An espresso with…
Vanessa Rubin

December 26, 2018


We have interviewed Vanessa Rubin during her recent Italian tour, and we talked with her about her project dedicated to Tedd Dameron

Can you tell us about the Tadd Dameron vocal project? Why did you choose Dameron?
The Tadd Dameron project has been a dream of mine for many years.  Not only because we are from the same home town of Cleveland, Ohio, but also because I have always been attracted to the beauty of his music and have always felt he has never really gotten the recognition he deserves as an arranger, composer and pianist.  Tadd Dameron believed the music had to swing, but is also must be beautiful.  Two things I feel he and I deeply have in common.
He was American Jazz Icon.  He was the most influential arranger of the be-bop era arranging for many of the prominent big bands led by other jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Eckstein, to name only a few. Tadd was known as the “romanticist of the be-bop era”   His lyricism, so evident in his music, especially in the vocal numbers I have chosen for the CD, has transcended time.  “There’s enough ugliness in the world.  I’m interested in beauty,” Tadd said.
I want more people to revisit his familiar songs (i.e If You Could See Me Now), hear some rare beauties and discover the new. By doing this vocal tribute I also hope to expand the vocal library for singers who I also hope will come to love and appreciate his music like I do and ultimately sing more Dameron!
How did you work on arrangements and lyrics?
Having lived in New York for so many years, I came to know many great musicians through study, hanging out, going to watch them perform and also sometimes even having the opportunity to perform with them.  I always looked to my elders for the truth about the music.  So when it came to planning a project about Tadd, I looked for people who knew him personally and were influenced by his genus because they were around at the same time he was and understood in context the importance of his contribution to Jazz.  There are not many cats left from that era who can speak from first hand experience.  I was able to connect with three jazz masters who are also masterful arrangers.  Benny Golson, tenor  saxophonist, who knew and worked with Tadd and wrote the forward in both books about his life and music. Frank Foster, tenor saxophonist, my former teacher and mentor who also helped craft the sound of the famous Count Basie Band as a young member and whose arranging prowess created a demand for his work from the likes of top entertainers and vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.  Willie Smith, alto saxophonist, and also from Cleveland, was also known for his playing and arranging ability for big bands and knew Tadd and his family and knew much about his music too.  The youngest of the group, Bobby Watson, alto saxophonist, came along many years after Tadd’s passing.  However, I have always loved his execution of the be-bop style of playing.  He is lyrical, plays pretty and loves Dameron too.  He was so happy to be a part of the project.  The conductor was Cecil Bridgewater, veteran trumpeter, arranger and a 27 year alumni of the Max Roach Quartet.
How did you choose the musicians?
Throughout my career, I have always tried to surround myself with excellence.  That speaks directly to why I chose each of the players in this all star octet.  They are 8 of the best jazz musicians today. Most of them are leaders in their own right.  All are well known.  I’ve worked with all of them in different working situations over the years.  Therefore, I know and trusted them.  I highly respect their musicianship and they have been with me on the project since it’s first live performance in 2007.
Which are the singers that influenced you most at the beginning of your career?
I have loved music since I was a child and like to think all the music I ever embraced and have led me to where I am today as a jazz singer.  Coming from the Midwest, only three hours from Detroit, I grew up on Motown artists and all their music that influenced and transformed the world.  I love the Calypsonians from Trinidad introduced to me by my Mom, a native.  Count Basie, Gene Ammons and The Three Sounds were staples in my household because of my father.  And five older brothers played constantly the music of Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Dakota Staton, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Miles Davis, Blue Mitchell, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith and other popular jazz artists at the time.  All of it and more are a part of who I am as a singer.  But the jazz influence runs deep.  That feeling of insatiable swing!  The female jazz vocalists really impressed me.  Sarah and Carmen and Nancy stayed at the top for many years.  They will always be part of the early jazz foundation. Etta Jones and Irene Reed came much later but are now two of my biggest favorites and influences.  I wanted to then and now, tell the stories they did so well.  That is always the work.
You have worked with many giants of jazz; is there an anecdote you would like to share with us?
While recording my tribute to Carmen McRae, I’m Glad There Is You, one of my favorite guitarists, Kenny Burrell, who was on the date asked me a question after a solo he did.  He said, “Vanessa, am I giving you what you want?”  I was so shocked because no musician had ever asked me that before at a recording session.  I didn’t even think I was suppose to “want” anything specific from him.  After all, it was Kenny Burrell!  Anything he plays has to be fantastic!  I felt blessed he agreed to do the date. I felt whatever he played would be acceptable because he always gave his best. Plus he was playing for ME on MY date!  Guess I was a bit in awe too because  Grover Washington was also on that date. Two giants!  They were great friends.  For a second I paused and thought I should say something.  So I said something bland like, “yeah Kenny, that was cool”.  That moment taught me a few lessons.  One, that I should have expectations for my projects, no matter who is on it and be able to intelligently articulate them.  I also learned how much of a gentleman and  professional Kenny Burrell was because he had the professional ethic and consideration to ask. And I gave myself a pat on the back because I had worked hard enough, and continue to, to garner the attention of people like Kenny Burrell and Grover Washington who were happy to play on the date and gave a me a great sense of encouragement and accomplishment.
Reservados todos los derechos – All rights reserved – 版權所有 – 版权所有;  An espresso with… Vanessa Rubin copyright Jazzespresso 2018.
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