Jazz interview with jazz singer Shaynee Rainbolt. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Shaynee Rainbolt: – I grew up in California. Born in Los Angeles, but we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was 10. I’ve always been interested in music. I think it was because it was a part of our family. My uncle, Leon Levitch, was a classical music composer. My mother sang for fun and my father loved music. There was always music playing – everything from big band to salsa to the Beatles. We had a piano and I loved to play around on it. And we had band from 1st grade so I tried EVERYTHING they would let me try. Ultimately, I was a better singer than instrumentalist but I got a good musical education from a young age.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?
SHR: – I was always a music theater kid. I went to San Francisco State University and got a BA in Drama with a Music Theater emphasis. But I was always listening to jazz singers because I loved it so much. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I heard Wanda Stafford singing at a club near my house in Marin County and thought – that’s what I want to do. She took me on as a student, and with a lot of hard work I found myself on a new path. I’ve also had the good fortune of working with phenomenal musicians who have been generous with their gifts and taught me along the way. Projects with legends like Russ Garcia and Donn Trenner were master classes in the genre. I just knuckled-down and tried to live up to their faith in me.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
SHR: – As a singer, your body is your instrument so some changes are just a function of physiology and age. Physically, my voice has lowered a bit over the years. But as I’ve gotten more mature, my tastes have changed as well and with the benefit of recording you find out what you like and don’t like.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
SHR: – I have a series of exercises that I’ve gathered along the way from various teachers. They include everything from range and registration to rhythm. I also enjoy learning horn lines and singing along with jazz instrumental solos for fun.
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you this 2017 year?
SHR: – Short list … Doug Beavers ‘The Art of the Arrangement’, Bria Skonberg ‘With a Twist’, Mark Winkler “The Company I Keep” Dan Tepfer, Eleven Cages, Cheryl Bentyne “Rearrangements of Shadows”.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Shaynee Rainbolt certainly has no memory …?
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? Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
SHR: – It’s frustrating these days since musicians are also expected to produce, manage and market their own careers. First, I would encourage them to stay focused on the music and remember they are an artist first. Then I would tell them to learn about the business of making music so they can be the one in charge of their own career. Even musicians who grow to have a manager, agent or label needs to understand the music business so they aren’t taken advantage of.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
SHR: – They all have been special in some way – but if I had to pick it would be Shaynee Rainbolt Sings Russell Garcia and Two for the Road with Donn Trenner.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
SHR: – I taught at an afterschool program in Harlem for several years and it’s my experience that if you expose people at a young age to all types of music, they will find what speaks to them and it will open up their hearts, minds and ears. We used to have sessions where I would find something I loved on youtube and share it with them (usually a standard sung by a legend), and then they would do the same for me (usually hip-hop or contemporary pop). I found that we both found music we didn’t know that we came to enjoy.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
SHR: – I think spirit is life and that if you live your life with loving intention you positively contribute to the spirit of the universe. If that is through music, art or accounting it doesn’t matter. Ok – that sounds pretentious, but I do believe that we are all connected to each other and the planet and that perhaps the sense of that is what we feel as spirit.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
SHR: – I try not to focus on fear and look forward to the future. I prefer to think that much is possible if you are willing to work for it.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
SHR: – That the clubs that have ‘pay-to-play’ models would go back to hiring musicians, paying them promoting them and their rooms. I prefer the model where the venue works to develop their brand rather than relying on musicians to put ‘butts in seats.’ Artists and venues could work together to build audiences more effectively than simply relying on existing audiences that know the artist. If you knew that the style and quality of music at a particular venue was reliable, wouldn’t you be more likely to go hear someone you didn’t know?
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
SHR: – I’m not sure exactly … I’ve been working on a project for a long time that would incorporate my Sephardic heritage but it’s still in the research and dream phase.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
SHR: – Funny you should ask … that is part of my consideration of doing the Sephardic project. I think where there is improvisation, there is Jazz – but Jazz is like anything else…ever evolving so I guess my answer is – there can be.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
SHR: – I’ve been on a jazz piano kick lateley and have been enjoying some new and some old: Bill Evens, Dan Tepher, Joe Alterman, Josh Nelson and Benny Green.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go.
SHR: – Musically – the big band era!
JBN.S: – So far, I ask, please your question to me …
SHR: – How did you find yourself in Jazz Journalism? How were you introduced to me and my music? Thank you for your interest! All the best, Shaynee.
JBN.S: – Thanks very much for answers. This questions has been repeated many times, to interview past interviews. I interested in jazz since 2003. I introduced to you and your music from CD: Sings Russell Garcia (2008).
Interview by Simon Sargsyan