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Take Five with Monika Hoffman

Monika Hoffman By

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Meet Monika Hoffman

A Swedish singer with Hungarian-German roots, Monika Hoffman studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she performed with the likes of Michael Brecker and Charlie Haden. Back in Europe, her latin vocal jazz album Let's Run Away featured Cuban-American saxophone legend Paquito D'Rivera and she now presents its follow up—Ten Muses.

Doris Day, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Marie Fredriksson, Shirley Bassey, Cezalia Evora, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Etta James: these ladies are Monika Hoffman's "Ten Muses." Having shaped her musical path over the years, she pays tribute these ten 'grandes dames' in various formats—from piano-vocal duo, right through to big band.

"My muses have taught me that a woman can be anything: strong, cool, naughty, tender, tough, enchanting, intimate, simple, warm, overwhelming. To take all these different qualities and let them flow into these great songs—that is the essence of my album."

Recorded in Stuttgart, Germany, the repertoire was arranged by pianist & MD Patrick Tompert and takes the listener through a collection of songs touched by everything from groove & pop to salsa & swing.

Who were your teachers and/or influences?

When it comes to teachers and influencers I could write a book. They have all been extremely important to me at the time they entered my life. My first teacher was Shirley Temple, my father presented her to me when I was only two years old, her tap dancing and singing was a revelation. She opened my eyes and ears to Judy Garland and Doris Day. With them came Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey.

My first encounter with improvisation was when I started playing the saxophone and singing with my high school big band, through this repertoire I met Ella Fitzgerald. Another passion that I found with time was salsa dancing, and with dancing I got exposed to the marvelous world of latin music and of course, latin jazz. I discovered along the way that it's actually the character of the artists that have influenced me the most. That's also why I felt so strongly about creating my latest album Ten Muses. There I got to explore the characters of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Cesária Evora, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Marie Fredriksson (Roxette), Etta James and Rosemary Clooney, Ten of my female muses, with that said there are so many male characters along my musical path that I would like explore later on.

What's your sound and approach to music?

I always try to let melody, sound and rhythm flow through me, let it take me and my band wherever it wants us to be in the moment. I approach each song as If I had written them myself, making them personal. I love that the voice can do so many things, express sound and feeling effortlessly. I grew up playing different instruments like violin and saxophone, this is why I enjoy listening to instrumentalists and get inspired by their tone and the way the express melody. Warmth, power and playfulness. These are things I strive for.

What's your best gig experience?

I feel that the best is yet to come but there is a very special moment that has meant a lot to me. At Berklee, when I was playing in the Berklee String Orchestra, I got to play with Michael Brecker and Charlie Haden, not only were they some of the absolute best but also very humble. And as a young student it means the world to experience masters like that.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

It must be the song "Shooting Star" I wrote with my sister Erika which features legend Paquito D'Rivera, Oscar Stagnaro, Tim Ray, Mark Walker and Paulo Stagnaro. I actually started working on it during my time at Berklee. That's also where I met professors Oscar Stagnaro and Mark Walker. I never thought that this song would lead me to record with these amazing musicians. From my latest album I must say Sway, arranger and piano maestro Patrick Tompert's arrangement is just magical, and so different from any version before it, and my melancholy Hungarian heart loves it.

What's the first jazz album you bought?

Oh my, it must have been Diana Krall's All For You (A dedication to the Nat King Cole trio), from that album "Frim Fram Sauce" became my number one and Miles Davis's Someday My Prince Will Come, with the title tune as my absolute favourite, euphoria for the soul.

What music you are listening to at the moment?

I must admit that it's been a lot of me me me. When I take a break from myself (which I try to as often as possible) I love listening to Spanish guitar and Flamenco music. It's fire, freedom and virtuosity inspires me immensely.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I sometimes feel like it's viewed as a luxury, a bit "snobby" and it shouldn't be. It's important to remember that jazz was once for the masses, dance music. I'm really working hard in my private life and also as a teacher to keep the jazz flowing through the youth that are only exposed to today's mass produced music.

What's coming up in the next few months?

I'm really looking forward touring Germany together with Patrick Tompert, Christoph Neuhaus, Peer Baierlein, Jens Loh and Michael Kersting.

And we/mochermusic will be releasing a new video every Wednesday from March 4 from Ten Muses. And on Spotify there is an active playlist called "Ten Muses"— Monika Hoffman that will grow each week with additional music from the new album.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be...

...a teacher!

As stated before I'm actually a trained vocal teacher and I get to meet 20 vocal students every week. This keeps me in the loop not only in jazz but in all groove based styles and it's very inspiring to help the students find their way in music and share my experiences with them. Just like the fantastic teachers and influencers have done for me through my life, and still do.

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