Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Maria fi rst tasted success
in partnership with pianist / composer Vytas Brenner (a
Lithuanian), known for his inventive mixing of native folk with
rock and pop. Maria relocated to the United States to attend
the Berklee College of Music, and, after graduation, came to
the San Francisco Bay Area to study with famed vocal coach
Judy Davis. Collaborations with guitarist Joyce Cooling,
percussionist John Santos, and electronic musician and
producer Frank Harris soon followed. Returning to Caracas
for several years, she hosted her own radio program, “Emisora
Cultural de Caracas,” promoting world music. Since coming
back to San Francisco, she has recorded with Omar Sosa,
produced a CD of all Venezuelan popular songs and has been
a member of jazz world music group Wild Mango.
Maria describes her music as “a real
marriage between Venezuelan pop and folk music
with jazz: from waltzes, tonadas and working songs steeped in the
folklore, to popular and
beloved boleros and tunes written by Venezuela’s greatest composers
infused with Caribbean
In order to get to know her better, we asked
Maria to answer a few questions. Here’s
what she had to say:
Who is your greatest musical influence?
As a child growing up in Caracas, I heard so much variety
of music, from Venezuelan folklore,
like the joropos, all the great artists from Venezuela, to vallenatos
from Columbia, to Daniel
Santos singing his passionate boleros and Puerto Rican music, Trio
Matamoros from Cuba,
and also European music—Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Mina from Italy—so
much music from
everywhere. In that sense Caracas receives it all, because of its
geographic location and the
diverse communities that come from Europe.
Who is your favorite jazz musician under the age of 30?
I am I guess old fashioned in that sense. I mean for me there
is no one that can compare
to the singers from the 40’s, like Ella, Billie, Peggy Lee
etc. I learned from them, the mastery
in their instrument. There are I am sure very good singers now who
are younger than 30,
but the voices don’t have the stamp and grand style as the
singers we all look up to. I don’t
know if she is younger than 30, but Elis Regina’s daughter
from Brazil, Maria Rita, I like her
expressive voice and her creativity, also like her mom she takes
chances. I like to see that in
a singer, her mother’s voice was unforgettable.
What’s the most exotic place you’ve
traveled to as a musician?
I had the blessing of being able to go to Japan for 2 months
with a Brazilian group, and that
to me was the most exotic and wonderful experience, we were able
to live there with the
Japanese people in a small town and also visit the great cities,
favorite jazz venue?
A favorite jazz venue for me is that place which is large
enough where it still feels very
intimate, I don’t like huge venues, so inpersonal. But when
you can see and feel the artists
close to you is the best, one feels they are singing or playing just
How much do you practice each week?
I try to practice as much as possible, I feel the best when
I can do it every day, everything
becomes easy, right at your fingertips if you will.
If you could play with any other musician,
living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to play with Herbie Hancock, he has been sharing
his wisdom and beautiful
chops with younger artists, singers who come from different backgrounds
and he seems so
open minded and generous, not to mention how beautifully he plays.
I find him so inspiring.
What hobbies do you
My favorite hobby is gardening, I absolutely love planting,
weeding not as much, but
watching plants grow everyday, and flowers bloom. What a joy it
is to work with your hands
touching the earth.
To find out more about Maria, go to mariafmarquez.com