What’s a part of your background no one knows, but should know? [Laughs] I remember literally singing all the time and, also, getting together with my sisters and doing harmony. I used to be the one that made harmony. I could listen to harmony [at] so young an age and I love to hear background vocals. I remember walking back from school, I’d be improvising on the street. I’m sure if someone saw me I looked crazy, but I’m looking around, singing songs and improvising on the streets!
Were you born with jazz in you or did you develop a talent for it? I think I was born in a way, like a jazz musician - always looking for that approach to music, you know? But I wasn’t born necessarily in a musical context surrounded by jazz, but I found it later on. I was always looking for it as an expression, so I’d say I acquired it in the sense that when I found it around the age of 15, I started developing it.
You’re taking a walk and see ahead three American jazz guitarists who’ve passed: Les Paul, Charlie Christian and Tal Farlow. You can talk to only one; which one? Charlie Christian. He’s the creator of the jazz guitar. I would like to see what was his vision, and to learn what he was going through to get this sound that we all inherited.
What music, other than jazz, do you like that might surprise people? Bulgarian folklore. In particular, Bulgarian Voices Women’s Choir, which is a particular group of people. It feels so essential to the human spirit. I love that it’s like a musical mixture of East and West. Like the inflections of the voices of the women, the singers, are more like Middle Eastern, but the harmonies are from the West, an amazing combination.
Are you a different musician today than when you first started expressing music? I am in a way, also I’m not. Basically, I’m a different musician in terms of what I’ve developed in my craft and how much I’ve worked on music, my approach and my technique. But what remains the same is that first love of doing it. That hasn’t gone away and I still feel the same way I did when I started playing music and decided it would be my life. Music is the companion I married for life!
What’s one word that describes the way you feel when you’re performing? Complete. Music making is such an amazing, creative activity because you’re connecting with yourself while you’re connecting with other people and trying to do something beautiful to bring out emotions. It’s so complete.
By Deborah DeMoss Smith, host of The Second Line, Sun, 11am-1pm