Video to Watch - January 1, 2013
In case you didn't see this before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh-2HKQI3Dg
In case you didn't see this before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh-2HKQI3Dg
Laurie Antonioli is the very definition of a jazz singer. As director of one of the most innovative solo jazz vocal programs in the United States, the Jazzschool Institute, Antonioli continues to expand the possibilities of jazz singing. She is known for her inventive spirit and an ever-evolving talent graced with an impressive sense of ingenuity. Originally from the Bay Area, Antonioli developed her skills working with jazz masters, Mark Murphy, Bobby McFerrin, Jon Hendricks, Cedar Walton and Joe Henderson. Since 1985 she has devoted the majority of her time as a music educator abroad at KUG University in Graz, Austria returning in 2006 to teach at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. Along with being an accomplished educator, Antonioli reminds us through her recordings and performances that she is a major influence as a vocalist and lyricist bringing innovation and mindfulness to any project.
Ellen Johnson: What initially inspired you to sing jazz and do you think that being a woman made it more challenging to participate in the jazz community?
Laurie Antonioli: My maternal grandmother gave me a stack of 78’s from singer and pianist Nellie Lutcher when I was about 16 years old. Nellie inspired me to get into jazz and from there, I found a jazz program at Mt. Hood College in Oregon. Between 1976 and 1979 I discovered the music of Jackie and Roy (with the Charlie Ventura “Bop for the People” band) and Norma Winstone (with Kenny Wheeler in the Azimuth band). I never thought about being a woman in jazz or what that meant. It really wasn’t an issue for me because I was so excited about the music.
EJ: Who were some of your mentors not only as a musician but also as a woman pursuing this career choice?
LA: During my early years the older jazz musicians were very influential by shaping and inspiring me and they continue to do so to this day. Musicians like Pony Poindexter, Joe Henderson, Mark Murphy, George Cables, Richie Beirach and many others. I spent most of my time around the instrumentalists because that was where I felt I could really learn about jazz. The first time I ever sat in at a jam session I sang Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” up-tempo. I found that by learning many of the instrumental tunes I could easily sit in with the horn players at the sessions. Because of this, the musicians saw me as a singer that didn’t have “special” considerations like doing songs in odd keys or only doing ballads. I learned a lot hanging out with other musicians, listening, sitting in, going to jam sessions and being part of the scene. Since I was so focused on the music, I never noticed any discrimination because I was a woman. However, I do think stereotypes exist and I am aware of the frustrations female vocalists go through dealing with those stereotypes. When I was 22 years old, Betty Carter gave me advice backstage at a festival in Munich. I was feeling sorry for myself because being on the road and being the only woman in the band was really difficult for me. She said, “You’ll be fine, and you’ve got it easy compared to what I went through when I was your age.” I realized that I did have it easy compared to Billie, Betty, Sarah and all of those singers before me. They were not just female, they were black females and the racism they experienced was much more challenging than anything I went through. I have so much respect for the strength and unbelievable talent of all those brave women.
EJ: You’ve been depicted as a strikingly original singer who is carving new frontiers in vocal jazz. You put your own stamp on each song through your choice of material, arrangements and musical collaborations. Can you expound on what motivated you to take this direction?
LA: My last two recordings “American Dreams” and “Foreign Affair” are very intentional in terms of going for a cohesive sound. In both cases, the vibe was exactly what I had in mind for the band and this sound informed my singing and repertoire. My other recordings are duets with well-established pianists, George Cables and Richie Beirach, and these records have a range of songs and material. The personal style and deep collaboration with both George and Richie influenced how I sang and what material was selected. I think my ability to work closely with instrumentalists and create something original is what defines me as a singer. I rely on these musical relationships and seek them out. Recently I lost my dear friend and songwriting partner, Fritz Pauer. His compositions with my lyrics take up half of the “American Dreams” recording and I’ve got another 25 songs of ours that still need to be recorded. His passing made me realize how priceless my musical relationships are and how grateful I am to have had such wonderful collaborators.
EJ: Since you spent time in Europe performing and teaching vocal jazz at KUG University in Graz what differences did you discover between Europe and the USA?
