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Meet Dena Taylor: Ask jazz vocalist, Dena Taylor, about turning 62 in October and the relevancy of her music in an age of youth and she'll first respond with one of the brightest smiles you could imagine. Then she'll shake her head and, most likely, respond that she hadn't counted on making it to 62 no less still making music. A jovial spirit with a contagious robust laugh is what you will find if you're fortunate enough to spend any time with her.
Dena spent twelve years abroad in the military, combining her years of service with a series of low-profile concert and event gigs. She also accepted invitations to sing with touring USO shows whenever it was compatible with her military schedule.
Taylor's road to success has been hard-won, even inspirational. Upon leaving the military, she found herself in a violent car accident that left her with a severe brain injury requiring a full two years to regain her ability to speak and walk again. And, since that time, she has also waged her own personal battle against breast cancer.
Having relocated to Central Florida, her pairings with some of the regions finest musicians resulted in her award winning CD, Round Midnight, made with Ron Teixeira, Ron Pirtle and Dave Dunscombe.
Now based in Austin Texas, she released her 2nd CD, Certitude, in March of 2010 including notables Grammy winner Redd Volkaert and Ernie Durawa. One of the tracks from this effort, Song for My Father, was rewarded with an IAIRA Certification of "International Top 100 Hit" shortly after its release.
In keeping with her philosophy that, "It's not enough for music to BE good, it also has to DO good!" Taylor lends her personal support to a number of causes that support others who have endured adversity or are in the midst of their challenges. Portions of all sales go to several charities she supports including Feeding America's Share a Meal and The Dog and Cat Cancer Fund (DCCF). Taylor lost her personal service dog, Sonny, to cancer several years back so DCCF is a very personal cause.
As for the new standards CD, The Nearness of You, released February 14, 2014, when asked about it an enormous grin breaks across her face and she can barely contain her enthusiasm! Guest artists include Grammy winner Redd Volkaert, Rick McRae, Ernie Durawa, David Chao and others.
Teachers and/or influences? I learned to love lyrics because of the folk music I listened to and learned the beauty of "notes" from opera. I have VERY broad musical tastes and I get something from everything I listen to.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I discovered that I could actually sing rather than just mouthing into my hairbrush pretending I could. My hairbrush microphone was fun but growing up and being able to really make music was delicious.
Your sound and approach to music: My sound is solid and without a lot of vocal gymnastics. My approach to the music I sing, regardless of the genre, is to find songs that I can inhabit. I want to feel them... happiness, anger, joy, sorrow, indifference, love, hate, longingI want them to be songs I can relate to since I think it allows me to be believable as the interpreter of those songs or atleast interpret them as they pertain to me!
Road story: Your best or worst experience: It would have to be a worst experience but best band memory. Dena & Company was performing at Lou's Blues Upstairs in Indiatlantic, Florida. This is a club where the 2nd floor overlooks the main floor. It's a great club on the beach and it's frequented by a great mix of people and there's ALWAYS motorcycles. Well, there we were performing and recording a live album right in the middle of the NCAA Basketball Playoffs so, quite regularly, the crowd would roar at the game and stomp their feet which, of course, made the floor vibrate. We were doing pretty well at staying on track until a biker incensed by the way the game was going... backed his massive Harley up to the double doors, had a couple friends hold the door open and filled Lou's Blues Upstairs with not only sound of a revving Harley but exhaust fumes. We all just looked at each other and fell over laughing. The sound engineer wasn't quite so amused, however, poor guy! We each kept a copy of the recording and we still fall apart when we listen to it. Up until his death several years ago, John Fitzgerald (our bassist) and I never could look at each other during subsequent gigs without breaking up.
Favorite venue: I don't have a specific venue that's a favorite but a "type." They are the small, intimate places that are reminiscent of a 40-esque jazz club where people come to sit close to each other, enjoying the ambiance of the room and letting the music and the musician be a part of their experience. As a vocalist, I love making that individual connection with the audience.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.