Are there any female jazz producers?

Although there are many famous female singers and performers, there are very few women behind the mixing console. According to BBC, more than 95% of record producers and sound engineers are men. This may be because the industry has a “boys club” atmosphere and many women are not inclined to pursue such a demanding career while also trying to raise a family. Yet, there are still some women who have risen to the challenge and succeed as jazz producers. Today we’re here to recognize these badass women who are making moves in today’s day and age!

Amy Denio – Seattle, WA 

Amy Denio is an award-winning composer and producer who was inducted into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame in March 2015. Not only has she produced over 50 releases, but she is also able to play the guitar, bass, alto sax, clarinet, accordion, and she can sing four octaves! In 1986, Denio founded her own record label and publishing company, Spoot Music, and has since collaborated with musicians from all over the world—Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina just to name a few. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Denio has been working on her “Corona Sonora” series, which consists of a wide variety of compositions that musically interpret the death and infection tolls in cities where Denio has previously resided.  

Yoshie Nakayama – Los Angeles, CA

A graduate of the Kunitachi College of Music and the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Yoshie Nakayma is a producer, trombonist, arranger, composer, singer and educator who specializes in jazzy a-cappella productions. Her creative vision is wide-ranging, including traditional Japanese songs, jazz big band, orchestra, Motown and more. She has contributed to over 400 recordings, worked with great mentors like Billy Bob Thorton and Alejandro Sanz, and she is the official arranger of the UNIVOZ Vocal Ensemble. Currently, Nakayama is working as one of the founders of the global initiative, Songs for World Peace, which promotes peace through the power of music. 

Kristina Koller – New York City, NY

Kristina Koller was exposed to a vast array of music and dance during her childhood outside of New York City, which led her to pursue jazz music, solo performance and formal music education at The City College of New York. Using her four-octave vocals, Koller creates powerful songs that project empowerment through self-discovery and awareness. And not only is she a professional vocalist, but Koller is also currently producing a synth pop record. As a producer, she specializes in transforming jazz standards into contemporary arrangements by using elements of R&B, pop and rock. 

Suzana Laşcu – Rotterdam, Netherlands

A graduate of Prins Claus Conservatorium and Codarts University, Suzana Laşcu is a performer, poet and composer who specializes in producing and curating sonic content. Her work aims to address all that permeates culture and is thus very transdisciplinary in nature, weaving across multiple genres—jazz, experimental, acoustic and electronic. Laşcu takes a non-traditional approach to music by incorporating extended techniques, spoken word and non-temperate sound producing effects. Currently, in 2021, she has begun broadcasting her most recent works on Radio WORM in Rotterdam. 

Kathy Salem – Cleveland, Ohio

As the founder and managing director of the jazz booking agency Night is Alive, Kathy Salem produces classical and jazz concerts worldwide with the goal of widening the influence of jazz music. Music has always held a sacred place in Salem’s heart: she played piano as a child, taught herself to read music in church and studied classic music formally for five years. Now, with Night is Alive, Salem represents some of the most talented and distinguished artists in the industry, such as Willie Jones III, Bill Cunliffe, Jeff Rupert and Donald Vega. She also offers academic scholarships to emerging musicians who are still attending college, which will foster a. love for jazz music in the next generation. Most recently, Salem produced the 2021 album, Cryin’ In My Whiskey, which infuses classic country hits with a jazz twist and features the vocals of Janis Siegel and piano of John di Martino. 

Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available in our store now and on all major music platforms. 

Which songs should you play at a graduation party?

Graduation parties can be a challenging terrain when it comes to music and playlists. You want to play tunes that the graduate, usually from a younger generation, can enjoy, but you also want to play music that the guests, usually older relatives, will also enjoy. Basically, you want some classic tunes that’ll put everyone in a good mood and possibly generate conversation. Well, look no further because we got you covered with this list! 

Gene Krupa & Buddy Rich – The Monster

This 1956 song from the jazz drummer duo Krupa and Rich really showcases how lively, fun and upbeat jazz music can be. And the tune is completely instrumental, which is perfect for party conversations. The vibrant drums will fade nicely into the backdrop of the party, energizing everyone without anyone even realizing it! 

