New York Jazz singer and actress Tatiana Eva-Marie has made a name for herself in the New York Jazz scene, having been included in a list in Vanity Fair of rising jazz stars and being named one of the best young singers around by the Wall Street Journal. Having been born into a musical family, she has always had the love of music and performing, starting her career as a singer at the age of 4. She recorded her first solo album and performed in her first professional theatre play two years later, solidifying her love for the stage and performing. Eva-Marie started her professional training at Theatre Populaire Romand in Switzerland and then later attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. After high school she moved to Paris and studied medieval poetry at Sorbonne University during the day, performing in cabarets across the city at night as a Gypsy singer. She has sung and performed in some of France's most renowned theatres and has directed two of her own musical theatre plays, Rhapsodia and The Magic Violin. She has since moved to New York and has established herself as an accomplished actress and jazz musician, having helped to form The Avalon Jazz Band, the Zazou Swing Orchestra and more recently, The Copecetics with fellow artists Amos Rose and Sasha Masakowski. Eva-Marie often collaborates with many different artists on a variety of film, theatre and musical projects and will be starring in an upcoming feature film by French director Gerome Barry called Swing Rendez-Vous. A crowdfunding campaign has been set up for the movie. You can follow this link for more information about the movie and how to help. You can stay up-to-date with Tatiana Eva-Marie, her various projects and all upcoming performances via the following links, as well as how to listen to and purchase the latest album by The Avalon Jazz Band's latest album Je Suis Swing. You can catch The Avalon Jazz Band every Wednesday at The Keep in Bushwick for their weekly residency. You can catch her next performance on August 26th at The Gallow Green on the rooftop of the McKittrick Hotel as a part of their Sunset Sundays concert series. Here she will be performing a repertoire of 1920s and '30s moon songs on the eve of the full moon. Check out The Avalon Jazz Band singing "I Love Paris" below.
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You're involved in several projects, including Avalon Jazz Band, Zazou Swing Orchestra and your new band The Copacetics. What do you feel that each project fulfills for you creatively? Does performing in so many different creative projects help to keep you inspired?
I’ve always been the type of person who works on many projects at once and has a brain crowded with a thousand thoughts all talking at the same time. It sometimes seems like a miracle that any of these actually materialize. To me, there are two things that matter in music really-sound and the people who help me achieve that sound. That’s how all my projects start. With Avalon, I am re-imagining Parisian hot jazz and my guitarist Vinny Raniolo, for example, is essential to the joyful sound and the carefree, romantic vibe I’m aiming for. With The Copacetics, it was a desire to collaborate with two of my best friends – Sasha Masakowski and Amos Rose – inspired by the sound of vocal groups such as The Pied Pipers (who sang with Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey band) and The Boswell Sisters who were from New Orleans, Sasha’s hometown. New York is a magical place because I always meet wonderful artists who inspire me and make me want to start new projects.
Avalon Jazz Band just performed at Joe's Pub on June the 17th! How was the show?
Joe’s Pub is one of my favorite venues in the city and it’s always a delight to perform there. My band was presenting new arrangements and a new repertoire that we had performed for the first time at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I’m trying out new things and figuring out what the future of Avalon Jazz Band may be. Thinking of potential future albums and directions. Trying things out in your home base is always a good challenge and is actually quite daunting. We are playing for a familiar audience of friends and fans, who have been following us for a long time, so it’s the perfect setting to test new things out and see what sticks.
"Je Suis Swing", the latest album by Avalon Jazz Band, is about the swing kids of wartime Paris and I read that the upcoming album is a tribute to Paris. Your albums seem to have a theme/concept. What draws you to this approach when recording an album? I also read that you wanted to resurrect some beautiful jazz gems from Paris that had fallen into oblivion. What was it about those songs that made you want to resurrect them?
I guess it’s my OCD tendencies coming out… I love to make lists and categories. I learn songs about the moon, about the stars and about dreams. I love thematic subjects because I find it very interesting to see how different composers and writers treat a same topic, and it helps tie together a specific sound and a shared vocabulary. As for resurrecting songs, my second possible career option was archeology – I have a master’s degree in Medieval Studies – so I have this natural instinct to always dig and unearth forgotten treasures. For the Paris CD, I just got tired of hearing the same songs over and over again. There are hundreds of songs about Paris, which are gorgeous and deserve to be heard again, they describe the city in different terms and although they are sometimes almost a century old, they offer a fresh and youthful outlook. That dichotomy is fascinating to me.
