If the joyful and elegant Bay Area vocalist Clairdee were to say that she would go to the ends of the earth to perform and teach jazz, it would not be an exaggeration.
In March, she’ll be heading to Russia for a three-week concert tour followed by a residency at the Novosibirsk Music College in Siberia. Fortunately for Napans, she’ll be making a shorter, and warmer, journey to Silo’s this Sunday afternoon.
In the tradition of influences like Shirley Horn, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughn, Clairdee sings the Great American Songbook and more. “Nancy Wilson is huge for me,” she says, “and in the last 10, 12 years I’ve listened more and more to Billie Holiday and can really understand the heartbreak in the way she sings. The reason these women are great storytellers is they sing songs that they can relate to. They are about real stories, real life experiences. That’s exactly what I try to embrace in my singing. The storytelling is the thing.”
People are also reading…
Clairdee grew up in a large musical family in Denver, Colo. “My mother played piano and sang in the church choir,” she says. “It was very important to her to have all of her children — there were eight of us — singing and playing instruments. My first instrument was violin and then viola, and eventually I learned to play the piano and I also sang. We had music going on in the household all the time.”
After attending college and acquiring a teaching credential at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she made her way to Omaha, Neb., where she was singing six nights a week in a funk R&B band. She was discovered by jazz pianist and bandleader William “Big Daddy” Sailes. “He told me, ‘You are a natural jazz singer,’” she says. “He was referring to something I had done all my life. I improvise very freely. I can take a melody and switch it up like a jazz horn would do. He became my mentor. He’d played with people like Billie Holiday, Illinois Jacquet and Louis Jordan.”
In California, Clairdee has built a career as both a performing and recording jazz vocalist and as a music educator. She has released three CDs, the most recent of which is “Music Moves,” recorded live at Yoshi’s, Oakland. She has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz events, including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and has shared the stage with the Count Basie Orchestra, David Sanborn, Etta James and many other celebrated artists.
In her role as an educator, she has participated for more than 15 years in the San Francisco Symphony’s AIM (Adventures in Music) program in the city’s public schools. Among many other educational commitments, she is a teaching artist at SFJAZZ and is on the faculty of the Jazzschool Institute in Berkeley.
“I enjoy working with children, and I enjoy teaching music,” Clairdee says. “This thing that I think will make a huge difference no matter what children decide to do with their vocation later in life. Music is powerful, it’s something that really brings a lot of joy, and it helps kids focus. It’s a fantastic thing to share.”
At Silo’s, Clairdee will be accompanied by her musical director and arranger Ken French on piano, Doug Miller on bass and Jim Zimmerman on drums.
This performance is a presentation of the Napa Valley Jazz Society (NVJS).
Sunday, Jan. 26, 4 p.m. Silo’s, 530 Main St., Napa. $20 for NVJS Members, $40 for non-members. Tickets can be purchased at NVJS.org or by calling 707-224-5299.
Los Lonely Boys – April 23 at the Uptown
The last time these three brothers played the Uptown, it was an acoustic performance. This time, the Tex-Mex roots rockers will be fully plugged in, touring in support of their latest studio album, “Revelation,” which was released this week. $45/$55, on sale Friday. For details, visit UptownTheatreNapa.com.
David Kerns is a Napa-based freelance journalist. You can view more of his work at DavidKerns.com.