Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chicago jazz singer Elaine Dame to perform at Jazz Showcase in support of new album


Those who have been anxiously waiting for Chicago jazz/pop singer Elaine Dame to release new music will soon be rewarded.

Dame will perform Dec. 1 at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, in celebration of her sophomore album, "You're My Thrill."

Dame will perform at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to Dame about her new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, you will perform at the Jazz Showcase on Dec. 1 in celebration of your sophomore album, "You're My Thrill." In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there any meaning behind the album's name?

Great talking to you too! Thanks for the interview!

To answer your question, my goal in making this album was to make a recording that any person will like, not just the savvy jazz listeners, and to make a musically interesting recording with great tunes that I like to sing with phenomenal musicians and fun arrangements.


I hope I've reached my goal. Based on the feedback of the folks who have listened to it already, the response has been very positive.

There is no specific meaning to the album's name, except that it is "catchy" and I thought it would make a good album title. The tune is usually performed in a dreamy, moody ballad style, but I heard it as a funky, swing tune and that's the way it's arranged and performed on the recording.

Q - Your last album, "Comes Love," was released in 2005. Why so long between albums? How do you think you have grown musically since the release of "Comes Love?"

Lots of people have been asking me that question, and I think the short answer is "money." I produced my first record, to the tune of $20,000, and went into debt. 

I spent the subsequent years working to reduce my debt, while still trying to maintain my professional standing in Chicago. It is a constant day-to-day challenge, albeit a good one, to continue to grow as an artist and make a living. I'm so grateful that I am able to make a living as a jazz singer.

A very generous friend of mine gave me $14,000 and I raised the rest of the money through a crowd-funding platform called, Indigogo.com I'm spending about $5000 of my own money, which is a far cry from $20,000.

I think I have grown so much as a singer since my first recording and that just comes from years and years and years of doing it. There's no other way around it. 

You cannot learn from a book, you just have to practice, practice, practice. I think I have my own style now, which is great, and I am a more relaxed and confident singer, which comes from experience and from working with incredible musicians.

Q - How did you go about picking the musicians featured on "You're My Thrill" and what do you think they bring to the table?

It was actually a difficult process because I work with so many amazing jazz musicians. I think I wanted to try something different (and not use the same musicians as my first recording), so I chose people that I'd worked with a lot over the last few years, people that I really like personally and professionally and have a musical camaraderie with.

They all have had extensive experience in the recording studio as well, which really helps, and they all sound absolutely incredible on the record.

Q - The album features jazz standards like Nat King Cole's "This Will Make You Laugh," but also songs that are not jazz standards, such as Richard Thompson's "Dimming of the Day." How did you go about choosing the songs for the album?

Yes, that's right. I sang that one for my mom. She is no longer able to see me perform, but when she was, she would always ask for that one, and it was always when I was performing with Dennis Luxion, the pianist on the recording.

It is by no means a jazz standard, but I'd heard Bonnie Raitt cover it on one of her records and loved it, so I started performing it at gigs. It also gave me the opportunity to work with my friend and colleague, Paul Marinaro, who sings harmony on it quite beautifully.

Q - You have been called one of the top Chicago jazz musicians. What is your approach to jazz? What attracted you to jazz in the first place?

Thanks for the compliment! I never listened to jazz as a kid. I grew up with a lot of music in the home, though. 

My mom listened to classical music ad nauseam and my Dad listened to soul and R & B. I took voice, piano, and flute lessons growing up and attended college on a classical voice and flute scholarship, and I wasn't exposed to jazz until my mid thirties.

I was working in a restaurant and the manager played jazz all the time and I really started liking it. Then, I read a book called "The Artist's Way" and that book changed my life. 

I decided I wanted to become a jazz singer so I found a pianist, rehearsed and learned the repertoire and became obsessed with the vocal jazz genre. After a year of that, I started "pounding the pavement" to get work. 

I got very lucky early on as I was hired to sing regularly at The Fairmont Hotel three to four nights a week. Now I have a few "steadies" around town, both in East Lakeview (Macku Signature and Taverna 750) and I've had the good fortune to have been offered regular appearances at New York's legendary Rainbow Room. 

I also perform for corporate events, weddings and private parties which is where most of my income comes from.

"What is your approach to jazz?" That is such a huge question, I'm actually not sure how to answer it. 

I try to practice every day, get out and hear other musicians for inspiration, listen to jazz singers and instrumentalists, and I try to learn and grow as an artist by studying theory and piano, so that I can have a more informed approach to harmony.

It is a never-ending process of growth and discovery, both daunting and thrilling.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I think the music scene here is amazing. Where else can you go and hear all types of music any night of the week?

My community in particular is very supportive and helpful, there is a lot of camaraderie and support for other musicians and their creative endeavors, which is the way it should be. I'm not sure how I fit into it.

I hope that people think of me as a good musician who approaches this music from a place of sincerity and integrity. I am also a jazz singing teacher and it really makes me happy to know that I am helping people study and appreciate this genre.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

Hmmm...on my next record, I'd love to collaborate with all of the great guitarists in town. There are so many that I've had the privilege of working with. 

I'd love to travel the world performing and I'd love to sing with a big band too. That is something I have never done.

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