Candy Dulfer: Prodigy Turned Pro
A series of performances and recordings with Grammy-winning vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Van Morrison added yet another dimension to Dulfer's career. Although Dulfer acknowledges Morrison's reputation for being somewhat "grumpy," she adds that "he means really well. He has a really big heart. Van Morrison can be difficult with his musicians, but to me and my Mom he was always so sweet. I think he liked having some young fresh blood in the band, and that's why I think he asked me so many times. He always has really great saxophone players; he doesn't really need me there. But I also think he likes the way I improvise and play very spontaneous." Dulfer has been featured on several of Morrison's recordings including his highly acclaimed album A Night in San Francisco (Polydor, 1993) which was compiled from recordings of their live performances.
Candy Dulfer's resume includes extensive experience playing and recording a variety of music styles. She has toured, performed, or recorded with a truly diverse group of artists which also includes Arturo Sandoval, Maceo Parker, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin, David Sanborn, Sheila E, Michael McDonald, and many more. One would think that her demonstrated versatility would prevent her music from being stereotyped or placed into one specific sub-genre. However, despite describing herself as primarily an R&B saxophonist, Dulfer is routinely referred to as a smooth jazz artist. "In Europe, we don't have these labels. We have a couple of labels: either it's pop, or jazz, or jazz/rock. Smooth jazz or contemporary or adult, all that stuff, they don't even know that [in Europe]. So I had to really get used to it when I came to the States for the first time. When I do a performance or make an album, some songs will be smooth because I think there should be some relaxed, cool stuff. But there should also be some high energy and some soulful stuff. So it's always weird to have radio stations [focus on only] one style of [my] music.
I'm glad the smooth audience embraced me because I get so many gigs. But every time we play a smooth jazz festival I have to laugh, because we play maybe three smooth songs and seven funky heavy songs. The funny thing is, they seem to like it! I guess the labels aren't all that important, but it's funny how it works. I think you shouldn't label music at all."
Perhaps Candy Dulfer and European jazz fans have the right idea in keeping labels less specific. Placing musicians and their music into the equivalent of a mutually-exclusive caste system not only discourages fans from expanding their musical tastes, but also seems to breed elitism. And it may actually stifle the creativity of artists as well. It seems almost illogical to slice the jazz market into so many distinct categories and potentially create smaller audiences for artists' recordings and live performances.
Candy Dulfer's latest album Candy Store (Heads Up International, 2007) has done very well, reaching #2 on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz charts. The album features a sprinkling of techno-style special effects, but it's funk and R&B roots are clear. A subsequent album is already in the works with an anticipated release in Spring 2009. And to the delight of audiences, Dulfer continues to tour extensively, delivering numerous live performances primarily in the USA, Europe, Canada, and Japan. But despite her hectic schedule, she always has time for each of the fans in the long lines that form after her performances. Dulfer routinely stays until the last fan gets an autograph or photo. And on those occasions when she meets a young musician in the crowd, Candy Dulfer makes an extra effort to encourage and inspire them, perhaps in remembrance of her own extraordinary childhood.