Hummm... things about me....
I use to listen to my mother play the piano and try to follow her... and especially my Grandmother sing... and Grandparents dance boy did I love watching them dance! Music was always in my home. On Saturdays Mommy and Grammie would play anything from Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Basie to Bach, Mozart, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Paul Robeson, William Warfield, to Stevie Wonder, the Beetles, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway... everything and I tried to soak up everything. But my favorite was when Grammie would sing. I always got a kick and was glued to when she would sing and dance. It makes me smile just thinking about her. She was one of the reasons I wanted to be a jazz singer. That and I just loved to sing!
My uncle Douglas and I would sing and play records it seemed like any chance we got. I would pretend to have a microphone and be a famous jazz singer like Billie Holiday.
I was incredibly shy but I was always opened up when it came to singing. i would put on shows with my sister in front of the view-finder that would create a spotlight and we would put on a show.
I know I drove my mother crazy because I dreamed of living in NYC and being a jazz singer and now—so much so that she had a terrible flu and drove me to live in NYC at my insistence or persistence. I nagged her 3 days before Christmas to move into my adopted sister, Roz's old apartment. The day after she moved out to New Jersey I moved in! I thought of it as my Christmas gift. It was kinda selfish now thinking of how sick my mother was...
I went to school for music but my real education came in the form of moving to NYC and even now I'm learning and growing as I travel more and meet different musicians from around the globe. I'm grateful to be an artist and pray to be and do more, learn more and grow more. I knew I wanted to be a musician when.. I was seven years old and proclaimed to my Mother, I wanted to be a jazz singer and go to Hampton Institute (now it's Hampton University)!
Teachers and/or influences?
My Grandmother, Mother, Grandfather and uncle Douglas... are my musical influences ~ Grammie sang with a style and soul unique and sassy! She is the voice I hear in my head and who would say "You might want to learn this... or that."
My cousin, Roland Carter whose musicianship and brilliant gifts continue to show by example - I have to admit he use to say that I was lazy. I think I still am to some degree but I work on making him proud and trying to push more and more...
Robert Ransom, my mentor, teacher and adopted father figure continues to advise and support me. I love him very much. He always gives me sound advice and support.
Doctor Effie Gardner, Doc ~ Well she's just amazing! I love her so much. She heard me and saw me and told me that I should move to Paris when I finished at Hampton. I didn't because I had the NYC bug. But when I go to France every time... I think of her and her encouragement. I probably would speak better French because my French sucks... but I try.
Weldon Irvine showed me the way through the doors of NYC and heard talent when I was beginning to doubt myself. He is no longer with us but he continues to be in my heart. I'm forever grateful to him and Larry Willis who believed in my talent and gave me courage to be a jazz vocalist. Weldon played on my demo and gigs when I first moved here. He drove me around and introduced me to cats that I would have never have met. It still amazes me that he took interest in me and my music. I will love him always!
Derrick & Vincent Gardner, my brothers from another mother but their mother was also a great influence on me. D & V continue to love, support, teach, guide and encourage me! Of course there are those whose shoulders I stand upon, Billie, Sarah, Ella, Dinah, Dakota, Mr. B, Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams, Jimmy Rushing, Ernestine Anderson, Abbey Lincoln, etc. Dizzy, Coltrane, Bird, Johnny Hodges, Coleman Hawkins, Clifford Brown, Milt Hinton, Ben Riley, Ray Drummond, Kenny Barron... it can go on forever.
My dream band changes...
Alain Jean-Marie, Alvin Queen, Gerald Cannon, James Genus Ben Riley, Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond Derrick Gardner, Carlos Henriquez, Dado Moroni, Ali Jackson, Sherman Irby, Vincent Gardner, Lou Volpe, Gary Fritz, Buddy Williams, Larry Willis, Elio et Boulou Ferre, Olivier Gatto, Camélia Ben Naceur... It's always changing and growing.
One dream came true I was able to record with Alain Jean-Marie! Stay tuned!!!
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
I had been in NYC for about a year and would buy pictures of musicians that I loved... I had just purchased a photo of Ray Brown from this shop I loved in the Village. I was walking across from the Blue Note with my new photo and ran right into Ray Brown. I asked him to sign for me and he made a joke about how did I know who he was there... he signed it with a great deal of humor and kindness... and I gave the photo to a dear friend who is a great bassist!
I was sitting in at a jam session at the Blue Note and Jimmy Scott was in the house. He had refused to sing (without being paid)... I had had problems with some musicians who refused to play with me. Gerald Cannon and David Hazeltine bailed me out and played with me... Gerald feeling sorry for me and was a hero to me that night. I sang "Embraceable You" and the next thing I know Jimmy Scott was asking to shadow me.... "Me!" I was prepared to give him the mike and he said "No, I want to shadow you" Which he did... at the end of the song, we kissed. It was the music!!! The music... it was a dream... one of my best experiences!
Every venue is my favorite -I get to be in the moment. I've never been ill treated... If I had to give a favorite though maybe the Half Note in Greece or Altxerri Jazz Bar, in San Sebastian, Spain.
I guess that's my introduction to me -
Thank you for your love and support!