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An inspiration.

Photo credit: Shimon Studios

Dee Daniels, a vocalist with a four-octave range, has hung and sung with many of the best in the business: Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Toots Thielemans, Johnny Griffin, John Clayton Jr., Clark Terry, Hank Jones, Houston Person, Russell Malone, Jeff Hamilton, Ken Peplowski, Monty Alexander, and more. Her career has taken her all over the world and to all the major international festivals including Japan’s Kobe Jazz Street Festival, Ireland’s Cork Jazz Festival, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in the US, and of course, the Canadian Jazz Festival circuit. She also performs on a regular basis with symphony orchestras including those in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary, Berlin, Florida, Baltimore and Detroit.

Daniels was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2002, and has a plaque bearing her name on Vancouver’s Walk of Fame on Granville Street. In 2003, she received the prestigious Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Dee’s latest album, The Promise, has already won 2 Silver Medals at the 2020 Global Music Awards and Dee was named “Spiritual Artist of the Year” at the most recent West Coast Music Awards. Along with her incredible talent, Daniels also established the Dee Daniels Jazz Vocal Scholarship at Capilano College in North Vancouver, for young singers and musicians.

Curious about the story behind her latest single “Let Freedom Ring (The Ballad of John Lewis)”? Her observations on the future of music as a mentor and vocal educator? Favourite live music memory, top 3 “desert island” discs & what made her fall in love with jazz? READ ON!

Q: Your latest video for your first single Let Freedom Ring (The Ballad of John Lewis) features four sentences from the late Civil Rights Leader John Lewis‘ powerfully poignant essay to Americans. Incredibly, your song was produced with the blessing of his estate. Please share with us the story as to how this modern-day universal anthem came about.

A: US Representative John Lewis passed away July 17, 2020. Two days before he died he wrote an essay entitled, “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation”. He left instructions that the essay should be read at his funeral which was held on July 30, 2020. On that day several internet newspapers published excerpts from the essay (the New York Times published the entire essay). I read one that had only five sentences. I was so moved by the powerful and inspiring words that I was brought to tears. The tears were for the loiss of a great man, a crusader for the civil rights and justice of all, and for memories of my personal experiences with racism and discrimination. In utter inspiration I went to my piano and set four of those sentences to music that became, “Let Freedom Ring (The Ballad of John Lewis)”. The melody, chords, and form of the song was completed in less than an hour and was refined over the following two days.

Q: You are also a mentor and vocal educator, presenting clinics, workshops, and master classes around the world. In your opinion, how are things shaping up out there for the future of music? What are the most notable “shifts” that you are observing?

A: Without a doubt, I believe music will not only survive, but will thrive again. I’m not sure any artist who’s had a pre-pandemic career can predict what the future holds post pandemic. We can be sure though that what was will never be again! After recovering from the initial shock of the pandemic last year, artists have come up with many creative ways to make and share their art. That being said, the biggest challenge for the majority is how to monetize these “new” ways. Interesting apps are being created for artists/art organizations to sell tickets or request donations for virtual performances. Fans, many of whom are starving for music, are becoming more and more willing to pay for performances in this manner to have their souls fed and to support their favourite artists. I think we’ll see a huge surge in audience attendance once we’re able to go live again. A most notable shift in shaping the future of music is how artists are becoming more savvy about marketing their work, and how they engage and hold their audiences in a virtual setup. I think this is a great revelation that will reap them great success when they’re able to perform live again.

Q: Please share with us your favourite live music memory, either as a performer or in the audience.

A: I’ve been blessed to have a career of favourite live music memories. One that is certainly at the top sharing first place with a host of others was being invited to perform in Cologne, Germany with the world renowned WDR Radio Big Band where the other guests were bassist/composer/arranger/conductor/educator, and friend, John Clayton, AND, one of the greatest Gentlemen of Jazz, Joe Williams. The producers decided that they wanted Joe and I to sing a couple of duets to end the show. I was on cloud nine when I got word! Joe wanted us to perform a spiritual song that he had recently recorded with Marlena Shaw. The song was called, “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me” (I just recorded my arrangement of the same song for my soon to be released cd, “The Promise”). For the second tune John thought it would be a great idea if he and I wrote a song especially for Joe and I to perform at this event. The song is called, “Movin’ On Up”. Joe loved it and we had a ball singing it

together! I was walking on air the entire week of rehearsals, dinners, hangs, and performances. Nothing can compare to having had the opportunity to sing with my greatest male jazz vocalist hero.

Q: What are your top 3 “desert island” albums and why?

A1: “Amazing Grace” by Aretha Franklin because it takes me back to my first music which is gospel and I related heavily to that. I still do. Gospel music grounds me and fills me with joy, love, and peace. It is the foundation of me and my music which over my career includes jazz, R&B, pop, blues, and rock. For me, jazz was an evolution. While I was singing all the other genres of music at different periods, I always heard alternative melodies, phrasing, and harmonies. Because I had the opportunity to work six nights a week, week after week back in the day, I got brave enough to try these alternation ideas on stage. The next thing I know the press was referring to me as a jazz singer. I was truly naive and was perturbed that they would call me such because I didn’t really know anything about jazz except a few popular tunes I heard on the radio from time to time. Thank goodness my early mentors, who were local Seattle jazz legends Jabo Ward and Floyd Standifer, sat me down and told me what an honour it was to be dubbed a jazz singer. After all jazz is the true American art form they would tell me. Their greatest advice was research jazz history and then to listen, listen, and listen some more. That’s what I did and never looked back!

A2: “Live At Tivoli” by Sarah Vaughan because she is my all-time most favourite female jazz vocalist. I loved the timbre of her voice, her range, depth, colour, texture, and overall richness of her voice. Then there was her skill, technique filled with emotion and storytelling abilities. I was invited to sing with her while in The Netherlands back in 1987. I was thrilled!! We kept in touch from that point on until she died in 1990.

A3: “Wish Me Love” by Dee Daniels because recording that album was a dream come true. It was my first CD with an orchestra – the Metropole Orchestra of The Netherlands – one of the greatest orchestras in the world. It was beautifully recorded with incredible arrangements written specifically for me by John Clayton and the late Rob Pronk (a total arranging genius). Attached to the recording dates are many significant memories of life experiences leading up to the recording – and beyond.

Q: What made you fall in love with jazz?

A: Jazz gives me the freedom to express myself “in the moment” through music. Not only am I free to be spontaneous every time I sing a song, but I’m actually EXPECTED to do so, unlike pop and other genres of music. I love that expectancy because being human, I’m in a different state of mind everyday of my life. With jazz I am free to honour any given state of mind which allows me to remain connected and true to my heart and soul while creating.

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