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Day's Dawning: An Interview with Singer Devorah Day

By Published: October 6, 2003
'[T]he thing is to sit and talk with all of the components, all of the people who are supposed to play on it, and to smell them, as strange as that may sound (laughs) and feel them, and then go from there. 'Cause it has to be a conversation, and we all have to be able to listen to one another, and to respond fully and freely. And you can only do that if you have a great deal of comfort. So the next time that we do something else it will happen in the same way that this one happened. We will have one rehearsal that probably will not be much of a rehearsal. The one rehearsal for Light of Day was done on the last day of the World Series of that years, so we were not very much into the whole rehearsal thing. Basically, 'Do you know the standards?' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' 'We will go through these different pieces'the extra pieces'one time only. Give you a feel for it. Here you have the sheet music, look it over, and then burnt it. And then come and hold me.' That is basically what it is, all of them holding me.

AAJ: Does anyone in your family have a musical background?

DD: I was brought up in a family that had an awful lot of musicians, and none of them took anything I was doing very seriously at all. I was actually the family joke. So this is all really, really bizarre and wonderful. I just did this music to get it out of my system. I did not expect anyone to pay much attention to it. I just knew that I had to say it. I had all of my brothers around me and they had things to say. So we all got together, talked, and that is what the music is, all of us talking and spilling our souls out. There you have it.

AAJ: How did you get involved with Abaton Books?

DD: Abaton Books is Mark and Laurie Borsen, two lovely, lovely people. [ Here a huge crash of thunder interrupted the connection] Yeah, yeah go God! More rain. They are wonderful people they put out other Avante artists, they publish plays and other wonderful things. They are great to talk with'.

[Here, Bernhard Stohlman took over the phone for a moment to explain his role in getting Devorah Day's work released.]

Bernhard Stohlman: What happened, they came by one day, and I had just installed surround-sound. That's my most recent undertaking is to introduce a new system for processing stereo into surround-sound for the record companies. They're all foundering, they're all trying to figure out what to do, and we have a system for concerting it. I wanted to play our demos for my friends at Abaton Books. They had come by to hear the demos 'cause I had just installed this system. While we were talking they asked, 'What else do you have, what else are you working on?' I said, 'Well, there's an artist whom I've admired for a long time, perhaps you'd like to hear her.' I put on a cassette I had, and to my own amazement'because I had just bought this system'to my amazement I really heard it for the first time. I knew she was good, but I had not really heard it. We sat there enthralled, listening to the cassette and they turned to me and said, 'Are you going to put it out?' and I said, 'ESP is not really involved in reinventing itself over again.' 'Could we put it out? Do you mind?' I said, 'I'm Devorah's friend, if you will'I'll tell you what we'll do. You put it out under license from ESP that way your tiny company'the people who will listen to it will understand it is endorsed by ESP.' They thought it was a great idea, so that's what we finally did.

AAJ: Had you heard her sing before?

BS: Not, no I had not.

DD: No, not really. I had been singing for years acapella.

BS: She'd do little things for me, but by and large I couldn't say I had. That cassette on my old system was almost unintelligible.

AAJ: Interesting. You said you'd been doing acapella work, had you been singing in the club circuit?

DD: Yes, I'd sung in the Blue Note, Folk City, lot's of the clubs in the village. I'd become frustrated because none of the musicians would play with me. So I became disgusted and said, 'If you're not willing to play with me I will do this myself.' I ended up getting a lot of gigs going up there singing a whole lot of things acapella. The people seemed to like it.

AAJ: Why did you choose to reintroduce the reeds and the bass?

DD: That came about from meeting all the individuals one by one and developing a loving rapport with all of them.

AAJ: I was very interested in the effect of removing both piano and drums. All of a sudden you get a different feel, a floating sensation.

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