Bill Withers – Lovely Day

We all know Bill Withers’s most famous song, Lean on Me, which is usually a staple at graduation parties, but what about mixing it up and playing this 1977 hit Lovely Day? It’s a very lowkey, relaxed song that can help everyone, from all walks of life, wind down and get in a good mood. I know it’s going to be a lovely day! 

The Lovin’ Spoonful – Do You Believe in Magic

Thanks to the 2005 rendition, from Disney stars Ally & AJ, people from all generations are familiar with this classic tune, which peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965. And no one will be able disagree with the message of the lyrics—that music has the magical power to make you happy and free your soul!

Islands in the Stream – Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers

This lovely 1983 duet from two of country music’s biggest stars has a smooth, mellow soft rock feel to it that everyone can appreciate. And did you know that the title comes from the 1970 Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name? If your graduate majored in English, be sure to quiz them on this fact!

Janis Siegel, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Whenever You Come Around

Everyone loves a good love song, especially a new rendition of a beloved favorite. In this version, the talented composer, arranger and pianist John di Martino infuses Vince Gill’s 1994 country song with a soulful, funky Booker T. and the M.G.’s feel. This tune will make you want to get a groove on with your sweetheart!
If you need some more ideas for songs to play at a graduation party, be sure to check out the newest release from Night is Alive, Cryin’ In My Whiskey. From this album comes the last track on this playlist, along with many more snazzy, jazzy renditions of country classics, like Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind and Crystal Gayle’s Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. And if you’d like to book one of our wonderful musicians to perform at your event, please contact us today.

Happy Mother’s Day! – 5 Jazz Songs to Warm Mom’s Heart

Are you feeling bombarded and overwhelmed by all of the advertisements for Mother’s Day gifts and flowers? Do you still not have a gift idea for mom? Maybe you weren’t able to visit with mom last year, due to concerns about COVID-19, and you want to make sure Mother’s Day 2021 is extra special. 

Well, don’t worry because sometimes it’s the simplest gifts that leave the longest lasting memories. Sometimes it’s about creating that perfect ambience by playing just the right songs. The songs that’ll speak to mom’s heart, get her eyes watering and her toes tapping.

Etta James – Tell Mama

This 1967 hit song still rocks out today! Etta James’s deep, powerful and gutsy vocals let you know that mama really is always on your side and always has your back, no matter what. This song is sure to get your Mother’s Day off to a groovy start! 

WJ3 All Stars – I’ve Never Been in Love Before

The jazz standard from 1950—recorded by stars like Bing Crosby, Doris Day and Chet Baker—has been brought back to life in this vivid rendition from Willie Jones III and his All-Stars! Whether this is the first time your mom is hearing this song, or if it’s a tune she knows and loves, the soft melody, saxophone and piano are sure to create a lovely atmosphere for chatting and reminiscing.

The Shirelles – Mama Said

This lively, poppy 1961 hit is a fun ode to all the moms out there who have given their children those unforgettable words of wisdom. And did you know that The Shirelles, famous for their rhythm & blues, doo-wop and soul music, are credited with the launch of the girl group genre? All I know is that I don’t worry ‘cause Mama said there’ll be days like this…

Gregory Porter – Mother’s Song

You probably recognize Gregory Porter from his albums, Liquid Spirit and Tame to the Alley, both of which won Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Album, but I bet you haven’t heard this song from his 2012 album! Porter’s mellow and uplifting sound will make your mother feel cherished on her special day. Listen and gather ‘round me children, children of a mother whose life lifted up peace, a mother who taught all of her children to love and be loved by each other…

Lorca Hart Trio – Bye Ya

If your mom is anything like my mom, saying goodbye is an ordeal, an event, a process in which one gets initiated into another conversation, and gets just one more hug, before finally walking out the door. So, this Mother’s Day, say goodbye with a bang! “Bye Ya” comes from Lorca Hart Trio’s newest album Colors of Jazz. The swinging, upbeat tune represents the color orange and evokes the image of a jolly band leading a parade down a cobblestone street. Everyone is dancing merrily and marching happily to the beat of the drum solo. A cheering crowd lines the street, pressing together to watch the musicians pass, waving and laughing. Giggling children chase each other through the sea of legs. Now, that, to me, really sounds like the proper way to say goodbye to mom!

