May 29, 2024

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Interview with Gabriele Tranchina: The soul will come through the delivery if you feel it: Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Gabriele Tranchina. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Gabriele Tranchina: – I grew up in Germany near Frankfurt. I always loved music, but was not actively playing or singing until I was an adult. After high school, I decided to travel through Asia. There were many jam sessions and the friends I made there advised me to pursue singing. I decided to take that route, not only because of the encouragement, but also because by being away I was able to do my own soul searching, instead of fulfilling other people’s dreams.

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?

GT: – When I came to New York, I found jam sessions and vocal jams and was introduced to jazz that way. It was a time when I was open to all possibilities and the more I listened to jazz the more I felt it to be the right match for me. Over the years I have studied with many greats.  In regards to gaining a solid instrument, I was introduced to Jeanie Lovetri and Somaticvoicework™. I am now certified level III in her technique and have helped many of my students myself. Jazz mentors were Mark Murphy, Sheila Jordan, Bobby McFerrin and Dominique Eade. I have taken many workshops and lessons with other great artists and continue to grow. My husband Joe has also helped me a lot, as well as other musicians (not necessarily singers).

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

GT: – Bobby McFerrin was one to advise me to listen to great music of all genres. Expand your horizon. I had done it already before, but more intensely after his advice. Practice, practice, practice, record yourself, listen to yourself, edit what you don’t like and keep what you like (the latter was Mark Murphy’s advice). However, nothing can really grow and develop if you don’t have solid voice training and technique. With good training you can use your voice the way a painter does, choosing various colors, textures and singing strongly or quietly and anything in between.

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

GT: – According to Somatic Voicework™, the person who uses the same warm up and workout all the time is not in touch with his/her instrument. The voice is very fragile. It changes with mood, illness, and whatever else might just happen in our life. Accordingly the voice workout needs to adapt to your circumstances. We also don’t grow if we always use the same exercises. As to rhythm training, Mark Murphy told me to take lessons with a drummer in order to improve my rhythm. I did this for a while. I also take workshops with percussionist Rogerio Boccato each August. He teaches a very specific rhythm technique from Brazil. If I had more time on my hands, I would do those exercises daily.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in? 

GT: – I don’t use my head when I sing. I try to respond to the music the way I feel it.  I’m not going to say to myself “now I sing a blue note or now I’m singing ‘out’ ”. Sheila Jordan’s advice is one I follow: “if you don’t’ hear it, don’t sing it.” Furthermore, on my latest 2 CD’s I sing many of my husband’s original compositions. He mainly likes for me to stick to the melody because he feels that people have never heard this melody before. My husband, who is my pianist and arranger, also lays down very complex harmonies behind me that might already cause much tension. So I respond to what surrounds me and what feels right.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?  

GT: – Be yourself. There is nothing wrong with people hearing your influences when you sing, but you have to make it your own, otherwise you only copy. I personally have never tried to sound like anyone else. I appreciate what other vocalists have to offer, but once I work on my music I come up with my own ideas which merge with my husbands.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

GT: – When you sing, record or perform, you have to leave the intellect behind because it only gets in the way of things. The time to use intellect is when you practice. When you are doing music you have to become one with it, be in sync with the other musicians and the flow of things. Your technique has to be there for you to support you. It is the most important to me to deliver the lyrics of a song because you tell a story. The soul will come through the delivery if you feel it. It certainly isn’t easy to keep the balance between technique and soul. It’s a lifetime challenge.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?   

GT: – If you are a true performer you want to be one with your audience because you feed off each other and can reach higher ground if they are with you all the way. I love to please. I do respond to the vibe in a room and if needed I change my program. Of course, giving people what they want has to be within the realm of my repertoire and the styles of music I perform.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions, which you’d like to share with us?

GT: – There are so many stories. Here are a couple of very unusual stories: Joe and I lived across the street from the WTC when 9/11 happened. Mark Murphy arranged a benefit concert for us that was held at the Blue Note. There were so many friends who came, even people we never met before. It was a strange situation because most of such concerts are usually held when a person had passed away. It was super special to have experienced so much love and support through music while we were going through all of this. On another occasion, we had a gig at the Roxbury Performing Arts Center in Succasunna NJ around the time of hurricane Sandy. When we arrived, part of the center was turned into a shelter. It was a very surreal situation. During the performance the electricity powered out. I performed by candlelight with just acoustic bass, until finally the lights came on again. My husband was playing electric piano and had to wait for the power to return. The audience was so supportive that night. We were all there to help those affected by the storm. It was a very special concert.

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

GT: – Just think about all the young people who graduate each year from college with a degree in jazz. I don’t think it is about how old or young one is, it is about being exposed to the music. Just like classical music, jazz is not in the mainstream. It’s not found as frequently on the radio as other genres. Yet both in classical music and in jazz there is so much variety and beauty. There is something there for everyone to find if and when they know of it and are open to it

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

GT: – Music is spirit. It is one of the rare experiences where people can be transformed and become one. The meaning of life is most likely a personal quest. Mine is to bring love, joy, healing and meaning to people through my music.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

GT: – I wish independent radio stations and record stores would have a comeback. When I grew up there was such a wide range of music out there and so much quality. One could listen to music in the stores. I was able to scroll through the recordings and also listen to what the sales people in a store recommended to me. Radio stations played all sorts of music. It was a very exciting time. I was exposed to a huge variety of music that way. Now things are mostly just directed by a small group of money people geared to the reaching the widest possible market and making the highest possible profit.

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

GT: – I’m exploring a lot of world music these days. I find music from Balkan Countries intriguing as well as Middle Eastern and African music. I love Bach and other classical music and I deeply enjoy Keith Jarrett. I also dive deeper and deeper into Latin and Brazilian music. I can listen to the great jazz singers at any time. They give me much joy and inspiration.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go?

GT: – I would stay right where I am. The most meaningful place to be is in the “now”. I’m working on that one all the time.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

GT: – What excites you about writing about jazz?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?   

GT: – I’m continuing my soul-searching looking for new ways to express myself through music and finding music that really turns me on. It can’t get stale, it has to stay exciting and fresh.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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