Wednesday, 14th January 2009
Meryl Romer's first recorded outing as a jazz contralto is at once adventurous and articulate, playful yet sophisticated. Her songs allow the listener to experience the great jazz standards through Meryl's eyes. The original pieces on So Sure display an honesty only life can teach and her Dylan interpretation is a truly wonderful surprise.
Of her art, Meryl says, "Singing gives me a chance to open to and play with aspects of life that are an expansion of my daily landscape. The songs offer me an opportunity to explore a palette of characters, emotions, stories, rhythms and moods. It is through my voice that I experience the shapes, shadows and subtlety of the movements that allow me to expand my world into uncharted territories."
"We all do laundry, make breakfast, and show up for work on time; music is a source that allows us to sweeten and soften our relationship to each moment. The music is my avenue to give voice to the yearnings of my heart and soul".
"So Sure" includes three original pieces that tell Meryl's story of having "waited long enough" to follow and explore her singing passion. "I've often said that I have been singing these songs my whole life....I just never opened my mouth. I began whispering lyrics when I was 11 years old and gathered the courage to begin to sing forty years later."
Her choice of songs reflects her feelings and fantasies about relationships, play, commitment and determination.
Meryl covers standards ranging from Toots Thielemans to Rodgers and Hart and newer selections by Cassandra Wilson and Bob Dylan.
Meryl's musical collaborators, Erik Deutsch, Bill Kopper, Jonti Siman, Marc Dalio, Brian McRae and Robert Kyle, bring an inspired and masterful sensitivity through their music, supporting her as she breathes love and life into these twelve tunes.
Meryl's earliest experiences with music came through the world of dance. From age 11 in Brooklyn, New York, Meryl danced and sang through the rooms of her apartment to the jazz of "77 Sunset Strip", "Jelly Roll Blues", and "Lazy River", sensing then that the sounds of jazz would be woven into her life through dance or song. Meryl went on to study and immerse herself in the world of dance into her twenties, studying ballet, modern, jazz, African, and improvisation. After college she received her Master's Degree in Dance and Movement Therapy. Much later she found the courage to explore the natural extension of movement.....the voice.
Meryl's vocal journey began at 51 in January of 2002 working with vocal coach Randy Michaels and continued on with Marguerite Jueneman, jazz vocalist and coach (Rare Silk). By January of 2003 Meryl embarked on an intensive course of study and training with Casey Collins, vocalist and coach; Erik Deutsch, music coach and jazz pianist, composer, arranger and producer; and Bill Kopper, jazz guitarist, coach, composer, arranger and producer. "It was like stepping onto a musical express train, one I'd always longed to board." Meryl also studied with Mark Miller, jazz musician, composer and educator (Naropa Institute); Sheila Jordan, jazz vocalist; and Jay Clayton, jazz vocalist; and attended workshops with Art Lande, internationally renowned jazz pianist/drummer and composer; Inga Swearingen, and Kate McGarry.
Finally, Meryl had the opportunity to make heard the sounds she'd been singing softly to herself throughout her life. The result is this year's "So Sure".
Looking back, Meryl recalls, "I remember listening, along with my dad after a long day of work, to Gershwin and Rachmaninoff LP's; Ella Fitzgerald on the radio; Lena Horne and Sarah Vaughan on television; Nina Simon; and the exotic sounds of Pharoah Sanders on his LP, "Karma". Later on, in 2003, when I heard the jazz standard, "Blues in the Night", aka "My Momma Don Tol' Me", I felt as if I were home."
The original sounds of jazz in the Brooklyn of Meryl's youth had re-entered her life, fully realized, ready for her to transform them with her voice.
These days Meryl lives outside Boulder, Colorado with her executive producer husband, Sheldon. She has been performing in local clubs and jazz venues in Colorado, Albuquerque and New York City with Erik Deutsch, Bill Kopper, Jonti Siman, Marc Dalio, Greg Garrison, Robert Kyle, Chris Lee, James Hoskins, Eduardo Bijoux Barbosa, Jon Gray, Dave Devine, Doug Anderson, Ross Rabin, Matt Powellson, Luis Guerra, John Rangel, Joe Diamo, Emily Takahashi, Michael Maisonpierre, Tim Carmichael, Ken Bernstein, Paul Smiddy, Jim Castrone, Bob Schlessinger, Eric Thorin, Carmen Sandim, Amy Shelley, and Eric Wiggs.
Each of the cover songs on "So Sure" tells a story close to Meryl's heart. Bill Kopper soulfully and creatively arranged "Big Spender" and "Lady is a Tramp", songs which champion strong women who know what they want and persevere to get it. Bill added the groove to "Solomon Sang", which Meryl chose as a tribute to her dad, Samuel Sack, who passed away in 1969. "But Beautiful" describes the prisms through which we experience love and leaves us feeling like we've had a private conversation, strummed through Bill's guitar strings. "Close Your Eyes" is a swinging invitation to the fantasy of dance and romance. "This Is Always", elegantly arranged by Erik Deutsch, is Meryl's tribute to Betty Carter's version of this jazz standard. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" takes us to an old quarter of Europe, desperately dancing along to the tune of tragic but committed love. "Bluesette" is a roller coaster ride wrapped up in a lovely jazz waltz. Deutsch's soulfully arranged entrance and solo work evoke John Coltrane, a favorite of Meryl's.
Bob Dylan's "You're A Big Boy (Girl) Now", introduces the theme of commitment to working on relationships. Dylan's music has inspired and trailed Meryl throughout her life. She says, "Erik and I began working on this tune several years ago and we both really loved it from the start."
Meryl's original songs were penned for her by songwriter/producer, Casey Collins and composer, Eric Moon. As a trilogy, they chronicle the heartfelt path she has traveled in realizing her dream. These originals, I've Waited Long Enough, Right on Time, and So Sure were lovingly created to tell the story of her journey towards and into this music, from her childhood longing to sing through embracing and realizing that vision, then coming to completion with Meryl's tribute to her enduring love for her husband.
Meryl's collaborators on "So Sure" form a "who's who" of some of the most talented musicians working today. Erik Deutsch is the bandleader, pianist and arranger, (Charlie Hunter Trio, Erik Deutsch Band, Erin McKeown Band, Ron Miles Band, County Road X); Bill Kopper played guitar and did arrangements (Billy Tolles Band, Bob Montgomery Quartet, Brazilian Jazz Project, Ginga Band); Jonti Siman on acoustic bass (Erik Deutsch Band); Marc Dalio drums (Erik Deutsch Sextet, Erin McKeown Band); special guest appearance by Robert Kyle on tenor sax and flute (Robert is also an arranger, composer and producer who has several of his own bands. He tours internationally and has performed on the Academy Awards and the Emmies); special guest appearance on Track 1 by Brian McRae on drums (GoGo Lab, www.drumoverdubs.com and more).
This inspired band and their pulsing, modern arrangements help bring Meryl's warm sensuality, tenderness of heart and honest interpretations to full fruition in "So Sure".
"The feelings these songs elicit from me conjure shapes and sounds that tell stories that resonate with my own. Songs are like trying on tailored dresses. Some are like jeweled gowns. Some tell my story and others allow me to embody imagined, dreamt of characters." -Meryl