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Day's Dawning: An Interview with Singer Devorah Day

By Published: October 6, 2003
DD: So, we became fast buddies ever since.

AAJ: That's an incredible story. What did you sing for him?

DD: I sang "Djindi" for him.

AAJ: I'm glad that is ended up on the album as well.

DD: He insisted.

AAJ: That was one of the pieces that really stood out to me. I love Jobim's writing.

DD: Oh, thank you.

AAJ: There's a lot of emotional content in his compositions. They've been used so many times. I actually wanted to ask about that as well. You have the six different tracks on the album. And you chose three standards and three of your own.

DD: Right.

AAJ: Is that very deliberate, to have an equal balance?

DD: Yes.

AAJ: Could you explain why you wanted to do that?

DD: Hmmn, well, "Lover Man", I love that song. That song is me, if that makes sense. The music has to appeal to me first with a song. It has to reach me in three different places, two of which I will mention'to a gentleman. It has to reach me in my heart. It has to reach me intellectually. And the other spot, I will not mention. And then the lyrics come in. And if the lyrics are true, then I can sing the song. So that is why "Lover Man" is on it. Also because Booker T. demanded that it be on it. 'Cause that's how I first met him. He came to my apartment and we were sitting on the living room floor and I sang that for him. And he demanded that it be on there just the way that I sang it for him at first, which was acapella, and then have the guys come in later. And um, then, where was I?

AAJ: You were just going through how every song got on to the album.

DD: Oh, right. So, let's see, that was "Lover Man". Ah, Djindi'Djindi had to be on there because I drove a friend of mine crazy playing it over and over again'35 times, actually, in his apartment. What was his name? Oh, no! You know it, um' I know his name so well and I can't think of it. It will occur to me later. But I played it over and over and drove my friend so crazy that he ended up leaving the apartment for the last 20 times that I played it. It was just the most gorgeous song. It made me think of my son, of holding my son when he was small, and him jumping around when he was playing and the leaps and bounds of that'it just brought me back to my son's childhood. So that had to be there. And that was "Lover Man", "Djindi", and what was the other one?

"Lover Man" was the first standard, "Djindi" was the second, and what was the third? Hold on a second, dear. So sorry, I've had so much to deal with lately, I can't remember right now. Oh, actually, "Lover Man" and "Djindi" were the only two "standards". "Leila" was composed by Jorge Silvester and Arcane Wallins . That, ah, I could not figure out how to sing that song. Jorge had me listen to a tape of a Brazilian woman singing that song and it was gorgeous. And I did not see how I would fit in it at all. And so I took it home and I thought of my son again, and it hit me that it was a lullaby. So if I was to sing it the way that I would sing it to my kid, just as a lullaby, perhaps it would be lovely. Perhaps I would be able to do it justice. 'Cause it is an exquisite piece of work, that song.

So, "Come Closer" is something that I wrote for the man that I will someday meet who will be my mate. "Our Bit of Piddling" was our audition tape, Marion and mine. And "Free Jam" was something that I came up with sitting on the stoop outside of my building.

AAJ: That's a very interesting piece. There are so many elements in there that I don't know where to start! The first is having the beat kept with the voice, and then having all the different elements of skat singing and different jazz singing all mixed together in one place is really kind of unusual and to me was really an interesting historical journey through jazz history.

DD: Thank you very kindly. That is what I wanted, to mirror conversations in the street, traffic sounds, everything that makes me think of music. When people speak to me, I hear music, so that is what I wanted to have through this.

AAJ: Not just on that piece, but on many of them there's a very organic feel.

DD: Thank you very kindly, that's what I wanted.

AAJ: Comparing that to'and not in a judgmental way'but comparing it to a lot of other styles that are prevalent right now that have a very different, very controlled, studio-driven method, I was wondering if you were deliberately moving away from that?

DD: Yes! Yes, yes. Yikes!

AAJ: (Laughs) Cause as soon as I heard this album, I was very intrigued by somebody who was willing to do something that may not lead directly to the big labels.

DD: Right.

AAJ: And so I actually did want to ask about that. How do you see yourself continuing? What's the next step?

DD: Well, I had not really given it too much thought beyond choosing the people that I want to play on the next one. I want Roy Campbell, Jr. I want my brother James Carter who was supposed to be on the first one but who was stuck in Paris.

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