Some of you may be familiar with Derek
Sivers, the founder of CD Baby. Since officially selling CD Baby last
year, he has been active online with his music blog among other
projects. In the past he and I have had our differences when it comes
to standards. In spite of this, I find this to be a very sweet story, and since I’m
all about admiration of older performers/artists, I think it is worth
Archive for May, 2009
Some of you may be familiar with Derek
Yes, I know this is a story from last week, but between going away for
the Memorial Day weekend and having a cold, I haven’t gotten around to
posting this comment:
So there will be no JVC Jazz Festival this
year in New York City. Whatever the reasons – and the NYT article
cited many – it is unfortunate.
Ironically, in a “Take Five” posted recently on allaboutjazz.com, I responded that more younger people need to be involved on the business side of music, when asked “What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?“.
The JVC Jazz Festival Event organizer is a thirty-something guy, a
Columbia undergrad. Basically, the kind of person I was talking about
in my response. I do hope he’ll be able to make a go of it
eventually. I agree with him that “destination” music events can be a
successful, but they may have to expand their portfolio to include more
events that aren’t specifically jazz events. I think it would be cool
to do a rock and jazz festival, of course since that basically
encompasses my taste in music. I’m not talking about these festivals
that are “jazz” in name only, but a festival actually billed as
duo-genre event with acts representing both kinds of music.
thought of my ideal rock-jazz festival leads me also to the observation
that in this economy music events targeted towards younger audiences
(rock, hip hop) are doing much better than music events targeted
towards older audiences (classical, jazz). I don’t know
much about the reasons for this year’s JVC Jazz Festival cancellation
beyond what I read in the NYT article, but you don’t hear anything
negative about South by or Coachella or the upcoming Bonnaroo. In
fact, when it comes to South by, all you hear about is how the festival
gets bigger every year.
NYT article quoted one person by name and mentioned others on the
business side of jazz concerned that the cancellation of this event
would indicate that jazz is not a marketable music. To me the
cancellation of this year’s event regardless of its specific reasons
represents decades worth of missteps by the powers that be in jazz,
most notably the marginalization of fusion. (I know Joe Zawinul is
smiling down on me as I write this.) It’s just unreasonable to expect
someone who grew up listening to rock or r&b or hip-hop or world
music to readily take to bebop or retro standards. Then, you get into
the bigger issues – the paucity and haphazardness of cultural education
in this country, the primacy of the tv and the internet as people’s
entertainment choices, the way in which this culture measures
something’s worth by its current monetary value.
really do hope that the JVC Jazz Festival will be back in some form or
another next year. If it does happen again next year, my guess is that
it will be a smaller festival. I unfortunately also could see it
coming back as a more straight-ahead festival like Tanglewood’s, a
somewhat reactionary response to this year’s cancellation. Ultimately,
I think it’s unwise to place too much emphasis or hope on these big
events. The future health and viability of jazz and standards will
depend on younger, independent musicians who make music that is relevant
to their generation’s experience, and not on these big events, which by
nature represent the status quo.
For the past month I have been promoting my new CD, I’m in Heaven Tonight,
on allaboutjazz.com. As part of this promotion, I completed their
“Take Five” questionnaire. (Sorry to those of you who thought this
post was about the Brubeck tune!) If you are interested in reading it,
I have pasted it below. You can also follow this link – http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32845 – to read it on their site.
have an update to the “What is in the near future?” question below. I
will be performing twice before my August due date. Once again weather
permitting, I will be at the Brandeis High School Garden for Make Music
New York Day on Sunday, June 21st at 4pm. I will also be doing a set
at the Metropolitan Room in July, date to be determined.
Take Five With Sarah DeLeo
Sarah DeLeo – Published: May 16, 2009
Meet Sarah DeLeo:
Jazz vocalist Sarah DeLeo takes the best from the masters and combines
it with her own signature style to produce a sound that is both
timeless and fresh.
One hears her singing and is swept away to
another time, and yet her powerful presence as a musical storyteller is
thoroughly in the here and now: No matter the song, she delivers each
lyric in such a personal way that the listener feels as if they are
hearing their own stories. Her tireless exploration of many different
styles of music yields fascinating results when it comes to song
choices and arrangements, and her inventive melodic improvisation makes
every restatement of a tune’s melody thoroughly engaging–nothing’s ever
the same twice.
In October 2005 Sarah released her debut CD, The Nearness of You,
which garnered critical acclaim and introduced Sarah’s work to both
national and international audiences. Her follow up to that release is
2009’s I’m In Heaven Tonight, another inspired collection of songs that combines the old and the new.
