New York Voices: Keeping the Vocal Jazz Flame Burning
But New York Voices keep these four in harmony. Nazarian, for her part, hasn't given up her Broadway dream; she says, lightheartedly, "I still have that dream and thinking that it might be with New York Voices at some point in time. Did I ever think this quartet would be together and I would be in it? No. I often say if I had to audition for this group I wouldn't get in. I was happy to be a founding member."
"We've grown up together," says Meader. "I'd be lying if I said it was a bed of roses. We've had our moments where we've disagreed or had challenges in terms of people's individual life decisions not necessarily being the perfect decision for the group. We've managed to negotiate through all of those life decisions. People moving to other places and getting married and starting families. One of the reasons the group has lasted as long as it has is, first of all, we all share a strong affinity for this style and love doing it. But also, most musicians in jazz are doing a lot of different things to fill in the spaces between what might be their regular gigs. We are definitely like that. Some of are very active as educators. All four of us do solo work on our own. I think some of those outside projects; we do them because we like having some things away from the group. That helps stimulate our energy when we are back together."
He says a typical year for New York Voices is between 50 and 75 gigs, "which is a lot of gigs when you multiply that by 25 years. But it's also not like we're trying to slam out 200 gigs in a year. We have enough space away from the group that it helps us appreciate what we do have when we're together. A lot of our concerts are at jazz clubs or jazz festivals or performing arts centers, but we also do a fair amount of concerts that are specifically affiliated with a high school or college that has brought us in to do some educational things during the day and then a concert at night. We see the excitement of a bunch of high school or colleges kids that are singing their own vocal jazz choir and they're getting geeked out by hanging out and talking with New York Voices for the day. They love hearing the music. That energy is very contagious and kind of keeps us going."
Activities this year have already included concerts with the Manhattan Transfer. There will be gigs in Canada, a trip to Europe and possibly a trip to Asia.
Nazarian admits there have been occasional bumps in the road for New York Voices and times when members might wonder if it's time to stop, "but something in the universe goes: 'Nope. Now you need to be going on the road with the Boston Pops.' Or, 'Nope, now you need to do this other record.' So it's been internally and externally, the forces that continue to drive this group. We don't ignore it. We're not done, as long as we can continue to be fulfilled. And we continue to be rejuvenated and our lives are balanced and everyone is happy; I think we'll keep going.
A bright spirit, Nazarian sparkles when she says, "As James Moody says, you just have to keep showing up. You just have to be persistent and hang in there. We're still waiting for our hit. But if the music is good, why not keep going? This is our life's investment. We are giving back to the genre and the industry and keeping this kind of music alive."
New York Voices, Live With The WDR Big Band (Palmetto, 2013)
New York Voices, A Day Like This (MCG Jazz, 2007)
Paquito D'Rivera, Brazilian Dreams (MCG Jazz, 2002)
New York Voices, Sing, Sing, Sing (Concord Records, 2001)
New York Voices, Sing the Songs of Paul Simon (RCA, 1998)
New York Voices, What's Inside (GRP, 1993)
New York Voices, Hearts of Fire (GRP, 1991)
New York Voices, New York Voices (GRP, 1989)
Count Basie Orchestra, With the New York Voices (Blue Jackel Records, 1986)
All Photos: Courtesy of New York Voices