You have said that you do music for the love of it and not to be famous but that you have had to resist the temptation to succumb to some "fast fame moments". What were some of the opportunities that presented themselves and what led you to pass on them?
Well, I had a few direct opportunities to get on talent shows similar to The Voice and was often encouraged by friends and family to “give it a try” and use it as a quick way to fame, and then use that fame as a platform to showcase what I really love… but honestly, I’ve been in this business for a long time and it never, ever works that way. Never. The big corporate music machine just eats you up and spits you back out as soon as you don’t want to play by their rules anymore. It only works if you agree to be a slave to that system or if you really love top 40 music, which I hate with a passion. I’ve also been directly approached by producers saying “sign here and here’s $100000 to start, and oh, by the way, which color do you want for your tour bus?” …turning those offers down kind of makes your head spin. I think all millennials have a part of them that wants fame and fortune, we can’t help it. This generation is just wired that way in the era of reality television. But I know it comes at a price I am not prepared to pay.
You act and sing and it was through your acting ventures that you truly found your place as a musician, being offered the opportunity to write and direct your own plays- Rhapsodia and The Magic Violin. How do you feel that acting and singing are connected for you? Do you have plans to direct again in the future?
I think there can be no singing without acting. Every song is a story; you have to mean every word. That’s why Frank Sinatra was one of the best that ever lived. He was one of the greatest actors since the beginning of cinema and one of the greatest singers. They go hand in hand. I have a lot of respect for singers who just focus on sounding untouchably, perfectly beautiful – like Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn – but they will never appeal to me as much as a Sinatra, a Marilyn, or an Eartha Kitt. Obviously, I am a huge fan of old musicals and a dream of mine is to direct one of those wonderful Gershwin or Cole Porter musicals, with just a 10-piece jazz band instead of an orchestra, and jazz singers instead of musical theatre actors-a pop-up musical instead of a big production; something that could be performed in almost any setting. I am also currently writing a jazz musical of my own, but it’s way too early to talk about it.
You will be starring in a Rom-Com feature film called Swing Rendez-Vous, directed by the French director Gerome Barry. How did you meet him and become involved with the film?
I actually met Gerome in Paris years ago when I was barely out of my teens. We were about to collaborate on a short film of his when I suddenly moved to New York on a whim. We’ve always had a strong desire to work together and I am so happy it is materializing. His vision is a mixture of Woody Allen and Jacques Demy, with a Zazou, sometimes surrealist flare. All the things I love. His concept for this movie, which will be his first feature film, really seduced me because it is so unique and fun. He is setting the NYC jazz scene as a backdrop for his Rom-Com, shooting in the iconic locations we hang out and jam at, showcasing the swing dancing phenomenon and casting actual jazz musicians in their own roles. The soundtrack, composed by Giovanni Mirabassi, will be treated as jazz standards, improvised and captured live, which is very daring and interesting. Gerome is using a crowdfunding platform to help finance his film, so if you find it interesting, please contribute anything you can!
You moved from Paris to NY in 2011 in order to learn more about the jazz scene. What are some of the main differences between the jazz scenes in New York versus Paris and what do you feel that you learned about jazz from living in New York? How do you feel your music has evolved over the years?
The most important thing I’ve learned in New York is that jazz is fun. It’s a party. In Paris the jazz scene always seemed so serious and pompous to me. It seemed like musicians weren’t really having a good time when they were playing. I found that so bizarre. When I moved to New York everything was just like in one of those old movies I love so much. People were playing, drinking, laughing and staying up until dawn. Unbridled passion exhibited in total lack of self-consciousness. It was perfect for me.
I read that while living in Paris you noticed many French people were playing American jazz and snubbing French jazz, deeming it corny and obsolete. Why do you think Parisians had that mindset and what is it that you love about French jazz?
It’s a typically French attitude to hate anything that’s French. They try very hard to be cool. Any form of national pride is looked down upon with contempt. I really hate that mindset. As much as I enjoy learning about other cultures and adopting aspects of them, I always believe in keeping one’s own heritage alive. You can be proud of your own culture without negating someone else’s. French jazz in particular is quite unique: there are few examples of jazz being reinvented in such an iconic way outside of the United States. What I love about it is the mixture of three cultures coming together in Paris: the poetic French street song (chanson réaliste), American jazz, and Gypsy/Eastern European folk music. The result is dreamy, nostalgic, witty and childlike. I am very happy that there seems to be a trend surfacing in France again. The French are starting to listen to that old jazz once more.