LA: In Europe, music education is an essential and valued part of an overall education. Europeans definitely honor art and culture in a way that Americans don’t. Many of the students I met in Europe had music lessons starting at a young age. They play classical piano, read music and perform recitals in beautiful concert halls. The basic musicianship of the European singer going into a university is generally much higher than in the States. However, in jazz, Americans usually have an advantage assuming everyone is required to sing in English. As jazz singing becomes more international, the definition of a jazz singer continues to evolve. With so much genre-bending happening today, the look and feel of a jazz singer is going to be completely transformed in the next ten years. We may need to reconsider the repertoire and requirements we are currently developing in the jazz institutes because of this fact. If a young singer in Poland can swing, take an improvised solo and compose in her native language, then that music might very well be “jazz” and not have anything to do with the standard repertoire we cling to in the States.
EJ: In terms of educating jazz vocalists, what is your personal philosophy, how do you view the condition of vocal jazz education today and what are your visions for the future?
LA: For the last five years I’ve been the vocal chair at the Jazzschool. That includes the Community school as well as the Institute, a degree program now in its fourth year. Right now I don’t think vocal jazz education is anywhere near the instrumental programs. Most colleges don’t have a solo vocal path in jazz like we do at the Jazzschool. To develop a great jazz vocalist, you need to develop a great jazz musician. A jazz singer needs to know more than just memorizing a song, it requires understanding the form, the harmony, the structure, the history and the feeling of jazz. If you don’t know where to begin as a jazz singer, just listen to as much instrumental jazz as you can. Learn all the solos on the Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” album and figure out what pianists and drummers you like. In other words, familiarize yourself with jazz. Then, when it comes time to sing, you’ll have a better idea of what to do.
EJ: What new directions would you like to take with your music? Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with if you had the opportunity?
LA: Since my “American Dreams” band is just about perfect and I’ve got more than enough material, I’d like to have the resources to make two or three more records together. If I had the opportunity I’d also love to do a duo recording with Keith Jarrett. I’m very interested in doing a recording with strings or an orchestra with some great arrangements. I’d like something moody and lush that feels like “Sketches of Spain,” with French horns, oboes and dark brass instruments.
EJ: Since our music reflects our life, what other influences help to inspire you as jazz artist and educator?
As a young girl I had a strict ballet teacher who taught me how much effort and practice is needed to be an accomplished artist. I still remember the first compliment she ever gave me. It meant so much and I knew I had earned it. I’m so grateful to have had such strong fundamentals in my life. Just like my ballet teacher I try to give my students a healthy dose of reality mixed with loving-kindness. That’s the heart of Buddhism, a philosophy and spiritual path that I study and aspire to internalize.
EJ: What advice would you give specifically to women who desire a career in jazz?
I think the times have changed significantly since I was a young woman on the jazz scene. The proliferation of female instrumentalists is incredible. I think that the younger generation is much more open to women being in whatever profession they choose. My advice to women who want to pursue a career in jazz, whether they are an instrumentalist or a vocalist, is to passionately love and adore the music. This is essential because it’s not an easy path although it is an amazingly rich and wonderfully deep journey. This incredible journey has taken me around the world and given me the opportunity to sing and create a space to educate others about the music. I hope through my work at the Jazzschool that I can pass on this spirit and inspire others along the road.
Laurie lends her voice to this Chevy commercial that is airing on the 2012 Olympics. Check it out:
When it comes to vocals, the Jazzschool has become an invaluable forum for transmitting the tradition and presenting many of the most creative singers on the scene.
The iTunes account has been corrupted. Please buy all music through CDBaby until we fix the problem:
In February, he'll be here on the West Coast. We're doing SF Yoshi's, master classes and some other West Coast venues. Stay tuned!
Anyone interested in receiving the charts for the "American Dreams" recording contact Laurie at email@example.com
San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, May 10th Laurie Antonioli is having a party and has invited all of her friends - Clairdee, Kim Nalley, Madeline Eastman, Theo Bleckmann and Kitty Margolis, to name just a few of the well-known singers who preach what they practice as part of the Jazzschool's vocal faculty. Antonioli has been involved with the school for about 10 years, teaching between gigs when she was in the Bay Area. After spending several years performing in Europe, she returned to the Bay Area and in 2006 was offered the job of director of the Jazzschool's Vocal Jazz Studies program, which involves not only developing the vocal education program but also finding people in the Bay Area music community to teach at the school, coordinating concerts and setting up workshops. She sees teaching as a natural extension of performing. "Teaching is a very creative act, especially when you're working with singers and songs and phrasing and interpretation," she says. "It's a very creative thing to do. I've had enough of a career traveling, so I'm not really keen on being on the road all the time." She jokes about inviting all her friends to teach at the school, but it's her position in the Bay Area music scene that gives her access to great singers who are also great teachers. "I'm not an academic when it comes to music," she says. "I learned on the bandstand - I learned more in the oral tradition. So I try to teach that way, too." The challenge, she says, is: "Here's this thing that's very expressive, emotive, and now we're going to put it into a school, but you have to make sure you don't wring the life out of it."
