Of­fer­ing to ex­tend tra­di­tion

Chare­nee Wade picks up where the many fe­male gi­ants of jazz left off

The Australian - - ARTS - Chare­nee Wade per­forms at the Perth In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val on Sun­day, then has two per­for­mances at the Syd­ney Women’s In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val at Foundry 616 on Novem­ber 15 and 16. ERIC MY­ERS

Many jazz buffs are still din­ing out on the im­mor­tal works of the great, but de­ceased, African-Amer­i­can singers. Why not? Given the reis­sue in­dus­try, there is still much to choose from and to dis­cover. Still, Sarah Vaughan died in 1990, Ella Fitzger­ald in 1996, Betty Carter in 1998. Where is the new gen­er­a­tion of fe­male singers who can, in the flesh, em­u­late those great artists?

En­ter Chare­nee Wade, a New Yorker who has been mak­ing her way through the labyrinth of Amer­i­can jazz net­works for more than 20 years. This week she is in Aus­tralia for the first time, for the Perth In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val and the Syd­ney Women’s In­ter­na­tional Jazz Fes­ti­val.

Wade has am­ple cre­den­tials: ed­u­ca­tion at LaGuardia High School of Mu­sic & Art and Per­form­ing Arts (known as the Fame school), where she re­ceived clas­si­cal train­ing as an opera singer; a mu­sic de­gree at Man­hat­tan School of Mu­sic; run­ner-up in the 2010 Th­elo­nious Monk In­sti­tute of Jazz In­ter­na­tional Vo­cals Com­pe­ti­tion; and the en­dorse­ment of Wyn­ton Marsalis, who reg­u­larly fea­tures her in Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­tre projects.

Along the way, crit­i­cal ac­claim has been abun­dant. In 2015, critic Nate Chi­nen de­scribed her in The New York Times as “an heir to the lega­cies of Betty Carter and Car­men McRae”.

Wade re­leased her first al­bum, Love Walked In, in 2011 but came to se­ri­ous no­tice only with her cel­e­brated 2015 al­bum, Of­fer­ing: The Mu­sic of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jack­son. This was her trib­ute to in­flu­en­tial nov­el­ist, poet and mu­si­cian Scott-Heron, a cult fig­ure of­ten re­ferred to as the god­fa­ther of rap. Draw­ing on the tra­di­tions of blues, jazz and Har­lem Re­nais­sance po­et­ics, he at­tacked in­jus­tice with un­usual elo­quence. He is prob­a­bly best known for his 1970 spo­ken-word track The Revo­lu­tion Will Not Be Tele­vised, which many re­gard as one of the great­est pieces of po­lit­i­cal mu­sic put to tape.

Wade’s Of­fer­ing was widely praised. Lon­don’s Guardian critic John Ford­ham ap­plauded the first woman to de­vote an en­tire al­bum to the work of Scot­tHeron: “(She has) turned this tough call into a tri­umph of emo­tional em­pa­thy, in­tel­li­gence and as­sured tech­nique.”

“Util­is­ing the lyrics and mu­sic of the gifted duo as a launch­ing pad, (Wade) takes her in­no­va­tive ar­range­ments into an­other di­men­sion, con­vey­ing the in­tended mes­sage with her sin­gu­lar and as­sertive vo­cal tex­tures, evolv­ing, while hon­our­ing the spirit of the orig­i­nal source,” James Nadal wrote on al­labout­jazz.com.

Wade’s per­for­mances in Aus­tralia will con­cen­trate on the Scott-Heron mu­sic with which she is now in­deli­bly as­so­ci­ated.

“Gil Scott-Heron’s mu­sic is un­apolo­getic about telling the truth, hav­ing com­pas­sion for the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers and calls for jus­tice where there is none,” Wade tells The Aus­tralian.

“He and Brian Jack­son were ac­tivists through their mu­sic. They are as im­por­tant as all the ac­tivists who fought for free­dom for those who had none; they in­spire peo­ple to be­lieve they have a right to speak out against in­jus­tice. Gil had the au­dac­ity to tell the world about the cir­cum­stances of black peo­ple, and dis­en­fran­chised peo­ple in gen­eral, and the courage to do it un­apolo­get­i­cally. When he did that, it wasn’t com­mon or ac­cepted or even safe to put that mes­sage out pub­licly. But he did it coura­geously, and I want my mu­sic to help tell his story.”

Wade con­sid­ers her­self a jazz artist but one who is in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing all kinds of mu­sic. “My mu­sic def­i­nitely in­cor­po­rates other id­ioms such as soul, funk and real R&B, but these id­ioms are all born from jazz. So they are all re­lated. My in­ten­tion is to fol­low in the foot­steps of the greats — Duke Elling­ton, Dizzy Gille­spie and John Coltrane — who ex­plored and in­cor­po­rated other gen­res into their mu­sic.”

Wade will be ac­com­pa­nied by pi­anist Os­car Perez. Born in New York, the son of a Cuban im­mi­grant fa­ther and a Colom­bian vi­o­lin­ist mother, Perez shares with Wade an ed­u­ca­tion at LaGuardia High and took his mas­ters de­gree at Aaron Co­p­land School of Mu­sic at City Univer­sity of New York’s Queens Col­lege, where Wade was ap­pointed a pro­fes­sor (jazz voice) in 2010.

“Os­car is a sen­si­tive mu­si­cian,” she says.

“He lis­tens to ev­ery bend and turn and tells a story through his in­stru­ment. He is a pow­er­ful player and I know that what­ever mu­si­cal jour­ney I de­cide to go on, on any par­tic­u­lar day, he al­ways has my back.”

Amer­i­can drum­mer and band­leader Terri Lyne Carrington, who has toured with Wade, is gen­er­ous in her praise.

“Chare­nee is car­ry­ing the torch for jazz vo­cals,” Carrington says. “She is a true mu­si­cian, writes and ar­ranges her mu­sic beau­ti­fully, and has a dis­tinct sound that holds in her voice the best of past and present.”

Wade is well aware of the torch to which Carrington refers. The in­spi­ra­tion she de­rives from her il­lus­tri­ous pre­de­ces­sors is pal­pa­ble. Take Carter.

“Her ar­rang­ing abil­i­ties and com­mand of the band were so in­spir­ing to me as a young artist,” says Wade.

“Her stage pres­ence and her de­liv­ery of any lyric were cap­ti­vat­ing. Her scat­ting abil­ity was mind-bog­gling.”

‘Chare­nee is car­ry­ing the torch for jazz vo­cals’ TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON DRUM­MER AND BAND­LEADER

Chare­nee Wade says she is a jazz artist who adds other mu­si­cal id­ioms

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