Returning ReVoice! star Rebecca Parris (10 and 11 October, Pizza Express Jazz Club) may be the jazz world’s best kept secret. She has worked with Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Wynton Marsalis, Gary Burton and Dizzy Gillespie; counted Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae among her friends and is commonly referred to as the first lady of Boston Jazz, having won the Boston Music Award no less than 9 times. Yet she is still relatively unknown here in the UK.
Acclaimed Dutch vocalist and songwriter Rosalie Genay interviewed her, finding her “warm, disarming and generous with her time, wisdom, and her vast knowledge of jazz vocals and music.”:
Rosalie Genay: It is wonderful to have you return to the ReVoice! Festival in London. What do you love about the UK?
Rebecca Parris: I adore everything I’ve seen in the U.K.; the people I’ve met, the history, the architecture, the appreciation of intellect and the arts. Where else can you walk down a street and touch a Roman wall? I am so excited to be returning. I’ll bet you can’t tell that I love London! Oh and I can’t forget a certain tour bus driver named Tony who was absolutely splendid to my partner Paul!
RG: You started your career performing musical theatre and later fronted various Top 40 bands; what made you switch to jazz and how did you make that transition?
RP: I spent so long playing cover material that I felt I was losing myself. Luckily I [was] in several situations where the need was for standards and jazz tunes. I felt so free all of a sudden. My creative self reawakened and it felt good, really good. No longer was I relegated to sounding like someone else. With this opportunity I could pick songs for me and arrange them as I liked. The clouds passed. The music was adult, had actual lyrics and made complete musical sense. It was in retrospect a perfectly natural move for me. Jazz could incorporate all the things I had learned: theatre, romance, sadness, truth, dreams, reality. I could defy people with my experience, play with harmonies and melody, stretch my brain into new rhythms……it was like Christmas. It still is. I learn every time I play [with] the caliber of musicians that I have been blessed to [work] with.
RG: How has the jazz music scene changed in your eyes?
RP: American jazz lovers and players are all terribly disappointed in the lack of support the genre receives as it has been named the US’ Official National music. Clubs are disappearing, “jazz” festivals are being overrun by pop music… Music education has nearly disappeared in all but the most affluent towns. I think that is the true crime here. Our kids are really missing out on the possibilities in music. We’re allowing record companies with flashy videos, concerts with all the bells and whistles to take over and prescribe what people will listen to. Television and video and computers are too convenient for folks to spend money on live performances. No one has a clue as to how music is put together. If you don’t teach harmony how will kids get it? I feel sorry for the ones that are missing out.
RG: You have worked with and alongside many of the greats that are sadly no longer with us today. Who have you loved collaborating with?
RP: Collaborations are always fun for me whether for a writing, producing or playing project. Playing with Dizzy Gillespie was a gas, writing with Carroll Coates and Arthur Hamilton was fun but my favorite writing collaboration was a long time ago with a relatively unknown songwriter named Stan Ellis. We co-produced my first album and wrote several pieces together. However, if I were to choose one it would have to be Gary Burton. Gary remains one of the singularly most generous human beings [and] I learned so very much [from him].
The late Jack Massarik awarded Rebecca’s appearance at the first ReVoice! an extremely rare 5 star review.
She returns to ReVoice! at the Pizza Express Jazz Club 10 and 11 October with James Pearson (piano), Mark Hodgson (bass). Dave Ohm (drums). First set from Georgia Mancio and guitarist Colin Oxley. Tickets available HERE