school in my home town before the special music school – I’ve been participated in many contests and festivals, starting from the age of 7. By this age – of seven – I began writing music and, with my first two songs, I won my first composer award in the “Young Composers Contest” in Kiev (that is the capital of Ukraine). Then I’ve had a lot of different awards as a singer and songwriter, and also as a composer of instrumental music. And also I have a lot of performances as an artist-violinist of a chamber and symphony orchestra. And at the age of 16 – when I was a student of the Conservatory – I had my first jazz quartet and sang jazz in club with them. And then, when I came to Moscow I organized my acoustic jazz quartet. Its name was ‘Soft-M”. We played jazz in Moscow jazz clubs, and I performed as a vocalist, violinist, arranger and art director simultaneously. But the last few years I’m focused on my own original music, and I’m working in the studio, writing a lot and recording my albums. I have some performances in Moscow clubs and some events – I play the piano and sing my jazz-folk songs in English, Russian and Ukrainian languages, and I even have a song in Hebrew. And this April I had two concerts in Buenos-Aires with my both programs – from my first album “Apple-Moon” and with my jazz-folk program that I’m singing and playing the piano. But still great part of my time now I devote to my working in the studio. And now I’m recording my new album – my second album in English.

Who were your earliest sources of inspiration?

MB: Well, there was a lot of different music sounding in my parents place. And my first names from my childhood, that have formed my musical world outlook and taste and inspired me were: Diana Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday. And then – who became my gurus more: Bob James, Bill Evance, Pat Metheny, Shirley Horn, Sting, Seal, Sade.

In the classical music I can emphasize my lovely great and important names for my musical life: Sergei Rachmaninov and Claude Debussy.

And also one of the spring of inspiration for me is Ukrainian Folk Music.

Tell us about your travels and exposure to international audiences?

I haven’t had a lot of international performances yet. I recorded my debut album in English in 2011, and my second album in English is getting ready very soon. But I had a few performances in Berlin, and with my new album “Apple-Moon” two concerts in Buenos Aires, that were very successful, and audience was very kind, and people were coming up to me and asking me for my album. And though I have never been to America yet – I’m just getting ready to come -, now I receive a lot of letters from my fans – most of them are Americans and English people, who has listened to my album on Internet, iTunes and on Radio, and they write me how they love my music, and how much they are waiting for my concerts in their countries. So, now I’m doing my best to come to develop and realize myself in the US. Because that is my main professional goal for now, and also my dream.

Let’s take a few minutes to watch your video “Empire of Music”.

Your CD “Apple Moon” is available on iTunes and Amazon (as well as SHOP HorizonVU Music). Give us some background on the album…what’s the message?

MB: Well, this is my real debut album, that is the mix of pop, soul, slavic folk, jazz and ambient music. And the idea of the music in this album was to unite different musical traditions – East and West. I wanted to make the modern music, but to save in it the tones of the slavic folk music with its great history. And telling about some background of this album I’d like to start from the name – “Apple-Moon”, and there is a short funny story:

I didn’t have any name for the album, but I had a few songs for it. But suddenly… – the new song is born via iPad – it was created and arranged on iPad..:)  And this song became the “key-song” and also brought the tittle for the album: because of I love Apple, I love apples, and I love moon – so, the name has come: “Apple-Moon”!

And the interesting thing more is this key-song – “Apple-Moon” is based on the world known old Ukrainian song “Shchedrik” or “Carol of the Bels” – it’s English version of this song. The sense of this song has a big magic, as well as all of the slavic folk music has. And as for the lyrics in this album – I can say they are the mix too: I was trying to compile some kind of the slavic folk poetry images and the magical sense, figurative style, strong emotion of love, drama and tenderness. I wanted to make the songs soft and dramatic one and the same time, emotional and deep, magical and sexy. And I hope I did that, because now people tell me about these things in my music:)

And by the way, I have to say, that here in this album I’m acting not only as a singer and songwriter, but also as a piano-and-violin-player, and also as an author of the arrangements of some songs.

And now “Apple-Moon” airs on different radio stations in the US and UK. And by the way, here in this album I’m acting not only as a singer and songwriter, but also as a piano-and-violin-player, and also as an author of the arrangements of some songs.

What’s is Maria’s plan for 2012? What should our readers be looking for as far as Maria is concerned?

