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Day's Dawning: An Interview with Singer Devorah Day

Franz A. Matzner By

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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. —Devorah Day
Five years after making the original recordings, singer/song writer/conceptualist Devorah Day has finally secured the release of her debut album, Light of Day. Supported by Marion Brown's legendary saxophone playing, as well as the camaraderie and musical skill of the other band members, this stunning exploration of jazz singing reveals what happens when inspiration, honesty, and individuality meet.

An uncompromising artist, Ms. Day's personality is almost as intriguing as her music, and it was my privilege to speak with her recently about her new album. Ms. Day's openness of spirit was immediately evident, her compelling, almost sprite-like voice carrying with it a surety stemming not from the practiced manners of commercial success, but the confidence of real originality. Though many claim it, Ms. Day convinces one immediately that she's singing because of the sounds she hears inside and that moreover, the reason she places them before us is simply to offer their beauty.

Although this is her debut album, Ms. Day is an accomplished and experienced vocalist, comfortable with many styles, and in full command of both jazz's long history and its breadth of styles.

A rare talent, it is my pleasure to introduce to those who have not yet heard her music, Ms. Devorah Day.

All About Jazz: How did you get started in jazz singing?

Devorah Day: It was a rather circuitous route. I went from country music to singing madrigals, to singing folk, to opera, and then to jazz. People kept offering me different projects, saying ' Well, I know that you have never done this before, so maybe you might not want to?' and I would say, 'Oh, sure. I'll try it.' So I went from form to form, to form'and that is how.

AAJ: Are you going to keep moving around or are you stuck on jazz singing now?

DD: I think jazz is where I'm going to stay. I feel the most comfortable here, I have the most freedom here.

AAJ: Do you think that having sung so many different forms has helped develop your unique approach to singing?

DD: Thank you very kindly first of all, and yes!

AAJ: When were the sessions for this album originally done?

DD: The session was done in Sept. of 1998 we mixed it down the second week of October, and nothing was done with it'I was busy for five and half years in a life of death battle with a portion of the government'a legal battle'that I had. So I had to drop everything to deal with it.

AAJ: How did you get involved with Marion?

DD: Marion! I was feeling a little crabby one day, which is very, very unusual for me, and a friend of mine said, 'I want you to come and here this group of guys and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.' And I thought, ' Well, I do not feel remotely charming, or open or whatever today, so I'm just going to stay home today and stay in the tub, and pray and relax and drink orange juice in the candlelight.' Then my friend said, ' No, no, no you have to come, you just have to come.' The friend's name was Will Connell, an awesome reed player and friend of mine. So I said, 'O.K. I will do it' and I said to myself, 'I will stay for fifteen minutes and then I will leave'. Well, I got in there and they had this beautiful orchestra. They were amazing. At the helm of it they had James Carter and then they had come up Mr. Marion Brown to play. I did not know very much about either one of them, just a very little, and I was of course in awe. I was just amazed. Wow. So to say the least, I decided I was going to stay more than fifteen minutes. When Marion and James were finished I stood of to the outer reaches of the room and watched them. I watched James Carter get on his knees before Marion Brown and hold his hand, and smile and talk with him. So I waited until he was through and I went over to Marion and said, 'Hello sir, I really do not know all that much about your work, all that I know is what I've heard here tonight and I think that you are amazing. Could you come with me please?' So I grabbed him by the hand and said, 'I have a present for you.' And he said, 'Oh, O.K.' So I took him upstairs into one of the rehearsal rooms and I told him, 'Go sit right there on the couch and please sit back and close your eyes, I have something for you'. Later on Marion told me he thought it was a joint! But it was not Ganja'we got around to that later on'so he sat there and he listened and at one point he jumped out of his chair and then I said, 'Are you O.K.?'

"Okay, so Marion jumped out of his chair and I asked him if he was okay. He said, "Yes, I'm doing just fine, thank you so much." And he sat back down and he said, "Please continue." I did. And he'when I finished he sat there and he put his hands together in the shape of a little pyramid or something like that, and just looked at me with those eyes for a good eight minutes of silence. A long, long time. And then he said, "What is your name?" And I told him, and he said, "Well, Lady Day, I'm going to make it my business that everybody knows who you are."

AAJ: Wow

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