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Take Five With Shea Breaux Wells

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Shea Breaux Wells: Shea Breaux Wells is a jazz singer with soul to boot, carving out an original sound that is uniquely her own. She is also a singer/songwriter whose songs pull the listener in with evocative imagery, a diverse emotional landscape, intriguing melodies and lush vocals. The rich and textured quality of Shea's voice appeals to the most discerning of listeners, while her songs grow finer and deeper with each listen. She is gracefully navigating the fine line between the authentic singer/songwriter and the accomplished jazz vocalist.

Shea is in the final production stages of a new jazz recording featuring George Cables, Billy Hart, Cecil McBee and Craig Handy, with David Weiss producing and Oz Fritz engineering. This is an energetic recording, with masterfully creative versions of some of the tastiest jazz standards.

Instrument(s): Vocals.

Teachers and/or influences? Raz Kennedy, Rhiannon, Bobby McFerrin, Pippi Longstockings.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I have never known a time when I did not want to be a musician.

Your sound and approach to music: My sound comes from a continual allowing for the authenticity of the moment. I love the search, the hunt for the truthful tidbit within the note, the measure the phrase and the entire song. The songs are like scripts, each with its own story and voice. It's up to me to uncover the beating heart of my part in it...and to do so authentically.

Your dream band: Well...in a total fantasy world, I would love to work with Matt Wilson, Carter Beauford, Regina Carter, Dave Holland, Enrico Pieranunzi, John Santos, Richard Howell - wow, and just so many more!

Favorite venue: Well, my favorite venues for listening in the Bay Area are Yoshi's and Jazz at Pearl's - they have such a strong attention to the sound balance at these clubs - it makes for a beautiful evening of experiencing an artist at their best.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My favorite track that I have recorded so far is "Blue Skies" from my upcoming release, A Blind Date. This track features George Cables, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart and Craig Handy, and has a special synergy between all of the musicians. I dig the arrangement, and the fact that they all understood where I was coming from with the arrangement and then took it into the realm beyond. These guys are incredible.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Hm....I think I am contributing my own original take on already existent songs, as well as a fresh take on the definition of what a singer is, in relation to the band. A singer doesn't necessarily have to be the up-front chirper - she can be yet another voice within the musical palette of the band, passing the baton on to the next instrument and functioning as a contextual element. I am seeking to amplify this aspect of the singer, in contrast to the readily available model that is out there.

Did you know... I used to work in the post-production field of the film/TV industry in Hollywood.

How do you use the internet to help your career? Oh, how could I ever have done a damn thing without the internet? I wonder! CDBaby, Emusic, MySpace, iTunes, AAJ. Mailing lists, communication for rehearsals, gigs, bookings - everything!

CDs you are listening to now: Neko Case, Blacklisted; Abbey Lincoln, Straight Ahead; Robben Ford, Truth; Billy Harper, Live on Tour in the Far East, Vol. 2; George Cables, Looking for the Light.

Desert Island picks: Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain; The Beatles, Abbey Road; Dee Dee Bridgewater, J'ai Deux Amours; XTC, Skylarking; Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Jazz is broadening - in terms of its audience and its definition as a genre. It's important to distinguish jazz from smooth jazz, as I feel they are two very different genres.

Globally, it seems as though there are more jazz festivals than ever popping up. However the realities of keeping a jazz club open and running, at least in the Bay Area, seem challenging. It seems like more media presence is necessary - more articles, profiles, etc., in daily papers so that people are inspired to go out and experience some music that they've never heard before.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Education and, as stated above, media presence are both key. I think that kids need to know that they have music as an option - that their world doesn't end at the mall or the video arcade or the TV. The world of jazz really needs to be placed in front of them continually.

When one considers the aggressive nature of advertising campaigns, and the fact that these are geared for kids, we really need to re-frame how jazz is viewed and "served to the world at large. People need to be made aware of the fire and improvisational creativity that is born from jazz -whether it be dissonant, modern, traditional or whatever!


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