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Jazz singer Karen Marguth returns to Livermore

By Jessica Yadegaran

jyadegaran@bayareanewsgroup.com

Livermore native Karen Marguth’s songs and scats have been compared to Diana Krall’s. Whether she’s touring the national jazz festival circuit or recording songs with Carroll Coates, a Frank Sinatra songwriter, Marguth credits much of her success to her early music education.

Karen Marguth is an internationally acclaimed jazz singer who has performed with Gilbert Castellanos and Pearl Django. But the Fresno artist attributes most of her core vocal skills to her early music education in Livermore.

Named one of the finest American jazz vocalists by Jazz Times, Marguth’s recordings have been listed twice in DownBeat’s annual Best-of-the-Year issue. Recently, France’s Jazz Magazine featured Marguth in its issue dedicated to the 101 greatest vocalists of all time.

At 53, she has toured the national jazz festival circuit and recorded several critically acclaimed albums, including this year’s “A Way With Words,” a two-disc tribute to the songs of British legend Carrol Coates.

In advance of her August performance at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore, we caught up with Marguth to talk about the state of women in jazz and those formative years at Granada High.Q You are very proud of your Livermore roots. Any shout-outs to your favorite teachers?

A Mr. Stasko was the music teacher at Joe Michell Elementary School and the band teacher at Mendenhall Middle School. At Granada, Jim Brockman was my choir teacher. I credit him with teaching me all the basics of singing: musicality, listening and the etiquette of performance. He had very high expectations and was an outstanding music educator.

Q Any early gigs you care to recall (or not recall)?

A During college at CSU East Bay, I spent a few summers singing at Sea World. We’d do a medley of international songs about the sea. Five shows a day. I have to give credit to my private voice instructor, Muriel Brown-Older. She trained me to sing correctly so I wouldn’t damage my voice.

Q Fresno is an epicenter for world-class jazz. How did your community develop?

A There are three colleges in the area with strong jazz programs. Jam sessions are always happening all over town, and there’s an organization promoting jazz called Jazz Fresno. People have an image of Fresno that’s not artsy and cultural, but I have to say I’ve had more opportunities here than I did in the Bay Area.

Q You recently performed with the famous gypsy swing band Pearl Django. What was that like?

A Amazing. We met in 2009 at the Sun Valley Jazz Festival in Idaho. Pearl Django had a set after me, and they asked me to jump on stage and do a song with them. We just hit it off. So when they were coming through the Central Valley, I put them up at my house, and we later performed together.

Q Why was it time for an album of Coates’ songs? How do you know the songwriter?

A  A few years ago, I made a Christmas album for friends and family and included Coates’ “A Song for Christmas.” He contacted me to thank me. He’s 83 and lives in Carmel. I went to visit him, and we just hit it off. I was at his house one evening, and he started playing the piano, and it was beautiful. Long story short, I decided I wanted to do an album of his work. The album includes both the classic standards he wrote for Frank Sinatra and some tunes he wrote just last year.

Q Your radio show, “The Vocal Hour,” focuses on female jazz singers. Why did you start it?

A Back in 2008, I was noticing that jazz radio stations didn’t give equal time to women, both in terms of the music they play and the DJs themselves. I was talking to the station manager at KFSR about that, and I told her I wanted to do a show with that theme. Now I also feature female lyricists and composers. I try to pick tunes that give credit to the ladies.

Q What else needs to happen for female jazz musicians to gain more recognition?

A First, female jazz vocalists need to learn to be musicians and members of the band first. They’re often referred to as chirps, because instrumental members of the band look at the female vocalist as someone who just shows up right before a gig and wants all the credit.

To show that they want to be part of the group, they need to show up early, help set up, stay late and tear down. They need to be able to talk music, understand music, and appreciate the members of the band.  The other thing that needs to happen is that more women musicians need to start writing critically about other artists. I don’t know why there aren’t more female jazz critics out there.

Karen Marguth: Live at the Bankhead

Livermore native and jazz chanteuse Karen Marguth returns home for a special two-hour performance with Espacio, an ensemble featuring mandolin, guitar, bass and drums.