And if your mom is a lover of jazz music, you may want to browse around our store for some great gift ideas! “Colors of Jazz” and WJ3 All-Star’s album “Lover and Love Songs” are both available in our store right now, along with many other albums that’ll bring a bright smile to mom’s face. Or if you would like to book one of our lovely musicians for your Mother’s Day, please contact us today. 

Life is a Picnic! – Relaxing Tunes to Listen to on National Picnic Day

With the unpredictability of the weather nowadays, we have to seize any opportunity we can to go outside and have a picnic. So, in honor of National Picnic Day on April 23rd, go grab your friends and family this weekend, tell everyone to bring a dish to share, sit outside and bask in the sun while listening to these upbeat tunes! That is, as long as there’s not a random surprise blizzard… Let’s cross our fingers that doesn’t happen, and spring is here to stay!

Billie Jo Spears – Blanket On The Ground

Whether it be a handmaid quilt or the classic red and white checkers, nothing says picnic like a blanket on the ground. In reality though, this 1975 country hit is actually about a more adult type of picnic… it’s sung from the perspective of a middle-aged woman who convinces her hesitant husband to make love outdoors in the moonlight.

Bob Dylan – Forever Young

When I think about picnics, I also think about family reunions, conversations and laughs over paper plates of macaroni salad. So, what better way to enjoy a picnic than with this lovely song written in 1974 as a lullaby for Bob Dylan’s eldest son. “Forever Young” conveys the wishes and hopes that parents have for their children: May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung. 

The 5th Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic

Tell you friends to hurry to the picnic because, as the 5th Dimension sings, There’ll be lots of time and wine, Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine. Gosh, that sure sounds like the type of picnic I’m looking for! Written by Laura Nyro and released by The 5th Dimension in 1968, this tune has a unique sound—a mixture of pop, R&B, soul, jazz, light opera and Broadway that’s referred to as “champagne soul.” 

Paul Simon – Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

This 1972 folk rock song is a playful and lighthearted tunne about two boys who have broken a law at the schoolyard. When “mama pajama” finds out, she goes to the police station to report the crime. This song makes me think of all the horsing around and tomfoolery that kids can get up to at a picnic when their parents aren’t looking. And the percussion in is very unique for American pop music since it was created with a Brazilian friction drum called a cuica, which is often used in samba music.  

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

The original song, a lament on a lost love released by Crystal Gayle in 1977 probably wouldn’t typically be thought of as an upbeat, outdoorsy picnic song, but this new rendition from Janis Siegel, John Di Martino and Lonnie Plaxico is anything but blue! These world-class musicians de-ranged the song a bit in their version, making it faster paced, and they also end the tune with a huge party that features Aaron Heick on clarinet. You won’t want to miss this wildly exciting and jazzy spin on the old country hit!

If you’re looking for more snazzy country tunes to play during a picnic, you might want to check out Night Is Alive’s newest album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which features the vocals of Grammy-award-winner Janis Siegel, the piano of John Di Martino and the saxophone of Lonnie Plaxico! “Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available in our store right now. Or if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for your picnic, please contact us today.

April Showers Bring May Flowers – 5 Rainy Day Songs

Just because it’s raining outside doesn’t mean that your mood has to be dreary and dark. Remember, April showers bring May flowers! Sometimes, a tough, gloomy period is watering the very seeds that’ll sprout and grow into something beautiful and joyous in the future, so go get yourself a nice warm cup of tea, snuggle up and listen to these lovely tunes on your rainy April day! 

Elvis – Pocketful of Rainbows

We all know and love the King of Rock and Roll, but have you ever listened to his lesser-known gem of a song, “Pocketful of Rainbows”? Released in 1960, this slower-paced tune is perfect for a rainy day inside. Like Elvis sings so beautifully, we need not worry whenever skies are gray above because we have a pocketful of rainbows and a heart full of love.

Otis Redding – Cigarettes and Coffee

From his 1966 “The Soul Album,” this song is a poignant meditation from the perspective of a man lingering in the early morning, sittin’ here talkin’ with my baby. The protagonist is in absolutely no rush to get started with his day. He sings to his darling about how grateful he is that she’s in his life, and how grateful he is for this simple moment together: I’ve known nothing but good old joy since I met you… I would love to have another drink of coffee, now, and please, darling, help me smoke this one more cigarette. 

