The path that led Sylvia Brooks back to her jazz roots provided her with plenty of dramatic stories to tell. Possessing a sumptuous, velvet-rich voice, she’s earned critical raves for each of her four albums, including 2022’s Signature, which marked her emergence as a gifted songwriter. Her emotionally direct delivery imbues the music with bracing honesty and keen emotional intelligence.
Brooks came to music as a birthright. Her father, pianist/arranger Don Ippolito, was a first-call jazz accompanist who performed with giants such as Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie. Her mother, Johanna Dordick, was a conservatory-trained opera singer who also dazzled audiences singing standards and pop tunes at East Coast night clubs and resorts (she went on to found the Los Angeles Opera Theater in 1978).
In a fateful turn of events it was the death of her father that opened the door to her love of Jazz. In looking to have several of his original pieces played at his funeral she immersed herself in her father’s extensive archive, an experience that sparked a jazz epiphany.
Brooks launched her career with her impressive 2009 debut, Dangerous Liaisons. The project gained international attention and announced the arrival of an impressive jazz chanteuse, earning a spot on Bob Parlocha’s Top 50 jazz albums of 2009.
She ventured further into the shadows on 2012’s critically-acclaimed follow-up Restless. A collaboration with Grammy Nominated Kim Richmond, the album was selected for numerous Top Ten lists by leading jazz radio stations and featured on San Francisco’s KPOO, the first Black-owned station on the West Coast.
Her third album, The Arrangement, marked a creative leap for Brooks. Singled out as one of the top jazz vocal albums of the year by veteran producer and jazz historian Arnaldo Desouteiro, the 2017 project featured a dazzling cast of arrangers who designed bespoke charts tailored for Brooks’ voice. The selections are mostly from the Great American Songbook. She also wrote lyrics for three originals in collaboration with different composers, including “Maybe I’m a Fool” with the late Patrick Williams, the prolific composer/arranger who accrued 16 Grammy nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Emmys, a 1980 Oscar nomination and a 1976 Pulitzer Prize nomination.
In many ways 2022’s Signature was a logical next step toward defining herself as an artist. In writing her own songs, Brooks has clearly found her voice as an artist. Ace pianists Tom Ranier, Christian Jacob and Jeff Colella designed beguiling, harmonically rich settings for her incisive lyrics. One of L.A.’s most sought after studio musicians, Tom Ranier has toured with some of the biggest stars in jazz and popular music. As musical director he has worked with Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett on tour, and accompanied Bennett and Lady Gaga on the Grammy Award-winning album Love For Sale.