Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Two Questions: Sing into Spring

Jane Stuart is a very creative vocalist who has performed in many different styles of music, but ultimately settled on jazz as the medium for her most personal artistic expression. She just released a new CD, "Don't Look Back" and will be having an official release event at the Kitano in NYC on March 31, 2011.

In the interim, Jane also agreed to be the subject of my latest blogpost. Here are her answers to my questions:

1. Why did you decide on a career in music?

I started writing songs at 3 years old; on the wonderful, old upright piano we had in our 3 room apartment in Jersey City, NJ. I usually remembered these little 4 note ditties and would make my father, mother and older brother my captive audience, on a regular basis.

I just recently started to write, for real, and have an original, “Let It Come To You” on my new CD Don’t Look Back”.

My mother took me to see Peter Pan on Broadway when I was about 7 years old and that did it for me. I remember the moment I said to myself, “I can do that!” …and so I did.

I would create shows in my neighborhood, just like Our Gang/Little Rascals. I was the producer, costume designer (paper plates, crayons, crepe paper etc.), director and of course The Star!

There was no doubt about it. I lived and breathed music and dance and was bossy enough, as a kid, to “produce” my little shows. I now wish I had movies/videos of them.

I was a show biz kid. Went to tap school, in NYC, with fellow tap schoolmates, Christopher Walken, Alan Paul (Manhattan Transfer) and Jeff Conaway. I studied ballet at Carnegie Hall as well as singing and acting. I auditioned for shows, modeling, movies….everything.

From the ages of 7-13 I wanted to be a Broadway star! But when I went on auditions, and there were many, I was always pegged as sounding too jazzy. That’s funny. I would think I was singing a tune very straight and come to realize that I was naturally interpreting a lyric or melody. Nothing outrageous, just a little too stylized for the ‘legit’ crowd.

I did have some success in theater, with my tap dancing and acting skills.
So, in answer to the question, I don’t think I actually made a decision, I just always knew that I was born to do this. May sound corny, but that is the truth.

2. What is it you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?

My father died when I was 13. My mother, a legal secretary, worked long, hard hours and my brother was away at school. I spent a lot of time alone. Looking back, I realize that I had a strong jazz sensibility already at that time; I just didn’t have a name for it.

There was a radio show that I loved, called “Symphony Sid“. Sid Torin’s show was my classroom, my refuge and my inspiration. I heard Coltrane, Miles, Nina Simone, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Nancy Wilson, Gloria Lynne, James Moody, King Pleasure…you name it. All the greats. The music I would hear on that show, coupled with my tap dancing really informed my natural affinity for the music. I would make up arrangements of old standards I knew, or songs I heard on Sid’s show and sing them in my head while doing a tap routine on my fingers. I remember so many of those songs now, when I am looking for material to sing.

In my long and varied career, I have sung Broadway style, Rock and Roll, R&B, Country,…just about everything except Opera ( I just don’t have the trained voice for that or I would’ve tried that too). Jazz is my nature. I swing, that’s my nature. I feel and interpret a lyric. I have an inner sense of time that allows me to play with time. It’s just the truth for me. I love having the freedom to explore and stretch myself. Jazz really requires that the players listen, listen, listen and respond. At its best, it is a give, give and take and share experience.
There is always so much to learn and step up to. I have so much to learn and I look forward to it.

Ornette Coleman said it best: “Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time."

Following are the complete King Pleasure lyrics to "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid":
"Jumpin' with my boy Sid in the city,
Jumpin' with my boy Sid in the city,
Mr. President of the DeeJay committee,
We're gonna be up all night gettin' with it
We want you to spin the sounds by the minute
From down in the land that's really a-pretty.
"Make everything go real crazy over 'JZ,
Make everything go real crazy over 'JZ,
Play anything cool for me and my baby,
We don't want to think we're listening to Lacy,
It's got to be Prez, Bird, Shearing or the Basie,
The dial is all set right cloo-ose to 80,
Let 'er roll." (JZ" refers to radio station WJZ.)

To watch a video of Jane Stuart performing "Getting to Know You", go to

For more info about Jane Stuart's gigs and recordings, go to

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Two Questions: Late Winter Edition

Jake Herzog is a daring young guitarist who has managed to blur the line that separates jazz and rock, using the best aspects of each style to create a fresh approach to improvisation. I had the privilege of hearing him live recently in a trio with bassist Harvie S and drummer Victor Jones. The musical interplay among the three of them was fluid and exciting, a true union of heavy metal with straight-ahead.

As a result of this audacious breaking down of the barriers one would normally expect when different genres merge, I was very enthusiastic about getting Jake to participate in my "two questions" interview. So here it is folks!

1. Why did you decide on a career in music?

I think music chose me. If I asked myself, what could I live without, well, I could live without literature, history, or mathematics. I could survive just fine not studying physics, biology, chemistry. But I couldn't keep the small bit of sanity I have left without music. So when it came time to go to college and move on from just being a high school student, music was the only thing I wanted to do.

2. What is it about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?

The spirit of jazz, to me, has always been complete freedom and creativity, that's what improvised music is all about. So, in a phrase, I decided to focus on jazz because, of all the musics (I'm a singer songwriter as well), jazz and improvised music has the most freedom. I love the thrill of unpredictability, chaos and, and when the performer doesn't know more about what will happen next then the audience does. That said, this spirit of jazz is not confined to one language, like bebop, or fusion, or modern jazz. It's in all of them and far beyond. So my whole thing with the rock influence, to me, is that's the next place to go. We had jazz in the 70s that was influenced by the rock bands at the time, so why should jazz today not be influenced by every other style of music. The way I see it, you leave style and language behind and just focus on being creative and moving people with improvisation. The rest doesn't matter. I think if you can do that, Charlie Parker would be proud.

To get a better idea of Jake Hertzog in action, go to his You Tube channel:

For even more information about Jake's music, check out his website at