Your sound and approach to music:
I view my work as a reconciliation between the rock, R&B, and pop
genres, which have been mainstream music during my lifetime, and a
calling to sing standards and a propensity towards jazz. The singers
who influenced me the most when I was younger were pretty high energy–Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin–but my singing tends to be mellow, because that’s how I am.
I approach every tune the same way, regardless of its originating
genre. I break down each song harmonically and rhythmically. I also
speak the lyrics. I once read an interview of Cassandra Wilson,
in which she described her approach to music as a “jazz approach.” I
thought that term was an apt way to describe what I do as well.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Last year, I got a call to do an event on Make Music New York day for
NYC Councilmember, Gale Brewer. I accepted, but I really had no idea
how this event would go. It was going to be held at an outdoor garden,
and there was no alternate location in case of bad weather. For most of
the week prior, the forecast called for rain. I was assured that there
would be an electrical outlet for our equipment, but I wasn’t
We showed up at the gig and what ended
up surprising me the most was the audience. I generally sing for people
in their mid-20s to mid-60s, usually trending younger–40s and under. As
a result, when I’m singing, I’m not only entertaining people, but also
educating them, since most people my age are not too familiar with
standards or jazz. By contrast, the median age at this Make Music New
York gig was about 65 with a number of people in wheelchairs. If I had
known what kind of audience they expected, I probably would have put
together a set of more traditional standards. However, I didn’t, so I
just did the set I had prepared–the kind of set I would normally do. I
did the White Stripes tune, the somewhat non-traditional arrangements
of standards that I do, and some standards and blues, which I consider
It got a great response. People were singing
along, not to the White Stripes tune obviously, but definitely to the
standards and even the songs I thought were more obscure. (The
guitarist on the gig, Chris Bergson, was throwing in all these rock
licks; I was giggling to myself throughout).
One lady came up
to me after the gig and told me how much I reminded her of Lee Wiley. I
was so flattered. It has always been important for me to sing to people
my own age for a number of reasons, but I never realized how much
harder it was on me until then. Singing to an older audience familiar
with the material was so much easier. I didn’t have to educate anyone;
I could just entertain. It was a very enjoyable experience, which was
both relaxing and energizing at the same time! I had no idea how this
gig was going to turn out, but in the end it was a lot of fun!
Also, the weather turned out beautiful and thankfully there was electricity and an adequate PA setup. What a relief!
The first Jazz album I bought was:
I bought these on the same trip to the mall:
Janis Siegel, At Home;
Modern Jazz Quartet, Blues on Bach.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
During the first ten years in which I sang standards and listened to
jazz, I knew no one who shared my interests. As such, my formative
years as a singer were spent isolated artistically, which at times was
lonely, but which in retrospect freed me to follow my own creative
path. I was like a tabula rasa in some ways. I do bear the imprint of
the Top 40 music that I listened to as a child and the very melodic
stuff I remember my parents listening to when I was a kid–Barry Manilow, ’70s Babs, Neil Diamond.
Yet, when it comes to standards and jazz, I didn’t grow up with any
preconceived notions about what the music should or should not be, what
was good or bad, what was the right or wrong way, etc. As a result, I
was able to develop my own style and sound, and bring my generational
perspective to this genre.
Did you know…
I studied the flute for eight years. I enjoyed playing the flute, and
was a decent flute player (At the end of my studies I was working on
Hindemith.), but I was always a much better singer. It actually caused
some tension with my flute teacher, because I would sometimes refer to
the pieces I was working on as songs. He didn’t necessarily appreciate
that my mind was more on singing than on the flute.
CDs you are listening to now:
e.s.t, Seven Days of Falling (215 Records);
Greyboy Allstars, What Happened to Television? (SCI Fidelity Records);
Paul Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years (Rhino Records).
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
More younger people need to be involved on the business side in every
capacity–booking managers and club owners, radio DJs and program
managers, editors and reviewers, event organizers, personal managers,
publicists, etc. There are certainly enough younger people making
music, but there are not enough people our age on the business side to
support us. This will become more critical as today’s 60- and
70-year-olds, who in my experience form the core of the business side,
start to age out.
What is in the near future?
I plan on fitting in one more gig before I give birth in August. I have
a number of administrative and creative projects in mind for my
maternity leave, and then next year, once my new baby situation is more
settled, I plan on gigging more, specifically in promotion of my new
I am at home with my two-year-old son. I am expecting my second child in August!
