Dena DeRose Trio
Dena DeRose, vocals/piano; Peter Barshay, bass; Akira
Monday, July 26, 7:30 PM | Campbell Recital Hall
Tickets: $32 general | $18 students
Lots of singers can play the piano. Some pianists can sing. Very few
can do either as well as Dena DeRose, let alone
both. "She both sings and plays the piano like a million bucks," says
DownBeat, which also named her Live at Jazz Standard Vol. 2 as one
of the Top Ten CDs of 2008 (as did All About Jazz and the Jazz Journalists
Association). Her piano playing features hip modern harmonies and dazzling
improvisation, anchored by a joyous, compelling sense of swing. As
a vocalist, she can scat intricate bebop lines one minute and break
your heart with a wistful ballad the next. On either one of her chosen
instruments, Dena is a remarkable performer with a unique artistic
voice. When she does both, it's like seeing two amazing jazz artists
in a single body.
Growing up as an aspiring pianist, Dena discovered the other facet
of her amazing talent in the face of an obstacle that might have ended
a lesser musician's career. A complicated case of carpal tunnel
syndrome made it impossible for her to play piano for a few years.
During this forced hiatus, Dena found an outlet for her music through
singing. By the time surgery and physical rehabilitation had restored
her piano chops, it was clear that singing would be more than a footnote
in her career. On either of her chosen instruments, Dena is a remarkable
performer with a unique artistic voice. When she does both, she's
simply "the most creative and compelling singer-pianist since
Shirley Horn" (Joel E. Siegel) and "...an exceptionally gifted
pianist as well as a sultry and intelligent singer, she has the audience
at her feet" (San Francisco Chronicle).
Dena DeRose, In Conversation with Stanford Jazz Workshop
How did your environment influence you as a player growing up?
I grew up in Binghamton, NY and it was a very supportive environment to grow up in in the ‘70s and ‘80s (unlike now), with jazz around the university and the city, many places to perform and make gigs happen!
What inspires you most in life?
Who are your favorite musicians or composers?
Some of my favorite musicians/composers/arrangers include Bill Evans, Carmen McRae, Liberace, Johnny Mandel, Cole Porter, Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider, Jon Hendricks, Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, Scott Lafaro, Art Blakey, Billy Higgins, all of the Heath Brothers, Dizzy, Bird, Lester, Mary Lou Williams, etc.
Do you have any rituals when preparing for performances?
Describe your most exciting gig for us.
The most exciting performance for me was getting to sing with Ray Brown at the Stanford Jazz Festival. To stand on the same stage as Mr. Brown was the thrill of a lifetime, so far! Someone like him, who has played for almost every major jazz vocalist, was scary at first but with his encouragement and supportive nature he made me feel very fine.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that I stayed with music through some difficult times in my life that most people might’ve decided otherwise (operations, etc), and found that I could sing, and express myself through music in another way other than just with my piano.
What are your hidden talents?
What are your two favorite places and why?
My two favorite places (at the moment) are the Dolamites in Sud Tirol for hiking, and the Caribbean for the beaches and calm ocean.
What do you do to relax?
Yoga relaxes me, meditation relaxes me, and hiking is also very relaxing for me. But the most relaxing is fishing!
Is there a particular teacher who had a strong influence on you?
My vocal technique teacher, Niki Cukor, was a huge influence on me vocally. Her teaching is still something I pass on to my students.
What advice would you give to young jazz musicians developing their craft?
Something students of jazz have to do is listen! Listen, listen, listen! Learn a lot of tunes from the jazz repertoire and play a lot with other musicians.
I can’t live without…
I’d really love to meet…
What would you most like to be remembered for as a musician?
I’d like to be remembered for bringing joy and happiness to people’s lives through my music.
What were the last five songs you listened to on your iPod?
The last five tunes I listened to were a few cuts from my new recording for MAXJAZZ, which will come out next spring: Why Did I Chose You? and Nice and Easy. Then I listened to Bill Evans playing Witchcraft, Moonray by Nancy King, and Where do You Start? by Shirley Horn.
Do you think music should have a message?
Music is a message...it takes each individual who listens to it to decide what it is for them.
Dena DeRose - "Detour Ahead"
Dena DeRose - "We'll Be Together Again"
Dena DeRose Trio live performance
Supported in part by Karl & Theresa Robinson.
Photo Credit: Scott McKissen.