May 29, 2024

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Interview with Sylvia Brooks: … to use the colors of my voice in different ways to tell different parts of the story: Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Sylvia Brooks. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Sylvia Brooks: – I grew up in Miami in a musical household- My dad was a first call Jazz pianist and arranger, and my mom was an Opera Singer.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal?

SB: – Originally, I wanted to be a classical actress- so I went to a Classical Theatre School. But, when my dad died, and I was looking through his music, something awoke in me, and I decided to start working on some of the music that I grew up listening to as a child.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

SB: – I started working in Los Angeles with a wonderful pianist named Tom Garvin and he helped me begin to understand this music. He’s passed away since, but he was really my mentor and my friend. He said something to me that really helped me understand artistry. He said, don’t try to decide who you want to be, just let it reveal itself to you. He also told me to not listen to other vocalists on a song that I was working on, because it would influence my delivery. He said; find it yourself, in your own voice.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

SB: – I learned to trust the story of the song, and to use my voice more selectively- to use the colors of my voice in different ways to tell different parts of the story. Being in the recording studio was a huge help- there is nowhere to hide there. Also, to work with less vibrato and incorporate more straight tone- I’ve studied voice for years, so it really becomes a matter of what you decide to do when-

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

SB: – I work a lot on my upper register to keep the range in my voice- also; I have worked a lot on learning to swing. A friend of mine, Cathy Segal Garcia said something interesting to me, she said, everyone swings differently- everyone feels it differently- that really opened things up for me.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

SB: – I like the use of melodic counterpoint- which is why I wanted to use horns and reeds on The Arrangement. I consider myself more of a Classic Jazz artist- so, to me, it’s more about harmonies and how they are used to create the structure and mood of the composition.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: <The Arrangement>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?

SB: – I’m very proud of the Arrangement. I wanted to make a record that was musically rich, and somewhat unpredictable. Christian Jacob, Otmaro Ruiz, Jeff Colella, Kim Richmond and Quinn Johnson all have very different musical styles- and so we ended up with an album full of diversity. And yet, it’s very cohesive at the same time. I also included three original compositions- so my next album will have more original material on it- and I’m thinking about making it a little grittier through a different combination of instruments, which I will hold close to the vest until it comes out!

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

SB: – There is no doubt about it that this is a very difficult business….and that is a very important part of it, it is a business, and a lot of people lose sight of that. In talking to students, I would say stay true to yourself, learn your craft, (really important!) and have the courage of your convictions. For peers, we are all in very different places. I try to support the people that I believe in.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

SB: – Absolutely! I personally think that we are in a very exciting time. But I do believe that we all need to open our minds, and allow more voices in- perhaps they don’t always fit the preconceived notions of what Jazz is, but perhaps, the new voices can breathe some new life into the art form and in doing so, make it more accessible to younger people.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

SB: – Just what I said above! You read my mind!

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

SB: – Oh boy, that’s a big question! I have a very zin belief- I believe that we are all on this journey for a reason, that we were put here to do something- and sometimes you can’t always understand why it doesn’t always go the way you think it should- but that’s the beauty of it- it goes exactly as it’s meant to go. It’s important to stay true to your voice- and contribute as much value as possible while you are on this earth- and it will go the way it goes.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

SB: – I’m really not sure- life to me is like an onion, you just keep peeling back the layers. I just hope that when something presents itself to me, that I am smart enough and wise enough to see it. I suppose that is my greatest fear- not being tuned in-.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

SB: – Writing more songs – writing deeper stories-

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

SB: – All good music is similar, because it’s so primal. If it makes the listener feel something, then it’s doing its job.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

SB: – I just listened to Cheryl Bentynes’ new album ReArranging Shadows- where she deconstructs the music of Stephen Sondheim- really remarkable piece of work.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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