July 25, 2024


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Interview with Cathy Segal Garcia: The soul leads the artistic expression: Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Cathy Segal Garcia. An interview by email in writing.

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

Cathy Segal Garcia: – I grew up in Boston Massachusetts, in a city about 20 minutes west of downtown, Newton.  I was born into a musical family.  My dad played sax, my mom sang, I had twin sisters who sang and were 5 years older than I, and one played piano.  My dad was into jazz, and I was just totally attracted to it as young as 4 or 5 years old.  We were gigging from a young age, and I started singing with my dad’s bands at 12 years old.  Dad played jazz around the house, and I was bopping with Ella, Rosemary Clooney, The Hi-Lo’s, etc!

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?

CSG: – I was in love with recordings of great jazz vocalists from the beginning!  Ella Fitzgerald was my favorite.  Cleo Laine, Frank Sinatra.  The Hi-Lo’s, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney.  These were my dad’s recordings.  I was always singing, myself, with my sisters, with my dad…and then I started playing guitar, then flute…which got me into Berklee, which had no vocal department at the time.  I was singing, I had a great band at the time.  It was a great period for jazz, pop and rock in the 70s.  I had a vocal technique book that I used myself in college, but didn’t study with a teacher until I was in my late 20’s.  My constant teachers were the musicians and recordings I heard.  And the experience of singing live.  And talking to the great jazz musicians around me.

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

CSG: – I believe it got warmer and richer.  I feel that my true voice/sound came about by the ever-searching to be oneself.  In singing, the more you “speak” with your true soul, the more your individual sound comes out.  Also, depending on which instruments you sing with, I think the sound develops from that.  I’ve sung with a lot of guitar.  From an early age I was attracted to deeper harmonies, and in college Weather Report, Pat Metheny, ECM was happening, and I was drawn to that.  But also Motown and Woodstock artists were big with me.

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

CSG: – I really try to practice voice technique every day.  If I don’t, I can still sing, but I can’t last as long on a gig, and my flexibility is not top.  Regarding harmony, writing, arrangements…sometimes I’ll listen to a recording for several weeks, soaking it in.  That definitely deposits wonderful things into me.  I have fun with rhythm…singing with different bands, recordings, trying different exercises.  For instance, I love un-standard drummers.  Dancing with the time, I get turned on when I hear or sing with someone who is keeping time but not playing on “one”.  I really believe in the “groove”.  Connecting to the inner quarter note is imperative, and beyond that, there’s the groove…should be delicious.  The groove is elusive for many. But you gotta have the groove!  I love playing with rhythm.

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?

CSG: – I think it’s what goes in and what has gone in.  I love all music when it finds the magic “spot” that art seems to live in.  Space, dissonance, harmonic marriage between the note and the chord played…these are things that I really love.  I do decide in the moment, to sing particular notes that I “know” may be dissonant or have some kind of tension…this also depends on who I’m playing with of course.  And those results also come from leaving out notes!  I love using chromatic lines and the tensions they create…I have my students practice singing chromatic scales over one chord.  It opens up that flow, and it makes the student more willing to sing tension notes.

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

CSG: – Oh ha!  That is THE question, isn’t it!  For everyone, but especially students.  I have some ideas that I have developed and accepted over the years.  One is that the MOMENT is the primary “happening” spot to live in.  That, and keeping an eye on the immediate future….what’s coming next?  If you focus on that, you’re actually OK.  FOCUS is a pivotal point in this idea, isn’t it.  Being affected by negative influences means you are in the past somewhere, either close or far, but not in the moment, and the moment is where the magic is happening.  A wise man said: Don’t desire to be liked.  That’s not the same thing as being happy and responsive when you know someone likes what you’re doing.  But to do because you crave appreciation … nah!

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: DREAMSVILLE, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

CSG: – (sigh!) I love this project. It’s sensitive and artistic, and full of good friends who are having special conversations. My executive producer suggested a recording with Larry Koonse and Larry suggested adding Josh Nelson. The arrangements came about joyfully and easily. I believe my artistic state of mind was coming from the last CD I made about 9 months previously, The Jazz Chamber: a chamber orchestra made up of 25 great musicians, 3 arrangers – Bevan Manson, Dennis Dreith, and Dori Amarilio, and guest artists: Tierney Sutton, Kate McGary, Mon David, my 7 piece improv a cappella group Fish To Birds, and the legendary Bennie Maupin. Coming from that and knowing Larry and Josh as well as I do, personally and musically, I picked songs that resonated in my heart and mind when I thought of us together. We 3 loved the process immediately, and thereafter! Now I’m working on 5 projects of my own, and producing several for other singers. I recorded most of the instrumentals on 4 of those projects…one is with a trio and 3 horns, and it’s kind of modern straight ahead. Another one was recorded in England with 6 of some of England’s best straight ahead players. Two of the projects are hand-in-hand projects…2 amazing Los Angeles bands, playing modern jazz versions of some of my favorite songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s. And finally, a new-to-be-recording with several long-time musician friends, which should be a more acoustic type of project. I also will be coming out with a compilation CD of hand-picked favorites from my 12 CDs, plus some unheard cuts from those.

