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Take Five with Myriam Phiro

Take Five with Myriam Phiro
Myriam Phiro By

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About Myriam Phiro

Myriam Phiro is an internationally-recognized French-Canadian actress, jazz singer, dancer and cabaret chanteuse who has performed on stages and in theaters worldwide. Her recent performances include sold-out concerts at world-famous the Rainbow Room, 54 Below, the Iridium Jazz club & Metropolitan Room in NYC as well as at Montreal's International Jazz Festival & Montreux Jazz Festival. Her performing endeavors brought her to collaborate and share the stage with renowned artists such as Harry Connick, Jr., Janis Siegel, Nicki Parrott, Marilyn Maye, Frank Vignola and Vince Giordano. Ms Phiro's performances feature a fresh take on jazz and French standards as well as the famous tunes of the Great American Songbook, all topped up with a delightful international flavor and a certain "joie de vivre." On March 6th, she will be headlining the Iridium Jazz Club with her all-female international Jazz band Mariposa'; a project that invites the audience to join 5 talented ladies on a musical and cultural journey on the wings of empowerment. Her debut full-length Jazz album Voyages received a nomination for a MAC Award in the "Best album" category. She was also a recipient of the "Hot House Jazz Awards" nomination in the "Best New Jazz Artist" category.

Instrument(s):

I am a vocalist. I'm currently learning how to play upright bass too but I wouldn't say I'm a bassist yet...

Teachers and/or influences?

I studied musical theatre performance at AMDA and then studied jazz with Barry Harris and Janis Siegel, voice and cabaret with Bill Zeffiro. My influences run from Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Edith Piaf to Jane Monheit, Madeleine Peyroux, Chet Baker, Norah Jones, and The Manhattan Transfer, and encompass the style and elegance of The Jazz Age of the 1920s, the energy and pizzazz of the Big Band Era, and the intimacy of the classic French music-hall, musical stories told with wit, flair, and poignancy. More recently, I've fallen in love with Brazilian music and South American rhythms. I am also very inclined towards the bass so I have favorites of the likes of Ray Brown, Esperanza Spalding, Nicki Parrott (who I got the chance to work with) and John Clayton. These days, I also like to listen to pier singers such as Cecile McLorin Salvant, Vuyo Sotashe, Cyrille Aimee & Jazzmeia Horn who keep redefining that music with brilliance and inspiring me along the road.

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

I first touched a piano when I was 7 years old. It was very special; I was super introverted and the piano was like a friend who really understood me.

Your sound and approach to music.

The music has to make me want to dance! No matter what style... It has to carry the soul and the emotion the songwriter wanted to transmit by writing it in the first place. The story is always the center-point for me: that's what will dictate the sound, vibe and interpretation of the song. It's also one of the main things that differentiates a song from another. I often get weary of young players who don't pay attention to that and crank up the tempos for every song... While I am impressed with fast-playing, cool licks and tricks, I also wanna feel something and let the music take me somewhere. A flurry of notes of 6-7 songs all starting to sound alike rarely do that for me!!

Your teaching approach

I'm not a very good teacher... I'm not patient! All I can say about my favorite teachers are those who really knew how to pull from my strengths and use it to push me forward in the things I needed to work on, while to keeping me motivated. A good teacher also isn't lax about technique —that's very important.

Your dream band

My band: MARIPOSA! Talented players with a good chemistry, carrying an empowering message; that, for me is a dream come true.

Road story: Your best or worst experience

From time to time, I work with a French wine company and provide musical entertainment for their events. One day, they were hosting a wine-tasting event at a Whole Foods... You know you've made it when you're performing for a fridge full of chicken, right?!

Favorite venue

I'm happy to be going back to the Iridium Jazz Club in NYC on March 6th!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Buena Vista Social Club. I think I'll never get tired of listening to it, no matter what mood I'm in.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Music with a mission for my all-female band MARIPOSA.

Did you know...

I like sailing a lot. Even if 9 years ago, I survived a near-death experience being carried away on the tail of a tropical storm aboard a catamaran. It was the wildest experience of my entire life!

The first jazz album I bought was:

Lady in Satin' by Billie Holiday.

Music you are listening to now:

Alys Robi: L'Anthologie 1943-1966 by Alys Robi
Nothing but the blues by Joe Williams
Sounds of Red by Rene Marie
Ele É Johnny Alf by Johnny Alf

Desert Island picks:

The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra by Frank Sinatra
Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife by Ella Fitzgerald
Strong Coffee by The Cat Empire
Hey Eugene by Pink Martini
Best of Brassens (Remastered) by Georges Brassens

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

It is changing. The whole music industry is changing. With the digitization, the quick access to streaming, sharing, etc. it does affect musicians for better and for worse. No matter what though, we need to be conscious of one thing: Jazz used to be the pop music of an era. This has changed too! Jazz is now often considered an intellectual interpretation, almost belonging to a certain elite. That also brings its sorrows: on one end for the audience (or absence thereof) and also between players: it can tend to become a little snobbish. Too often, the public and the players will lean on rewarding the power-performance ability of a musician rather than the interpretation/soul. We need to remember what the essence of this music is about.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

We need to keep Jazz accessible for all and to be open.

What is in the near future?

Mariposa's show at the Iridium on March 6th; which I'm very excited about. I also will be performing a tribute to all the great French divas I grew up listening to on March 24th in Montreal; so that's pretty thrilling too.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

I'm not really ''afraid'' of anything... I get nervous because I wanna do a good job and feel a connection with the audience. I guess if I had to pick something it would be if the audience was unresponsive. That would really throw me off!

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Upbeat music! I would want people to remember the positive moments/celebrate my life in its entirety (including death, which is a part of it) as opposed to dwell on the heaviness of death itself.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

"S'il suffisait d'aimer" by Jean-Jacques Goldman. Beautiful poetry, melody and message.

By Day:

Yogi.

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

Club owner... Maybe one day.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Either Queen Elizabeth I or Audrey Hepburn: two amazingly fierce women, human rights inclined and very talented in their respectful profession despite evolving in a "man's world."

What's your fantasy super-power?

I'd really like to be able to read people's mind, or communicate telepathically. I bet it would make everything so much simpler sometimes! :)
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