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Douye: At Last, A Sophisticated Lady

Jim Worsley By

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AAJ: What was it like meeting and working with Carter for the first time?

D: After we agreed on the time and the studio and all that I flew to New York to meet with him. I called him as soon as I got into town and he said to meet him at the studio at 10am and to please be on time. I. of course, didn't want to risk being late. I left an hour early and arrived at the studio at 9:08. Mr. Ron Carter was there already! He was tuning his bass and ready to go. I couldn't believe it. It was delightful. I have so much love and respect for this wonderful man. So diligent and focused. As soon as I walked in, he looked at me and smiled. He said, "You know, I tested you and you passed." (Douye laughs out loud). He just opened up after that to do the work with me. It was just beautiful.

AAJ: It had to be magical to record "Nature Boy" as a vocal/bass duet with such an icon in the history of jazz.

D: You know, I thought to myself that if I was going to have this wonderful opportunity to work with this great man, I don't want a trio or whatever like that. I just want him and his instrument. He asked me how I would like him to arrange it. "How many instruments do you hear?," he asked. He was a little surprised when I told him that I just wanted him and his bass. He is such a master of that instrument. I wanted to keep it simple and for him to be featured.

AAJ: Your dad would have been so proud.

D: Oh yes. I could just feel his presence and became teary eyed afterwards. In a good way, you know?

AAJ: I can imagine. It must indeed be special, not just in this moment, but within your jazz career to be fulfilling both your own and your father's dreams.

D: Yes. Very much so. From the time I was ten years old. And to be able to work all these years later with these gentlemen that were so very appreciated by my dad. Yes, it is very special. He told me I was destined to do this. That I was chosen to do this. That the Gods of music will lead your path. I didn't always understand it all when I was just a child. But I sure do now.

AAJ: Going back, what brought you from Nigeria to Los Angeles? And don't say an airplane because you know that's not what I mean.

D: (laughing) Well, I had spent a lot of time in England growing up. I have family there, so ever since I was five or six years old, I was going back and forth between Nigeria and England. My dad loved England. It is maybe a six to seven-hour flight from Nigeria. We used to vacation in England quite a bit. He always wanted to expose me to the western world. He wanted me to observe some of the western ways of thinking and living. I spent about six months a year in England, so I lived in both worlds. My dad was thinking way ahead, because that has shaped who Douye is today. I'm very appreciative of my heritage but I am very western in my thinking. When I was about eighteen, I realized that I needed to come to America and stay if I really wanted to pursue the career in music. I went to a music school to study voice. I went to a school called the Musicians' Institute. After that, through one of my instructors, I met a gentleman named Terry Shaddick. He is the composer of Olivia Newton John's big hit "Physical." He is quite a bit older than me and became a mentor. He is from England and we connected right away with our British ways of having a spot of tea and that sort of thing. He had the kind of wisdom that I saw in my father. A real straight shooter. He took interest in me because he could see that I was eager to do it and do it well. He especially helped me with writing and composing.

AAJ: What are the major cultural differences between living in Nigeria and living in the western world?

D: Nigeria is very very cultured and appreciative of their heritage. The way they dress. The way they eat. They are very respectful of one's elders. The way they socialize in Nigeria is very different from the way the western world socializes. Still, some commonalities with England, as they are very cultured and respectful there as well. I think what my dad was trying to accomplish was the fact that if I was going to be doing western music that he didn't want me to be closed minded. It was important to be exposed to the western thinking. My sound, my style, my thinking, was all shaped by those experiences. Let me give you an example. I love hats. All kinds of hats. I collect them. In England we always wore hats. We still do. Everywhere you go you wear hats. I decided that they would be a good way to define my appearance and my style as a jazz artist. Thinking back to when I was little and listening to the jazz music with my dad, most of the women back then wore hats. It was the style back then in jazz. I admire that. It's not like that now. But I decided that if I was going to do jazz that I wanted to be like the legends back in the day. I like the way they presented themselves and wanted to bring that back. I have some beautiful hats from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

AAJ: Which vocalists inspired you at an early age?

D: There are four that I still listen to every day. Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan. I listen to them for different reasons. They all have different character. I mostly listen to Sinatra for his confidence. When he sings a song, you can hear the confidence in his tone. You can hear that he knows what he wants to do and just comes out and does it. With Ella it is much about her timing and phrasing. She starts with a bend and ends with a bend. She had a different style. Sarah, as well, for timing and phrasing but in a different way. She had a melancholy feel to her singing. She could go high and then bring it really down. Go high and round. Then, of course, with Billie I listen for mood. She was so good with color in songs.

AAJ: Yeah, Billie Holiday really expressed the many feelings and emotions involved in her music.

D: Yes, very much so. I have tried to take elements from all of them in shaping my own sound and style. I listen to others, of course. But I find myself always going back to these four. My ear calls me back for different things. They are my masters. I listen to them every day. It's so amazing that every time I listen that I still hear something different.

AAJ: That's perhaps the most remarkable element of listening to jazz.

D: Yes, I think so too. Sometimes if I am in a bittersweet mood, I can feel every (with emphasis) bit of the emotion that Sarah Vaughn is trying to convey. Then it's just wow, how did she do it? She did it so clean and simple yet truly magical. It just doesn't get any better to me. I have so much respect for those artists. I so wish I could have met them.

AAJ: We can be thankful that they all left us such a large and wonderful volume of work that will live on forever. Let's talk then about your new record, Quatro: Bossa Nova Deluxe. It's a gorgeous record. What led you in the direction of bossa nova?

D: I wanted to do something different. It's doing well on the charts. Daddy Said So was a vocal jazz record of timeless standards. I wanted to do an entire album of something different, not just put in a couple of bossa nova tunes. I was inspired by the many people of African heritage that are now in Brazil. I have been to Brazil and I thought it would be interesting to do a project that mixes the sounds of African jazz with the Brazilian bossa nova. As an artist I wanted to do not only something unique but that also showcases a part of me. The African percussion sounds aren't quiet. There is generally a bounce to them. The Brazilian percussion and rhythms are different. The samba and Latin sounds bring in different elements. It was quite challenging really to infuse all of that. But I'm quite glad that I did.
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