*If you are a jazz aficionado and like the vocal styling of Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday and Nancy Wilson, you should put Jann Parker on your list of extraordinarily talented jazz vocalists as well.
Parker has a way of singing the songs of the greats using her own arrangements to make each song uniquely her own. Her intonation and diction elevates her music to another level. I would even dare to say that after listening to her CDs Masterpieces and Voicings, you will agree she is in top form as a charismatic artist and gifted chanteuse.
Plan to catch her live with the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra at Tian at the Riverbank on 145th Street and Riverside Drive in West Harlem on Thursday, March 17th.
“Music is something personal for me. I think one has to live life in order to reflect passion and inject emotion into their music” claims Jann who established the Jazz Preservation Society in her hometown of New Bern, North Carolina. “I enlisted the help of other family members who still live in New Bern since I now live in New York. It is they who are the body and nucleus of the Foundation.”
In 2010, New Bern celebrated its 300 year anniversary. “When I left New Bern at age 15, New Bern was segregated. I was invited to sing at the Jazz and Blues Festival so it was an opportunity to see family. My mother and her two sisters sang with big bands as a trio when I was a kid so music is a part of my family,” commented the singer. “What was stellar about my returning to sing at the Festival in 2004 was that I played to a mixed audience of both black and white. At the first concert I did in 2002, maybe just 2 whites attended. Change comes about slowly. However, in 2004, I was approached by a white town leader who wanted to bring whites to the festival because he felt Caucasian town members would enjoy it. So he raised the money, brought in and involved the white community. As it turned out, the white folks actually did enjoy the occasion. I think it was an event that marked history in the town,” stated Jann who appears at The Garage located on 7th Avenue South and Christopher Street in Manhattan with Lou Caputo’s Not So Big Band. Her next appearance will be on Tuesday, March 8, and then every third Tuesday beginning in April.
Throughout her career, Ms. Parker has appeared with several jazz luminaries including the late great Leon Thomas. She appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with Randy Weston wherein she sang his music entitled “African Lady” which encompassed arrangements by Melba Liston and lyrics by Langston Hughes. She has also performed with vocalist and hard bob and soul-jazz drummer Grady Tate. Ms. Parker has worked with the Bob Cunningham Trio as a featured vocalist and with the Larry Ridley Jazz Legacy Ensemble, Spirit of Life Ensemble, Ron Anderson’s Versatile, The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra and in clubs like Sweet Basils, Greene Street Café, West Bank Café, St Peter’s Church, the Rainbow Room, and the New Cotton Club among others.
Jann not only sings but whenever inspired she puts pen to paper and writes lyrics. “Anthony Branker wrote music to a song called “Paris in April.” We all know the song “April in Paris,” so I asked him about his song. He told me it was based around his loving daughter Paris who was born in April. He described her as a warm and loving person who was a great light in the lives of people around her. After listening to him talk about his daughter I was inspired to write the lyrics to his song.”
When Parker determines her songbook or eclectic musical repertoire she sometimes chooses her songs via subject or how she feels at the time. “I go with my gut or go with a subject. Love is always a good subject matter. I might choose Ellington or Cole Porter and then put my own spin on it. Then again, I might select from the American Songbook but of course it’s always about the jazz musicians’ take on the particular song. Once I get on stage and see the audience, I might change my selection based on the spirit in the room. If audience members make a request and I know the song, I might even include the requested song,” commented Jann.
Jann claims she works with some of the best musicians in the business which includes her own band members: pianist Aaron Graves, drummer Dion Parson, bassist Marcus McLaurine, and alto Mark Gross.
Interested parties can obtain Jann Parker’s CDs “Masterpieces” and “Voicings” at www.cdbaby.com.