MB: Well, first, now I’m finishing my second English album, that will be very interesting, beautiful and strong music. Something new, I guess. I don’t like any kind of copy-cats in music and in arts on the whole. I really think the most important and interesting thing that artist can do and have to do in their arts is to express their own inner world in their doings.  And that is the only thing that the creative work is for.

Second, my main goal is to realize and develop myself in the US, now I’m preparing a lot of different papers to get american visa, and hope very much to get it as soon as my new album is ready. So, I will have two recorded albums in my hands – that are my original music and lyrics. And that will be my completed concert program. And more over, there is two hundred songs in my composer baggage, and by this moment thirty songs from them are in English. So, I’m also planning to record not only the second, but also the third album in this year, at least.

I’m planning to come to the US with God’s help, create a band there, and of course I hope to have the touting through the US, and realize all my skills and creative ideas on the stage, in my music and my performance. I hope to get a serious contract with the label, maybe major – I know I can be a very good asset:))  Of course, I am setting the goal and have a big hope to win Grammies as an interesting artist with interesting music – these are  grerat goals and aspirations for any musician. I am not the sort of girl who is going to give up, I’m intending to keep fighting for my dreams and for myself, for my right to be heard and realized in this world, and I’m going to win that!

Maria, we appreciate you time and we certainly wish you all the very best  going forward.  Maria’s album is available on iTunes and Amazon (directly and through SHOP HorizonVU Music). Let’s talk again soon!

Visit Maria Brodskaya at 

Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
Label: Risa Hall
Format: CD

Independently released on her own label, ‘Glass Half…?’ is the debut album from New York born and now Manchester-based Risa Hall, but the talented actress/singer/songwriter has been involved with music for many years. The twelve original songs spread over the album, which was produced by Nigel Stonier (Thea Gilmore, Sandi Thorn, Waterboys), take in a breathtaking variety of styles which isn’t so surprising given Risa’s experience in films, voiceovers and musicals.

It could have been all over the place of course; drawing on elements taken from all phases of her long career means that show tunes could sit uneasily next to Risa’s blues and jazz leanings and songs that reflect her pop sensibilities. It shouldn’t really work over the length of an album, but Risa has succeeded in producing an eclectic set of songs that flow very nicely together.

It all starts with ‘Can’t Take Away’ and we’re immediately struck by the power in Risa’s vocals. She certainly isn’t of the popular cutesy, little-girl-lost school. Here is a woman who sings from the heart and grabs your attention. That opening song shows Risa’s bluesy side and, as appealing, well-structured and brilliantly produced and performed as it is there is a feeling that if the following eleven songs are in the same vein that, unfortunately, despite Risa’s remarkable vocals we’ve heard it all before. Maybe not as proficiently as this but that particular song offers nothing new. Having said that, it’s the first inkling that Risa Hall is an outstanding vocalist.

Thankfully the following song, the poppy ‘Shooting Stars’ shows another side to Risa’s talents. Almost every song on ‘Glass Half…?’ is radically different to the one that precedes it and the album seems to improve with each song and certainly with each listen. Risa is one of those rare artists who are impossible to pigeonhole. On that opening cut we are reminded of Janis Joplin, Elkie Brooks and almost any other female singer from the last five decades who sang with passion and expression in their vocals. But it only lasts for that one song; then we realise that here is a unique talent, a singer who can handle, and seemingly handle with ease, any genre she cares to approach.

Given his past accomplishments I’m sure these songs are brought to life not just by his production skills but by the musical contributions that Nigel Stonier makes to each song. Along with co-producer Tracey Browne he adds the perfect sound to frame Risa’s outstanding vocals.

But without wishing to take any credit away from the sterling job the producers and other musicians make one wonders if Risa is one of those singers who would sound good no matter what she sings. Unusually for such a powerful singer there’s a certain amount of that very English purity that dominated the folk scene of the sixties and seventies in her vocals. On tracks such as ‘The Grail’ Risa mixes folk leanings, especially notable on this song by the wind instruments, with her other influences to create sounds that are totally unique to her.

Risa follows that song with ‘Candy Coated Hell’ which shows yet another side; this time by drawing from bands like the Ramones, which again is no big surprise given her musical pedigree, and while never losing sight of the melody it’s a major departure from the previous song.

