May 23, 2024

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Interview with Sylvia Brooks: Signature is my most intimate and personal work to date: Video, new CD cover

Jazz interview with jazz singer Sylvia Brooks. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

 When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of? 

Sylvia Brooks: – I was born into a musical family – so I don’t think that I chose music and much as music chose me! My dad was a Jazz Pianist and my mother was an Opera Singer, who also sang in some of the largest showrooms around the world. Music was an organic part of me since the day I was born.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

SB: – I’ve learned how to use my voice- through the studio work that I’ve done, over four albums, to use all of the colors of my voice to tell a story. I’m also telling my own stories now, writing my own songs. So my voice has grown more personal.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

SB: – To me, the voice is a very different instrument than any other, as it’s produced in your body. I work on my full range from top to bottom to open up sound and give me more control both harmonically and rhythmically. I also listen to great vocalists other great musicians and try to understand what they are doing. However, I strongly believe you must find your own voice, and not copy others. Everyone’s sound is uniquely their own.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

SB: – Yes, as I’ve grown, and gone through more life experiences, my depth of understanding has changed. Things are not as black and white to me now,I see more shades of gray … more colors and shades- and as a writer, it’s important to fully explore the depth of something, the humanity of it.

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

SB: – I always reconnect with the lyrics and the story being told in the song. I warm up my instrument, and then try to become an empty vessel and allow the piece to inform me as I sing it. For live performances, I create a show order that hopefully will take  people on an emotional journey, making sure there are elements of surprise, as I believe true surprise is essential.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Signature, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

SB: – I’m extremely proud of Signature. It is my most intimate and personal work to date, having written the lyrics for all but the first and last tracks. When we went into the studio, I wanted it to be a truly collaborative effort. I wanted everyone to contribute their voice to the piece, and I was extremely fortunate to work with the best artists in Los Angeles. I wanted it to be honest and organic. It’s also the first time I my work.  I’m currently working on my next album- writing- and digging deep to understand what I want to say, and what others care about hearing.

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here


JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

SB: – Having been in the Jazz world in Los Angeles for the last 13 years, I’ve come to know who I like collaborating with. I also reached out to specific musicians with my lyrics, based on what I thought the song was about emotionally and who I thought would understand it musically, who’s wheelhouse it was in.

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SB: – Well, music is obviously mathematical. But to me, it’s all about the soul. And it’s important that you trust your inner voice.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

SB: – That’s what it’s all about for me. If I’m not making people feel something, and relate what I’m singing about to their own life, I’m not doing my job.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

SB: – I loved working on Signature. Everyone really showed up. I have a video on You Tube called The Making of The Album Signature. Here’s the link!

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

SB: – By creating new music! Which is what I’m trying to do. I also think jazz needs to become more inclusive. That’s also something I’m trying to do. To introduce popular elements in music that will reach younger people.

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

SB: – I think that we are all here to make this a better place- to contribute something to others lives. I am also a firm believer in Karma. Things are so much more vast than we are able to grasp or see. Humility is, to me, one of the most important qualities one can possess. Because it allows you to be open to everything you don’t know or understand.

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

SB: – Well, I think things are changing. Music is becoming more eclectic. Many styles are beginning to blend- to create new work that is truly original. I hope some day that these style barriers open up more.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

SB: – This is an extraordinary year. There is so much talent out there! I don’t just listen to Jazz. I listen to R&B, Blues, New Age Music… and Latin (having grown up in Miami, I have a deep love of Latin music!) And everyone is so unique and different. I’m very grateful to be part of such an amazing community of artists.

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

SB: – Humanity.

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

SB: – I would love to be around in New Orleans in the 20’s and 30’s- and Harlem in the 30’s and 40’s. The movement of Jazz as it was evolving in the speakeasy’s and in New Orleans would have been so rich and exciting, I would have loved to have been a part of that.

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

SB: – What do you think is the biggest impediment currently to Jazz’s popularity?

JBN: – The musicians’ lack of intelligence and being like robots, I think there is no obstacle in the rest. In any case, I organize jazz festivals in Eastern European countries and I am the producer of several jazz musicians, they are very crowded.

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

SB: – I hope that my answers will provoke thought in others, and that it will bring them to my music. And yes, I did a free concert with Sheila E and Dave Kos to raise funds for inner city kids.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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