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 30
Where: Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore
Tickets: $28-$48. http://mylvpac.com
For more info: Learn more about Marguth at http://karenmarguth.com. Listen to her radio show, “The Vocal Hour,” at http://kfsr.org.

 

 

Performance August 30th at Bankhead Theater

Photo by Tomas Ovalle

Karen and Espacio have been invited to perform in the San Francisco East-Bay Area, at the Bankhead Theater.

From their website:

Livermore native Karen Marguth returns home for this special performance. Named “one of the finest American jazz vocalists” in Jazz Times magazine, her recordings have been listed twice in Downbeat’s annual Best-of-the-Year issues. France’s Jazz Magazine featured Karen in their issue dedicated to the 101 greatest vocalists of all time. Cadence Magazine described Karen as “indeed, a jazz singer with pinpoint intonation and a supple voice allowing her to phrase and scat with audacity.” Joining her will be Espacio, an ensemble featuring mandolin, guitar, bass and drums. Together they create fresh, exciting music that includes jazz standards, Latin jazz, Brazilian jazz, and funk.

Tickets are available at http://tickets.livermoreperformingarts.org/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=3401

 

Interview on NPR affiliate, KVPR

It’s not often that international jazz critics and festivals turn their attention to artists from Fresno. But Central California vocalist Karen Marguth is the exception to that rule. In 2010, veteran jazz critic Christopher Loudon called Marguth ”one of the finest American jazz vocalists” in a Jazz Times article about the singer. Loudon continued, saying “it’s high time that Marguth advanced to her rightful place on national and international stages.”

Her new album ”A Way With Words: Karen Marguth Sings the Songs of Carroll Coates” is garnering similar praise from top publications. The double cd set recently received a four star review by the esteemed jazz magazine Downbeat, and was also featured in the French publication Jazz Magazine.

It features Marguth and her band tackling the creative songwriting of Coates, who has been the scribe of choice for artists including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett. The album also features a number of Fresno musicians, including mandolinist Eva Scow, and Gilbert Castellanos, a former Fresno resident, on trumpet. Coates is the author of songs such as “London By Night,” “No One Ever Tells You,” and “Afterglow.”

Marguth visited Valley Public Radio’s Bonner Performing Arts Studio for a live interview and performance, with special guests Darrel Devaurs piano, Rick Canfield drum, and Robert Ruffner trombone. We talked about her career, working with an iconic songwriter in Coates, and much more.   ~Joe Moore

Listen to the interview here:

 

New album reviewed in France’s “Jazz Magazine”

This review just came in from France’s “Jazzman,” or Jazz Magazine.  Here’s the translation; see below for the original…

This Californian was included in our “101 Essential Singers” issue of December 2010. A worthy representative of the American triptych “musician/dancer/actor” favoring the lyrics in her choice of repertoire, Karen Marguth is effortlessly comfortable in all styles she addresses with flawless technique: great accuracy in all registers of her clear voice, impeccable articulation and phrasing conducive to scat and swing. Her previous disc, “Karen Marguth” echoed all of these qualities. Here, Karen wanted to “speak up” with a more ambitious project, a tribute to Carroll Coates, one of the great songwriters of the last half century who worked with many of the greatest voices in jazz, from Sinatra to Sarah Vaughan. In addition, Karen enlisted the services of saxophonist Richie Cole and a larger orchestra than on her last CD. This results in more arranged music that is more “mainstream,” and which obliterates much of the freshness and spontaneity that had seduced us. Of course, her talent is still there: she superbly starts off with “You’ll See” in a trio with bass and drums (which is never easy), scats with so much ease in “A Miracle,” and her orchestra sounds almost like a big band on “A Way with Words.” This double CD is lacking perhaps only in the conciseness and simplicity that could have been achieved in a single disc, but this will not prevent us from continuing to follow this excellent singer.    ~ Philippe Vincent

 

 

Karen’s Blog: Marguth on Jazz

Karen has begun to blog about her thoughts on music and education from her unique perspective as a lifelong teacher and performer.  Her first piece is about the influence of bassists on the work of vocalists. She discusses the impact of bassists such as Jason Jurzak, and John Clayton on her development as a musician.

Check it out here at http://marguthonjazz.blogspot.com/