The album closes with ‘Roses’ where the purity in Risa’s vocals really shines through, there’s no need for a lyric sheet here, the words ring out crystal clear, the lone violin weeps out the melody accompanied by piano and once again Risa’s vocals are first-class.

At the risk of repeating myself I have to say that this is one of the most eclectic yet complete albums that has come my way recently. It’s highly recommended for those who are looking for something a little different and which covers more than one base. With a voice like that Risa deserves all the acclaim that must surely come her way.

Malcom Carter’s review can be found at  http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Review.aspx?id=7711

As good fortune would have it, we had the opportunity to meet at the lovely Imprimerie café near the Louvre, with one of Paris’ brightest new stars to hit the stage, recording artist Victoria Rummler. Vicki, who is currently working on her second album, was able to take some time to sit down with us to discuss life and music in Paris. We’re very lucky to know her both professionally and as a friend. She is tall, blond and blue-eyed, she brightens the room with her shy smile. She’s  best known  for  of her  jazz, but  she crosses over with ease – pop, acoustic, alternative.

Hi, you do go by Vicki, right?

Hi, yes, Vicki’s fine, actually I only started using Victoria when I moved to Paris. People here really love that name – and Vicki is a dog’s name here! (laughs)

So, where are you from originally?

I was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, outside Detroit, and grew up in Rochester, New York, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Miami. We moved a lot because my Dad was with Kodak and got transferred every few years. And I went to Williams College in Massachusetts.

How did your musical journey begin?

My earliest memory is of singing with my Dad in the car. He taught me how to hear and sing harmony, and also to appreciate different languages, since we sang a song in German. I started piano lessons at age 6 and have always loved Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Debussy. In Miami I played in piano competitions, became a cheerleader, sang with a church group that toured Mexico and Central America, and performed with a show chorus in high school. We did some pretty hip stuff at the time – a Chicago medley comes to mind, with some unforgettable choreography on “25 or 6 to 4” (laughs). My senior year I sang with the stage band – we did a strange mixture of Carpenters songs, disco and big band music. I remember hearing Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” for the first time and being totally blown away! I rushed home to let my parents hear it – of course they’d grown up with it and had a good laugh at my expense. But the jazz seed was planted! I also directed and arranged for an a cappella group, the Ephlats, at Williams College. My favorite contribution was the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes.”

How did you get from Miami to Williams College to Paris? That is more than a taxi cab ride.

(Laughs) That’s for sure. I had always wanted to go to college in New England, and Williams just felt right, so I applied and wasacceptedfor early admission. After graduating in 1988, I wanted something totally different. I’ve always been fascinated by foreign languages and cultures, so I took off for Munich, Germany. What was supposed to be 6 months turned into 5 years, working with BMG Records, and performing with a cabaret/performance art group in German. We did these wacky shows, using psychedelic slides and wearing various things on our heads: bathing caps, giant fluorescent pieces of fruit, blinking Eiffel towers (I kid you not) – a premonition of my future in Paris!

So you ended up in the Paris jazz world by way of Munich?

Pretty much. Again, it was time to shake it up a bit, take on a new challenge, learn another culture. In 1993 I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream by spending a few months in Paris – and I’ve been here ever since! I worked for MCA (now Universal) for almost 4 years, and have been a freelance vocalist/composer/pianist/lyricist for 10.

How does living and performing in France compare with Germany, is it as extreme as we would think?

Kind of. It’s hard to generalize, and it’s important to mention that Paris is like an island different from the rest of France (like NY in the US). But I often found the German lifestyle more similar to the American: more organized, straightforward. In France things seem more complicated, but also more creative. For example, when I worked for the record companies and would call someone in Germany, we would say our name instead of “hello,” get right to the point and the call would be over in 3 minutes. With the French we would talk about the weather, the weekend, or something random for about 15 minutes, and then get to the reason why we were calling. It’s tricky, but fun figuring out how people work. And it’s easier than if I had moved to, say, Bangladesh! (laughs)

“Jazz in Paris” has a better ring to it than “Jazz in Dhaka”? (laughs)

Can you picture that? (laughs) My parents would have been thrilled!

Tell us about your music. Your style is very pure, vocals are both fragile and solid, and it all seems very unique. How did all of that come together?