“You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me” is the featured download of the day on allaboutjazz.com
Please follow this link to the site: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/
If you have not done so already, I encourage you to check out the updated gallery page on this web site!! It includes pictures from last month’s gig in Connecticut, the I’m in Heaven Tonight recording session, and a few other pictures from the recent and the less recent past.
me until last year to see her for the first time. The great
limiting factor to be upfront was the cost. It’s about $100 minimum to
see her. That’s a lot of money. Also, she performs in nice clubs, and
as I generally go out alone, it’s somewhat intimidating to go into a
really nice club by yourself. It’s easy to sneak into a dive bar/music
club on your own, but much more awkward to do that somewhere like the
Carlyle, where I saw her for the first time last year.
intervening years I had also had a change of heart about seeing older
performers. In the past I had not gone to see a lot of older singers,
because guys (meaning musicians) told me that they weren’t as good as
they used to be. Being a woman, I took someone else’s not-so-good
advice seriously, instead of making my own decision. In 2006, the year
before my son was born, I was like eff it. Even if these people aren’t
exactly how they used to be, I still should go see them. As a result,
I’ve seen Mark Murphy, Ernestine Anderson, Annie Ross, and Jimmy Scott
a number of times. Unfortunately, I missed Blossom Dearie, Barbara
Lea, and Freddie Hubbard, but hopefully I won’t miss anyone else. I
saw Barbara Cook for the first time last year at the Carlyle. It was a
magical experience. When it was over, I was sad that I had to leave the club. I wanted to stay in that wonderful bubble
following her performance for as long as possible, rather than go out
into the real world.
having loved her performance at the Carlyle last year, I still arrived
at Feinstein’s Tuesday night thinking, “Shit, this is a lot of money to
spend.” It’s not easy to tell your husband that you are going to be
spending over $100 to see a singer, whatever the state of the economy
is, and no matter how wonderful the singer is. I also had lots of
other things on my mind. I hadn’t seen my husband all week, because he
had been away on business. I’ve been really busy working on the
promotion of my new CD, in particular getting in some gigs before I
have my 2nd child in August. As to be expected, I was among a handful
of people in the audience under the age of 50, which I always find
depressing. I got there a few minutes before it started and was afraid
I wouldn’t be able to see well from where they sat me. I thought to
myself, “What the heck am I doing here?”
the show started. Through the first few songs, I still had that “What
the heck am I doing here?” feeling, coupled with a fear that this
year’s experience would not compare to last year’s. After a few songs,
all of my anxiety dissipated. Barbara Cook is truly a wonderful
singer. I could hear her sing “Where or When” 1000x. She also sings
Sondheim so well. There are some people who are crazy about Sondheim,
but I am not one of them. I think that hearing a very skilled,
experienced performer like Barbara Cook sing these tunes outside of the
context of the show, for which they were written, made me appreciate
them a lot more. I also find it quite amusing how she calls him
“Steve” or “Stephen”.
only is she a fantastic interpreter with a lovely voice, but she also
sets up the tunes so beautifully with her patter. At the show I saw
this year she spoke a lot more in between songs than she did in the
show I saw last year. She told a very amusing story about her
obsession with an opera singer. She told a very funny story about
staying up late watching You Tube. She spoke about how she never
performed Cole Porter songs, probably because she didn’t really
identify with them. Throughout I had this laugh of recognition,
because I could relate to everything that she said.
remember in last year’s show to set up a ballad she made a comment
about how when you are in a relationship, you want the other person to
tell you what you want to hear, but how that sometimes doesn’t happen.
Well, I’m paraphrasing her, because she said it more succinctly, but
that was her point. At the time I was rehearsing my new CD, I’m in
Heaven Tonight, and what she said really resonated with me, in
particular in reference to one song on the album. Even now when I
think about her comment and how true it is, it makes me somewhat
During the show I thought about the patter and the
songs she chose and I couldn’t help the feeling that as I watched her,
I was looking at myself – the good side and the dark side – 40 plus
years on, minus the Broadway shows. I’ve always known that I am a
singer for a reason, but sometimes I can be sort of inward looking and
forgetful that there are others who are singers for a reason as well.
Then again, she does what a singer should do – allow the audience to
see their own experience in the material. I only know my own life, but still in Barbara Cook I see a set of experiences and a
way of thinking that are very familiar to me, a little too familiar.
Having seen her perform now a couple of times and having read a
few interviews of her, she comes across to me as someone who is
painfully honest with herself and someone who also has the ability to
laugh at herself. These qualities I believe are what make her a such a
good singer. I can be brutally honest with myself at times as well,
but I don’t think I’m really at the point in my life where I can
process things so readily or laugh at myself so easily. Maybe that
will come with time. In the meantime, unfortunately for my husband,
I’ll be shelling out another $100 next year and in every other year
that she is still performing.