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

CSG: – Oh my goodness! The balance between them means everything! I believe one’s ability comes from using your intellect. Whatever it is that you practice, becomes better … so you can practice anything, for instance both technical ability AND soulful expression.  The soul leads the artistic expression, and the more authentic you are in that expression, and transparent in that authenticity, your abilities in the music follow and together make everything blossom.

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

CSG: – Excellent question!  I’ve been singing for so many years, and this subject changes over the years, depending on your own spiritual (personal realizations) growth.  One thing I feel is that I love to connect with the audience.  And I realize they are people just like me, and they’re sitting in my “house”, which includes my mind, their mind, and the venue.  That brings us closer.  But I also realize that the more centered, honest, authentic, transparent I am…the more it’s possible to reach into their heart.  Because every human being is made up of the same things, the pieces just blossom at different times for each individual.  But we are all made of the same stuff, so if I am able to be the best, honest “me” I can be, I can reach right into their soul by showing them my own true experiences.

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

CSG: – Wow, so many! Which to choose?!  One great memory was me at 21 years old in 1974 , waitressing at a famous L.A. jazz club, Donte’s, where I hung out with great world-class jazz artists.  The great singer, Irene Krahl, was singing one night with Alan Broadbent on piano.  No one was in the place, except two people…Carmen MacCrae and Sarah Vaughn.  I was their waitress!  Irene sang “Some Other Time”, and I found out she was dying of cancer.  I was totally blown away, and loved that song from there out.  In 1992 I recorded it with Phillip Strange, Marc Johnson and Peter Erskine on my CD “Song Of The Heart”. Peter and Marc loved that recording.  And that recording was an amazing and life changing event for me…we 4 recorded in Chick Corea’s studio, with Chick’s engineer, Bernie Kirsh.  Chick’s studio had one 9 foot Steinway and one 9 foot Bosendorfer; Phillip chose the Steinway! Another memory:  I ran a Wednesday night jazz jam session for 16 years in L.A.  So many people came to that, played together, and made great friendships…the first 7 years were the best.  There was no real stage, just an area on the floor.  I allowed people to come up and join in.  We had all kinds of great musicians and singers, even international people showed up.  Friendships were forged, families made, community strengthened.  Another amazing memory:  In the 80s or 90s there were a few Japanese clubs in L.A.  I once had a gig with the Heath brothers…I was in utter heaven!  Their musical universe was like nothing I had ever experienced.  And they were gracious, kind, and welcoming.

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

CSG: – And a bit challenging too.  This music is not only theory and technique.  So much of it is a head space.  A magical universe that one has to enter into, as soon as the first note is played.  That means that you have to bring yourself into it.  And that’s how the old songs can stay fresh forever.  You can bring yourself into it, and you can bring something new to it as well.  Jazz is playing with rhythm and harmony.  And in that magical universe, each member of the band can be in there together, so you are really playing with and responding to each other.  When you learn that, really learn it, there is nothing that can’t be magical and creative.  That’s where jazz really lives.  So for both the young listener and the young musician, hopefully someone will be a mentor and lead you into these universes.

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

CSG: – Ah, this is what I really love talking about! I feel that jazz is a religion to me; it’s something that I practice, and it allows me to touch what I think of as God.  Spirit is everything.  Spirit exists in a space.  No matter what you are doing, if you start in this space and remain in it, it is holy.  It is the present moment.

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

CSG: – Respect and support for jazz artists, especially in the U.S. Support in various ways, including financial compensation that is befitting.  And more great venues to play! J

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

CSG: – I listen to different styles of music … looking for great grooves, great melodies, space, progressive harmonies, lyrics, great singers, and great instrumental playing that moves me. I’m very picky about singers, especially jazz singers. I’d have to say that the jazz vocal greats in the past are my favorites…I can listen to a whole album and be in love with everything they do.  And when I listen, I really need to have musicians/singers who respect the music and treat it extremely well.  I’m a very mellow person but that can really set me off! There are so many incredible musicians in L.A., I find that I keep getting my mind blown listening to live gigs as well.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

CSG: – A touching. Whether it be joy, sadness, introspection.

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

CSG: – Probably NY or Paris when bebop was really happening.  Or perhaps in a moment with Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, a Roosevelt afternoon cocktail hour.  There are so many moments in history…and SO many music moments that I’d love to visit.

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

CSG: – What do you think of life? Do you think we create our own existence?  Do you think we create the world, the universe as we know it?  What place do you think music, or jazz, or art has in this creation?

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. My life is weight in jazz. And there are a lot of jazz places in the world, for me in Europe.

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

CSG: – Thanks for this interview! It was an unusual one…very nice.  Whenever we take a deeper look at ourselves, and state who we are…we come away a little more stable in knowing where we’ve been, the choices we’ve made, who we are now, and perhaps we even know a little more about what we are headed for.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Cathy Segal Garcia jazz