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Douye: At Last, A Sophisticated Lady

Jim Worsley By

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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.

AAJ: Again, you were joined by a bevy of talented musicians. It is a very strong jazz drenched record instrumentally as well. How did this project all come together?

D: I worked with a gentleman named Zack O'Farrill. He helped steer me out of my comfort zone. He knew what I could do and helped me not to be afraid to just let loose and do it. When we did "Aqua de Beber," at the end of that track it was all just letting it ride, just letting it go. When I was doing it, I didn't even know where all that came from. I just allowed myself to be free and let it go. The record all came out very naturally. We didn't plan it as much as we just let it happen. We didn't want it to be overly structured, again just to let it go. It's doing well on the Latin jazz charts, so we are very happy about that.

AAJ: The song selection flows seamlessly. It's a well-chosen collection of compositions including many from Antonio Carlos Jobim. A personal favorite of yours?

D: Yes, these are all my selections and yes, I love Jobim's work and have so much respect for him. I felt like you can't really do bossa nova and not do his music. I gave tribute to him. He is the Godfather of bossa nova.

AAJ: You perform frequently in various clubs in the LA area. Are you looking to take the show on the road?

D: Yes, I am going to get out there a bit. I am going to Florida in July and then the east coast and the Midwest in October. I want to put my name out there and have some fun performing. I always have my musical director and pianist, Aaron Provisor, with me. He knows me and my music so very well. We practice together every week. So, I am very comfortable and confident of always being able to give a strong performance anywhere we play.

AAJ: Well, having seen and heard you perform live a couple of times now, I certainly know that to be true. I admire your work ethic.

D: Thank you very much. My dad used to say, "It takes a lot to be a lot."

AAJ: Oh, I like that quote. I like that a lot.

D: Yeah, it takes a lot to be a lot. It's very true, you know. Artistry is timeless. I want to always be careful to do my best work and make sure that what I create will last a lifetime. You take someone like John Coltrane. It took a lot for him to do what he did. But it's timeless, it lasts forever. My dad told me when I was maybe eight years old that I wouldn't be able to touch or hug everyone in the world personally. That my music, my records will define me. I always think of that and want the name Douye to always be thought of with the highest quality of work possible. It is very important to me to always be authentic. People should know me and understand the kind of person I am by listening to my music. Daddy said so.
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