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Take Five With Beat Kaestli

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Beat Kaestli: Beat Kaestli is a Swiss vocalist, songwriter, arranger and producer. When faced with the choice of a promising singing career in his homeland or broadening his musical horizon in the US, he decided to make New York City his new home. While honing his craft alongside noteworthy jazz performers, such as Jane Monheit, Jason Moran and Stefon Harris, he immersed himself in Manhattan's fiercely competitive music scene, emerging as a seasoned performer. He is now touring the world and appears in clubs such as The Blue Note, Birdland and The Jazz Standard, performing with jazz greats like Jon Hendricks, Esperanza Spalding and Billy Drummond. In 2005, Beat was the chosen vocalist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and has released four CDs, including the critically acclaimed Invitation (Chesky) and Far From Home—A Tribute to European Song (B+B Productions/SUONIX).

Instrument(s):

Voice.

Teachers and/or influences? Chaka Khan, Nancy Marano, Peter Eldridge, Ann-Marie Moss, Jon Hendricks, Luciana Souza, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Sarah Vaughan, Nat "King" Cole, Billie Holiday, Prince, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Dianne Reeves, Aria Hendircks, Magos Herrera, Alexa Rodrian, Elisabeth Lohninger, Cazua, Djavan, Gal Costa, Ed Motta, and many more...

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I knew I wanted to be a musician when I heard "Ain't Nobody," by Rufus and Chaka Khan on the "KPRS—The Hot 103" in Missouri, when I was an exchange student in 1989.

Your sound and approach to music: When I first decided to become a professional musician, I was very focused on perfecting my technique and improving my range and facility of my voice but now I've come back to what got me started singing in the first place—emotions. I was inspired by the emotionality of the voice of the great R&B, soul and jazz singers, and my approach to music now, in my own way, is to do just that and to connect with the lyric, the band and the audience.

Your teaching approach: When I first came to New York, I learned very quickly that none was interested to hear me try to sound like e.g. Luther Vandross or Nat "King" Cole, so I had to figure out who I am and what I sound like and, over the years, I discovered my own, unique sound and started to enjoy that as well. I think that was one of my most important lessons in music and life and I hope I can instill that in my students. You may want to be/sound like your idol but it's your individuality that will let you shine—may that be in music or otherwise.

Your dream band:

I've had the privilege to work with some of the greatest musicians from all across the world and New York offers an abundance of rare talent so I'm inspired every time I step on stage. Now, if I get the chance to do a duet with Chaka Khan—well, that would definitely be an all time high.

Favorite venue:

For me it's not the venue but what transpires between the band members and if we connect on stage and with the audience. If the music is right it doesn't matter where I am. I do, however, appreciate good sound on stage and in the house. Anywhere they can offer that we're off to a good start.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? There's too many to mention. Each major period of my life growing up had a soundtrack, from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" to Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross' "Everybody's Boppin," Chaka Khan "I Feel for You" or Sarah Vaughan's "Send in the Clowns," with the Count Basie Orchestra.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake, The Newest Sound Around.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Oh, I don't know... I just hope that my audience can connect with my music and gets some of the same joy that I'm getting from performing for them and from listening to my own inspirations.

Did you know...

Did you know my name is not beat kayst-lee but bay-ot cast-lee...??!? Beat comes from "Beatus" in Latin and this name exists only in Switzerland. Kaestli means "little box..."go figure... :)

What is in the near future? I'm looking forward to a continued collaboration with Chesky Records in New York and my European Label SUONIX, which will be re-releasing my CD Far From Home—A Tribute to European Song in 2011. I'm planning on doing a CD dedicated to French music in the near future as well as a recording of my own compositions, probably in a more contemporary R&B feel.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Beat Kaestli

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