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Take Five With...

Take Five With Paula Harris

By Published: May 18, 2010
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Diane Schuur's Count Basie disk. I was brassy enough to walk up to the Clemson University Jazz Bands director in 1987 and say, "You need a vocalist with your band!" He looked at me and said "Well...who'd you have in mind?" I said "me!" He asked me what I sang and I said, "Any jazz singer you want me to!" He asked me if I could sing a song called "Travelin' Light," by Diane Schuur. I had no idea who she was at the time but I said, "You give me a recording of the song and I'll have it ready tomorrow." He did, and when I heard her voice singing that song, I had an epiphany. I had always known I wanted to be a singer, but that day set the course of my life towards jazz.

Oh...I did become the vocalist for the jazz band after I auditioned the next day, and the following concert was the first time I performed as a jazz singer.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Diane Schuur & the Count Basie Orchestra (1987). The second, third, and fourth albums I bought were Deedles, her first album from 1985, Schuur Thing, also from 1985,and Timeless, her 1986 release. I can now say that I own every CD she has ever released (that I know of). I'm kind of OCD like that; I tend to do that with an artist I really like. Sad thing is some of the great ones have more than fifty CDs available. You could bankrupt yourself trying to collect them all; granted, you'd enjoy yourself right to the poorhouse...

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Passion. I love all types of jazz and blues, but lately so much of it is so cool, it loses its fire. Right now, I am trying to walk to fine line between over-singing and expressing myself with passion. I've just had to learn to do what my heart and ears tell me is right. I hate the way so may people who are uneducated about jazz as a genre, classify it as some sort of audio wallpaper, to be played softly in the background for a dinner party. I'm not background music; I'm something you can't ignore, and interesting to listen to even when I'm singing softly.

Did you know...

I'm a gourmet cook and an artist too. I also have a three pound furry thing (also known as a Yorkie) that believes she is my child. Sad thing is...she has almost convinced me that I actually did give birth to her!

CDs you are listening to now: Della Reese, On Strings of Blue (ABC Records, 1967);

Queen Latifah, Trav'lin Light (Verve, 2007);

Michael Bublé, Call Me Irresponsible (143/reprise, 2007;

Adele, "Fool that I Am," the B-side of her Hometown Glory single, downloaded from iTunes;

Saffire, The Uppity Blues Women: Havin' the Last Word (Alligator, 2009).

Desert Island picks: Diane Schuur, In Tribute (GRP, 1992);

Phyllis Hyman, Legacy of Phyllis Hyman (Arista, 1996);

The Jazz Singers 1919-1994 box set (Smithsonian, 1998) (yeah, I know it's cheating!); Incognito, Remixed/101 Degrees and Rising (Mercury, 1997);

George Benson, Tenderly (Warner Bros., 1989).

I'd also have to have some instrumentals like Miles Davis

Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
, Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
or.....damn! How the heck do you pick five?

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Evolving.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Exposure to younger audiences, incorporation of new elements to keep it fresh, dedication and passion to jazz as an art form by the people who play it.

What is in the near future? I'm going into the studio with two of my favorite pianists to do some stripped-down jazz standards. I am also looking for a lead jazz guitarist and upright bassist to collaborate with on a few "strings only" recordings. And I also have penned two new songs, one a blues and the other one jazz. They're kind of naughty so I'm keeping them on the DL from my Mom (she's straight-laced, if ya know what I mean).

Ultimately I want an album that is pared-down, overall elegant (jazz), but at times impudent (blues). I'm trying to do something that reflects my personality. My goal is to get into the jazz and blues festivals.

By Day:

Housewife (ain't life grand?).

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: dead...or dying.

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