She played with the likes of Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Wynton Marsalis, Gary Burton and Dizzy Gillespie, called Sarah Vaughan and Carmen Mc Rea among her friends and is commonly referred to as the first lady of Boston Jazz, having won the Boston Music Award no less than 9 times, yet she is still something of a well kept secret to the UK scene. Now, I love secrets; hidden places, undiscovered beauty etc, but the true beauty of those secrets lies in the joy of discovering them, and passing that on.
I was lucky enough to have the immense pleasure and honor of meeting her in person and absorb a grain of her vast knowledge of jazz vocals and music. Warm, disarming and generous with her time and wisdom. This time around, I asked her for her thoughts on London, her past experiences and her thoughts on the jazz scene today.
It is wonderful to have you return to the ReVoice Festival in London. What do you love about the UK?
I adore everything I’ve seen in the U.K.; the people I’ve met, the history, the architecture, the appreciation of intellect and the arts. Where else can you walk down a street and touch a Roman wall? I am so excited to be returning. I’ll bet you can’t tell that I love London! Oh and I can’t forget a certain tour bus driver named Tony who was absolutely splendid to my partner Paul!
You started of your career performing musical theatre and later fronted various Top 40 bands; what made you switch to jazz and how did you make that transition?
I spent so long playing cover material that I felt I was losing my self. Luckily I found myself in several situations where the need was for standards and jazz tunes. I felt so free all of a sudden. My creative self reawakened and it felt good, really good. No longer was I relegated to sounding like someone else. With this opportunity I could pick songs for me and arrange them as I liked. The clouds passed. The music was adult, had actual lyrics and made complete musical sense. It was in retrospect a perfectly natural move for me. Jazz could incorporate all the things I had learned, theatre, romance , sadness, truth, dreams, reality; I could defy people with my experience, play with harmonies and melody, stretch my brain into new rhythms……it was like Christmas. It still is. I learn every time I play. The caliber of musicians that I have been blessed to play with…
How the jazz music scene changed in your eyes?
American jazz lovers and players are all terribly disappointed in the lack of support the genre receives as it has been named the US’ Official National music. Clubs are disappearing, “jazz” festivals are being overrun by pop music…Music education has nearly disappeared in all but the most affluent towns. I think that is the true crime here. Our kids are really missing out on the possibilities in music. We’re allowing record companies with flashy videos, concerts with all the bells and whistles take over and prescribe what people will listen to. Television and video and computers are too convenient for folks to spend money on live performances. No one has a clue as to how music is put together. If you don’t teach harmony how will kids get it? I feel sorry for the ones that are missing out.
You have worked with and alongside many of the greats that are sadly no longer with us today. Who have you loved collaborating with?
Collaborations are always fun for me whether for a writing , producing, or playing project. Playing with Dizzy Gillespie was a gas, writing with Carroll Coates and Arthur Hamilton was fun but my favorite writing collaboration was a long time ago with a relatively unknown songwriter named Stan Ellis. We co-produced my first album and wrote several pieces together.
Rebecca will be gracing the stage at Pizza Express Jazz for two nights only on October 10th & 11th during Georgia Mancio’s much lauded ReVoice Festival, and, I’m happy to say that the secret is out!
The interview can be found on LondonJazzNews. The late Jack Massarik awarded Rebecca’s appearance at the first ReVoice! an extremely rare 5 star review.