Sylvia Brooks

Sylvia Brooks, a jazz singer, introduced a sensuous jazz-noir style that was reminiscent of tough guys, femme fatales, and dark-shadowed city nightscapes. She is not a typecast artist, but she doesn’t want to be. With her third album, The Arrangement she emerges as a singer who can sing in any story. The Arrangement, a close collaboration with a number of talented Los Angeles arrangers is due to be released on May 19, 2017. Brooks was not intent on limiting herself when she succeeds in a niche. Brooks says she wanted to try different musical styles. I love Latin music, big band swing, rich ballads, and other Latin-influenced music. Brooks has a rich velvet voice and emotional incisive phrasing that make her a formidable talent. Brooks didn’t set out to explore different rhythms and moods when she created The Arrangement. A stellar cast of writers were invited to create bespoke charts that she voiced. She also gave them carte blanche. This trust led to an amazing diversity in settings. Starting with Kim Richmond, who collaborated on her first two albums, she connected with a superlative collection of accompanist/arrangers, including Venezuelan-born pianist Otmaro Ruiz (Dianne Reeves), pianist Jeff Colella (Lou Rawls), French-born pianist Christian Jacob (Tierney Sutton, Betty Buckley), and pianist Quinn Johnson (Steve Tyrell, Diana Ross) “who all have very different styles,” Brooks says. Brooks chose the songs and gave two directions to the arrangers. Brooks said that they had to use brass and reeds and could pick the musicians that would best suit the piece’s direction. “I wanted them both to be free.” The album opens with Ruiz playing the lush “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” (Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, Quizas) piece. This intoxicating piece connects Brooks to Cuban music that she grew up listening to in Miami. Brooks is provided with another sensuous Latin song by Ruiz, “Besame Mucho.” This rendition of the well-known standard is a fever dream that she delivers accompanied by a slow tenor sax solo from Bob Sheppard. Brooks makes an unexpected turn when Johnson’s brassy and swinging arrangement transforms Hank Williams’ country classic “Cold Cold Heart.” Brooks also collaborates with Bob Sheppard on “Maybe I’m A Fool,” a beautiful portrait of self-doubt, which Johnson arranges with rollercoaster energy. Brooks and Jacob collaborated on “Sweet Surrender”, a piano-voice duet that has a beautiful melody that doesn’t need any embellishments. Jacob’s moody setting of Lennon’s and McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby” is another standout track. One can only admire her inventiveness and the clever interplay between Jacob’s Fender Rhodes chords, Larry Koonse guitar, and Jacob’s Fender Rhodes chords. Brooks, clearly not intimidated by the legendary artists, puts her own stamp on “Guess Who I Stopped Today,” the forlorn tale indelibly connected to Nancy Wilson. Brooks closes the album with a memorable rendition of “Angel Eyes”, a haunting Richmond arrangement which links back to Brooks jazz-noir albums. Brooks is still a captivating raconteur when telling stories of heartbreak and loss, but there are many other stories on The Arrangement. Brooks was born in Miami, Florida and raised there. Don Ippolito, her father and pianist/arranger, was a first-call musician who performed with giants like Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Buddy Rich as well as Sarah Vaughan, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, and Peggy Lee. Johanna Dordick was an opera singer and conservatory graduate who dazzled the crowds at East Coast nightclubs and resorts singing popular songs and standards. She later founded Los Angeles Opera Theater in 1978. Brooks was able to absorb this rich musical heritage. However, Brooks’ initial passion for the stage was acting. She trained at ACT San Francisco under the great director Allen Fletcher. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue work in theater and television, but she longs to return to jazz. It was her father’s death that led to a tragic turn of events. She searched for his original compositions to play at his funeral and found them all in the extensive archive of her father. This experience triggered a jazz epiphany. Tom Garvin, a great pianist, took Brooks under his wing. He also wrote a set for her. Brooks performed her first performance at the Jazz Bakery and was recognized internationally with her 2009 album Dangerous Liaisons. The project featured arrangements by Kim Richmond, Garvin, and Colella. Colella’s trio with Chris Colangelo, bassist, and Kendall Kay, drummer, introduced Brooks to her jazz-noir style. Although she may have been open to the darker side of her music, she found that working with musicians was a bright spot. She says musicians are “real, down-to-earth people.” I loved having control over my destiny. I didn’t need to audition. I was able to choose the songs and musicians that I would like to work with. She says that she had been performing jazz for over a year before the CD was made. Brooks ventured deeper into the shadows with 2012’s critically acclaimed sequel Restless. Kim Richmond’s scrumptuous arrangements for Atmosphere Orchestra were a brilliant use of jazz and studio heavyweights such as Jeff Gauthier and Henry Scorzo, harmonica legend Ron Kalina, and pianist Jeff Colella. Andrew Gilbert, San Francisco Bay Area jazz critic, described the result as an “erotically-charged and noir-tinged realm…exposing deep currents of longing and desperation running through the American Songbook.” It was easy for a gal to get bored of all the romantic angst. Brooks plays the role of both a comedienne, dramatic lead, ingenue, and world weary dame on The Arrangement. Brooks embraced each song as if she wrote it herself, and she thanks her amazing team of writers for their creative and innovative work on The Arrangement. Brooks’ performance is what makes one want to hear the next set of soul-bearing songs from this incredibly expressive singer. from

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