I did classical and pop and yes disco, growing up, and concentrated on jazz for several years after moving to Paris. The American jazz influencein Paris is huge and it was kind of natural to continue that. I’ve sung in a lot of vocal groups and have tried to remove all boundaries to what I can sing. As for my own style, it’s intricately tied to my experiences in different US cities growing up, in Munich and Paris, the people I’ve met and things I’ve learned along the way. So today it goes beyond jazz and runs the gamut of emotions and genres. It can be playful or powerful, structured or improvised. But more and more it seems to be a direct reflection of my own mood and experience at the moment.

How do Parisian crowds differ from, say, New York or Chicago?

It’s funny, my solo act debuted in France, so I was used to audiences not necessarily knowing all the standards or understanding all the lyrics. So when I did my first US tour in 2005, I was shocked, but thrilled that people hung on every word! It added a whole new dimension to how I could communicate. For example, in Des Moines I did a spontaneous version of “Georgia,” calling it “Iowa.” That show got a standing ovation.

Your first album, “Twinkle,” opened to some great reviews. Tell us a bit about that.

“Twinkle” was released on Pitch Puppy Productions in 2004. It was a presentation of my musical journey up until that point. There’s a wide selection of tunes, from standards “I Could Write a Book” and “They Can’t Take That Away” to a tongue-in-cheek original called “Cocktail Optimism” and waltz ballad “Words,” a cover of Pat Metheny’s “James,” and a Japanese traditional song called “Watashi.” The instrumentation differs from one tune to the next, from piano, bass, drums/percussion to guitar and steel drum. The reviews were great to read. Made me want to record more.

You also perform with an a cappella group?

Yes, a pretty wild, really successful project. In 2005 I was invited to participate in the second album by the cutting-edge French electro-a cappella group “Les Grandes Gueules” (the Big Mouths) for SONY-BMG, released in March 2006. There are 6 vocalists in the group – 3 women, 3 men. The album title, “Vocal Extreme,” pretty much describes it. We experiment with sound, both vocally and electronically, there’s a sound engineer who’s basically the seventh artist in the group. We really push the limits of what can be done with several-part harmony. Being the only American in the group is interesting and has really pushed me linguistically and culturally. A far cry from the stage at Palmetto High School for sure.

So you’re now working on a follow-up album?

Yes, it should be released in the coming months.

How does this album differ from your debut?

The title is “Am I Am,” which is also the title of one of the tracks. I like the symmetry of the phrase, and the fact that it combines a questionand answer. The album is a combination of live recording and programming, including guitar, Fender Rhodes, percussion, electric bass, and special guest stars Olivier Ker Ourio on harmonica and Emmanuel Bex on organ. There are 11 tracks: 9 original tunes, 2 covers and my unusual take on the children’s song “Frère Jacques.” This new project feels like a bolder affirmation of my style, which was recently described as “Erykah Badu and Bobby McFerrin channeling Mel Tormé, somewhere between Paris and Rio.” Not a bad assessment! There are some funk, pop and Brazilian influences, a touch of humor, and lyrics about coming to terms with being an expat, after almost 20 years of living abroad: hellos and goodbyes, traveling, trying to belong, and knowing different languages. It’s also about the cyclical pattern life seems to take: although you leave your past behind, it’s always a part of you and can resurface in your actions or relationships.

Have to tell you – we love the album and the coming together of  genres.  The lead track, “Guys With Ties”  is just – well – infectious!

What does it mean to you to be a professional musician in 2010?

It means being as open and flexible as possible, while staying centered on what you’re experiencing. Every person you meet can influence you, and every project you participate in can feed your own creativity. The day-to-day life can be challenging, but the power of music is fascinating, therapeutic, sometimes bizarre – totally worth it!

Vicki, thank you for your time, it was great talking with you and we wish you the best of luck with your new album.

Thank you, it was great. Enjoy the good weather!

Victoria Rummler will provide a sneak preview of her new album on Friday, July 16 at 9 p.m. at the China, 50, rue de Charenton, 75012 Paris, http://www.lechina.eu/ and on Saturday, July 17 at 7 p.m. at the prestigious Nice Jazz Festival, Scène Matisse, http://www.nicejazzfestival.fr/.

http://www.victoriarummler.com

http://www.myspace.com/vrummler

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