Who are some of your favorite jazz musicians right now? Are there any emerging artists that you are particularly excited about?
I am always amazed at how many incredible young musicians are choosing to pursue careers in jazz. This renewed interest in all types of jazz is truly a blessing for the music industry. And yet, because of the nature of this music, you can easily go see legendary performers in very intimate settings. Anytime Freddy Cole is in town I run to see him sing and play, as he is a great source of inspiration. I go with a notebook and write down everything he does. I am also an admirer of Nellie McKay and learn a lot from her too. As for “emerging artists”, I recommend keeping an eye out for bandleader and saxophonist Patrick Bartley, who is one of the greatest musicians of his generation. We have been collaborating recently and I am always shocked at how talented and creative he is. In the vocal department, Charles Turner is one of my all-time favorite singers. He is on the same level as the greats of old and has a folk-hero personality to match. He is the whole package: voice, fashion, good looks, stage presence, generosity and talent galore. My soul-sister Sasha Masakowski is also someone to look out for. She is infused with so much of the wacky and dreamy essence of New Orleans, and she translates it into her music beautifully, whether it’s jazz or electronic. An amazing young violinist I regularly work with is Gabe Terracciano, who is in Poland right now for the Seifert International Competition-he is definitely the future face of jazz violin. Now you’ve got homework, go look them up!
How do you view the modern jazz scene? In what ways do you feel that jazz has evolved over the years?
I think jazz is at a very healthy and exciting place right now. Two decades ago it seemed rather bleak, honestly, and seemed like it would never resurface again. It seemed relegated to an elitist fringe of society. When I started my career, people associated jazz with “intellectual music sans melody”. But now I think that melody is making a comeback and jazz is starting to fall from its snobby pedestal into the ears of a more democratic and uninformed audience. Also, jazz has made its way back onto the screen with various television shows (Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire…), video games and movies, and is reclaiming its place on the dance floor with the recent renewed interest in lindy hop. It’s back in fashion too, with the vintage craze. I believe it’s steadily easing its way back into pop culture in general, where it initially started. I am very optimistic about the future of jazz.
What can you tell me about "Down With Love", the full length CD you are working on?
My friend Mark Buchan always makes fun of me for only singing happy songs when I have such a “disastrous” love life (his words). I guess that’s how the idea sparked. It was also during a time when the members of my trio – Vinny Raniolo and Elias Bailey – and I were going through various unpleasant romantic situations, and it seemed only natural to record a compilation of songs about the misery of falling in and out of love, the tediousness of being involved with sad losers or the aberration of matrimony. These are mostly angry but ironic and funny tunes, like “A Fine Romance” or “Mean to Me”, with just a few awfully sad ones, “I’m Through with Love” being one of my all time favorites.
How did your portrait come to be done by artist Anya Rubin?
I was hired to sing at her birthday party and we hit it off right away. It was such a cool group of people that after the gig we just joined the festivities and quickly became friends. She is an incredible artist who has a strong feminine voice without falling into all the tiresome clichés of politicized “feminist” art. She’s done two portraits of me so far and one of them proudly hangs over my piano. I love posing for artists; it’s always interesting to find out how they portray you. I have also recently worked with Swedish painter Alexander Klingspor alongside muse and model Syrie Moskowitz. We were riding an imaginary moose together while drinking vodka and playing the violin. It’s promising. I don’t think there is anything more fun than collaborating with like-minded artists, no matter what the field is.
What's next for you and your projects? Do you have any particular collaborations, tours and/or festivals that you are looking forward to?
I am very, very excited to be performing at the Gallow Green, on the rooftop of the McKittrick Hotel (home of “Sleep No More”) on August 26th for their Sunset Sundays concert series, curated by Michael Katsobashvili, the creator of the New York Hot Jazz Festival. I will be performing a repertoire of old 1920s and 30s moon songs on the eve of the full moon, wearing a very special gown that costume artist Michelle ZurSchmiede is tailor-making especially for the occasion. I will also be at Symphony Space on October 18th right before departing for the Bahrain Jazz Festival, which will most likely be quite an adventure!