Take Five With Ava Lemert

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Ava Lemert:

Ava Lemert is a Sacramento siren of soul. She is a passionate singer, songwriter, as well as an impressive saxophonist. Her original songs range from the richly arranged '70s soul-tinged "You Know You Got It," which feature her singing lead, harmonies, and layers of her alto and tenor saxophones, to her haunting, emotive and sexy instrumental "Rhodelea." Ava has the vocal and sax chops to make quite an impression on fans and critics alike.


Alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, vocal.

Teachers and/or influences?

Herb Hardesty, Stan Getz, King Curtis, Ben Webster, Lee Allen, Boots Randolph, Bill Justis, Ace Cannon, Gato Barbieri, Grover Washington, Jr., Branford Marsalis (tenor sax), Earl Bostic, Maceo Parker, David Sanborn, Candy Dulfer, Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Lisa Stansfield, Tina Turner, Sarah Vaughan, Gladys Knight, Mavis Staples, Dusty Springfield, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Alicia Keys, Taylor Dayne, Teena Marie, Dinah Washington, Dionne Warwick, The Beatles are my lifelong inspiration.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I began making up songs and singing them around age three, nonsense stuff into my Dad's cassette recorder, I got my own at age seven and began making up whole "radio programs" with characters, commercials, DJs and thrashing on my toy drum set, and various home-made instruments. In high school I began putting my poems to melody and began layering sounds, (terrible sound quality).

Your sound and approach to music:

When inspiration first strikes, it is usually my best work! I am very spontaneous, and enjoy that aspect of the creation process the most. This might make others cringe but sometimes working out ideas tires me. I like that first "spark." Some of my "sparks" have been sitting around the garage on old 4-track cassettes waiting for me to finish the ideas. I like to listen, listen, and listen more.

I have never been a patient person when it comes to study, I like to jump right in. Sometimes that means I have to go back and start over, read, then come back with a more pragmatic approach! Collaboration has been a godsend to my music so far. I have realized that my songs can be amazing "butterflies" if I can take them to my friends who are objective and well-studied musicians and let the music grow with them. I also need to have more faith in my own vision for my songs sometimes. But I love to hear a song that I wrote given new life with beautiful instrumentation and additional chord structure. Like a diamond in the rough, how they shine when that "polish" is added!

Your teaching approach:

Listen to many kinds of music, especially many different instruments. If at all possible, learn several completely un-related instruments. Learn piano, I started on a monophonic instrument and still struggle with bass clef and reading piano music. I think if I had that basis, my musical progress would not have stopped after high school, forcing me to leave my music major in college.

Your dream band:

I love congas and Latin percussion, my dream band would have a drum kit, and probably two or three more percussionists. Gotta have a horn section! Rhodes piano is a must, it is my favorite keyboard sound in the world. Several bass types: fretless electric, upright and slappin' funk à la Bootsy! Guitar, of course, and a whole bunch of styles, like George Benson, Ernie Isley, and acoustic guitar. I also dream of a string section. Using as few instruments from a synth as possible, (money's no object here, right?).

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Playing in the dark at a gig, in a walk way next to a soda machine that made more noise than I did!

Favorite venue:

I love to play at Eskaton because the residents ask for me, I have seen people who didn't know their name, suddenly burst into song along with me. Or, at Christmas, I did a show and a man and woman, both in wheel chairs came together and held hands the whole evening, the lifetime of love was right there before me not five feet away and I knew that my music and my voice had rekindled these feelings. It was the most incredibly moving experience I have had. My mother, God rest her soul, was smiling down upon it.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

"That 70's Girl" is the song that makes me feel so good, I think it truly reflects me. The song is fun, it is a nod to the soul and funk of the '70s when I was a child that first sparked this love of music-making, and I love how Cam Perridge on guitar and I "sing" along on our instruments at the end, a nice surprise. I love harmony and I love to use my saxophones as "extensions" of my own voice, this song has my tenor and alto saxophones harmonizing.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Weather Report, Heavy Weather.


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