San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, May 10th
Laurie Antonioli is having a party and has invited all of her friends - Clairdee, Kim Nalley, Madeline Eastman, Theo Bleckmann and Kitty Margolis, to name just a few of the well-known singers who preach what they practice as part of the Jazzschool's vocal faculty.
Antonioli has been involved with the school for about 10 years, teaching between gigs when she was in the Bay Area. After spending several years performing in Europe, she returned to the Bay Area and in 2006 was offered the job of director of the Jazzschool's Vocal Jazz Studies program, which involves not only developing the vocal education program but also finding people in the Bay Area music community to teach at the school, coordinating concerts and setting up workshops.
She sees teaching as a natural extension of performing.
"Teaching is a very creative act, especially when you're working with singers and songs and phrasing and interpretation," she says. "It's a very creative thing to do. I've had enough of a career traveling, so I'm not really keen on being on the road all the time." She jokes about inviting all her friends to teach at the school, but it's her position in the Bay Area music scene that gives her access to great singers who are also great teachers.
"I'm not an academic when it comes to music," she says. "I learned on the bandstand - I learned more in the oral tradition. So I try to teach that way, too."
The challenge, she says, is: "Here's this thing that's very expressive, emotive, and now we're going to put it into a school, but you have to make sure you don't wring the life out of it."
It’s ironic, really, that one of America’s foremost jazz vocal instructors is comparatively little known as a jazz vocalist. It’s equally ironic that so exceptional a jazz teacher garnered her training less from formal classes than from studying three masters: Nancy King, Mark Murphy and Pony Poindexter. Her work as an educator began in 2002 at KUG University in Graz, Austria, and it was there she began collaborating with pianist and composer Fritz Pauer.
Five of their joint efforts form the backbone of this cunning reverse travelogue, which examines the tremendous pull of home and its familiar comforts one feels from distant shores. American Dreams opens with two ostensibly Austria-centric collaborations: the sizzling, propulsive “Samba Nada Brahma,” shaped of the homesickness for the Marin countryside Antonioli felt upon discovering the Vienna woods, and the dreamily melancholy “Vienna Blues,” which speaks to the hopeless desire of finding an ideal locale to rekindle a fading romance. Their “How Long” paints a stirringly plaintive portrait of a woman’s wait for her lover’s return, while “Sweet Sound of Spring,” with its folk underpinnings, examines the intense—if too often overlooked—beauty of the familiar.
Antonioli returns to domestic musical soil for an arresting, angular “Moonlight in Vermont,” a languid “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” wide as the Oklahoma sky, and a delightfully twangy “Dreary Black Hills” that opens up to reveal the glorious expansiveness of her own “Get Up and Go.” But it is her gently soaring, blues-lined “America the Beautiful,” arranged by guitarist Dave McNab, that truly brings the album home.
American Dreams, Antonioli's song of praise to her homeland, showcases a wonderfully confident jazz vocalist and consummate storyteller at the top of her game.
Greetings everyone! Any of the original songs on the new "American Dreams" CD are available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Laurie's first LP, "Soul Eyes," a duo with George Cables, is available. These are brand new, unopened LP's. Cost: $20 plus postage. Please send an email to email@example.com for more information.
Come to the beautiful room at Yoshi's San Francisco on Monday, August 23rd at 8pm. One show only! The entire American Dreams band will be there.
Follow this link to buy tickets: http://www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco/jazzclub/artist/show/1366
"A Constellation in the West"
Spotlight Song of the Week:
Laurie Antonioli: Just a Dream
I continue to receive albums of fine jazz singing, and the artists continue to be female. The latest example to come my way is Laurie Antonioli. The album is American Dreams, and the songs are mostly originals. Antonioli writes the words, and uses a number of cowriters for the music, most notably Fritz Pauer. Antonioli and her collaborators create songs that sound like standards. There is a lush romanticism in the words and melodies that belongs to a different, more innocent time. And Antonioli’s performances make it work. These songs wind up sounding classic, not dated. Antonioli shows impressive technical ability, but more than that, she believes in those songs, and the honest emotion comes through on each song. Just A Dream is a fine example, just one of many found here.
Here it is: http://bit.ly/baNPfW