Lorca Hart Trio – Dew Drop

As the Lorca Hart Trio proves in this wonderful jazz song, released in 2020, a drop of dew can be oh so delicate, beautiful and precious. Slow down and notice the dew drops outside all around you, on flowers, leaves, branches. A dew drop is in no hurry to go anywhere, it just exists in that very moment, which is exactly what you can do on this drizzly day. 

Etta James – A Sunday Kind of Love

I don’t know about you, but this song is a staple on my rainy Sunday morning playlist. Etta James’s powerful voice and the clever lyrics in this 1960 tune just soften and warm my heart into butter. But did you know that Etta James was not the first artist to release this song? It was actually composed by Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Stan Rhodes and Louis Prima and published in 1946. Many musicians like Fran Warren, Ella Fitzgerald and The Del Vikings came out with versions of this beloved song.

WJ3 All Stars – First Time I Saw Your Face

This slow, smooth song from WJ3 All Stars’ newest album, “Lovers & Love Songs” will have you reminiscing on the very first time that you ever met your darling—the twinkling in his or her eyes, the dimples on the cheeks and the smile that stole your heart forever. This song is perfect for cuddling up next to your loved one and savoring all those sweet memories you have together. 

If you’re looking for more soft jazz songs to keep you nice and cozy during all the rainy days this April, I would recommend the WJ3 All Stars’ album “Lovers & Love Songs” and the Lorca Hart Trio’s “Colors of Jazz.” Both are available in our store right now and on all major music platforms!

4 Songs that Tell Stories for World Book Day

There’s nothing like a good book to pull you out of life and transport you to another reality. Whether it be Twilight, Ready Player One, Pride and Prejudice or the Handmaid’s Tale, there’s a story out there for everyone. But did you ever realize that some of the best songs also tell a story? I don’t know about you but when I was growing up listening to country music, that was my favorite part—the ability to learn about someone’s life story in the short span of just a few minutes. Well, today, in honor of World Book Day, celebrate on April 23rd, we’re bringing you four songs that tell some really resonating stories. 

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

This is a gritty, realistic story of a woman trying to escape from the vicious cycle of poverty. The protagonist’s mother left the family, and her father is an alcoholic, so she quit school to take care of him. One day, the narrator hopes that she and her lover will drive away in a fast car, just ‘cross the border and into the city. She imagines a whole different life for them: you and I can both get jobs and finally see what it means to be living. This poignant 1988 folk-rock song conveys a sense of hope and optimism towards the future. 

Randy Travis – Three Wooden Crosses

“Three Wooden Crosses” is the tragic story four passengers—a farmer on vacation, a teacher seeking higher education, a sex worker and a preacher, all of whom were searing for lost souls on a late-night bus trip from the U.S. to Mexico. There’s a fatal accident when the bus is hit by an 18-wheeler, and three of the passengers are killed. And that’s all I’m going to tell you for now—you’ll have to listen to the rest of the song to find out what happened to the person who survived… and there’s a few surprising plot twists!

Bobbie Gentry – Fancy

This Southern Gothic style song is a narrative told from the perspective of a woman in her thirties named Fancy, who is looking back on the summer she turned 18. It’s a memorable story about a woman using sex work to overcome childhood poverty. Bobbie Gentry, the country star from small town Mississippi, wrote and recorded the song in 1969. 

Gentry sings that Fancy grew up in “a one room, rundown shack on the outskirts of New Orleans.” Fancy’s mother spends her last penny on a dancing dress and tells her daughter to “start sleeping uptown” and “just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they’ll be nice to you.” Eventually, from her relationships with wealthy, powerful men, Fancy comes to own a Georgia mansion and a New York City townhouse. 

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Where Do I Put His Memory?

There’s no sadder story than the story of losing a loved one. With its poignant lyrics, this country song, written by Jim Weatherly and first released by Charlie Pride in 1979, touches on the human condition and the persistence of memory. And now, the story is being retold in this new rendition from the 2021 album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” In this version, John Di Martino arranged the song in a Venezuelan joropo rhythm, and New York City guitarist Jesse Lewis is also featured! 

If you’re looking for more jazzy retellings of classic country stories, look no further than the album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which is available in our story right now!