Take Five With Antoinette Montague
But Montague does not forsake the original Great American Songbook either. She includes an up-tempo version of "The Song Is You," by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II ("one of my favorite versions is Nancy Wilson with Cannonball Adderley"), along with Duke Ellington's 1938 "Lost in Meditation"("This is just church to me"). Montague also offers fresh takes on somewhat obscure material with Ray Noble's "I Hadn't Anyone Till You"("I heard Sarah Vaughan do it with a big band, but I decided to make a bossa nova out of it"), and a version of "Meet Me at No Special Place."
Antoinette brings her own special passion to the Dave Brubeck-penned "Summer Song"("I always loved the Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae version"), the theme song for the 1960s TV show The Naked City ("Teri Thornton originally sang 'Somewhere in the Night,' and after I met her I decided to incorporate it into my show"), and Ellington's "23rd Psalm"("Mahalia Jackson's original version was done more like a dirge, so I tried to breathe new life into it with a fresh arrangement"). Two tunes were inspired by her mentorsCarrie Smith taught her the Big Bill Broonzy bluesy "Give Your Mama One Smile," and Etta Jones was known for "Ever Since The One I Love's Been Gone." The latter piece (with a few words changed) is dedicated to the memory of both Antoinette's sister Barbara Montague Mousa and good friend Phillis Womble, who both died while Antoinette was selecting material for this CD. Montague's slow, powerful and passionate singing of the tune is a fitting tribute.
Before headlining her own shows, she sat in on hundreds of gigs in an effort to practice her craft, learn the ropes and work her way into the music scene. The past decade-and-a-half Antoinette has been one of the hardest-working jazz and blues singers in New York City. As an example, for years on Monday nights when there are jam sessions at clubs all over town, she would often sing a song or two with the Harlem Renaissance Band at Lucy's and then hop over to 125th Street to vocalize in front of the Cotton Club Big Band directed by Ed Passant. In recent years she has performed at the legendary Blue Note, Dizzy Gillespie's Club Coca-Cola at the Lincoln Center, The Zebra Room in Harlem's famous Lenox Lounge, the 35th American Jazz Festival, and the Pine Grill Jazz Festival in Buffalo in front of a crowd of 7,000. Montague has worked numerous gigs with Bill Easley, Tom Aalfs and Mike Longo's New York State of the Art Band (including the 88th Birthday Celebration of Dizzy Gillespie). She also was in the Great Women in Music Festival at Birdland with the Duke Ellington Band, directed by Jack Jeffers and filmed for television by the BET on Jazz channel. Antoinette performed at the 10th Anniversary of International Women in Jazz (she served as the Vice President of that organization), and the NAACP's "Tribute to Milt Jackson."
Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Antoinette grew up listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. In the fourth grade, Antoinette also would go to the local library and listen to albums by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith. Other influences were the R&B/soul of The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, The Jackson 5, Jackie Wilson, Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding; and singers as varied as Mahalia Jackson, Maime Smith, Paul Robeson, Nat King Cole, Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Little Willie John, Etta James, Patsy Cline and Nancy Wilson. Antoinette went to Seton Hall University on a full academic Martin Luther King Scholarship and joined the college's Voices United gospel choir which got to open for Walter Hawkins, Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Soul Stirrers. This led to her joining another gospel group, the Judah Chorale. Also during college Antoinette performed with an R&B group, sang in a blues band called Five Kings and a Queen, and took piano and voice lessons.
"I don't believe in strict musical categories, but I feel like I paint all of the diverse material on this album with the many colors of jazz," Montague states. "I try to create music with good feelings but also a dose of reality blues, plus joy, spirituality, love, passion and swing. I want the overall musical experience to leave you smiling."
Teachers and/or influences?
My mother, Pecola Montague. Of course Etta Jones, Carrie Smith of Black and Blue teacher Mrs. Green. She played the piano and sang good songs to us daily.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I sang and played the clarinet to my family and they enjoyed it. I always sang from before I could remember.
Your sound and approach to music:
Find the spiritual connection. Place the voice from inside my soul. Seek the truth via the message. Put the blues in everything.