Curtis Stigers is performing Sinatra’s “Sinatra At The Sands” at Dimitirou’s Jazz Alley with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra tonight. This is a big band sound you need to hear. Tickets are available at the door. Don’t miss this amazing show. Curtis Stigers talked to Equality365 about the making of this album and his new appreciation for working with big bands. Check out our interview:
Could you tell me a bit about the show you have at Jazz Alley?
Well, I released an album on Concord Records in January that is a live recording with the Danish Radio Big Band. It was recorded in Copenhagen a few years ago. It features songs that Sinatra made famous, especially with a big band. Originally, the idea of the concert was to celebrate a famous live Sinatra album, “Sinatra At The Sands.” It featured him singing with the Count Basie Orchestra, the greatest big band ever. It even featured a very young conductor, Quincy Jones. It was recorded in 1966. I flew over and just thought it would be a fun one of sort of performance. I haven’t sung a lot of Sinatra. It just sounded like a lot of fun. A few months later, they sent me a recording of the set. It sounded really good. I sent it to a few friends just for fun. I sent it to my manager and he got really excited about it. We decided to make it into a live album. Now, I have been trying to collaborate with big bands around the country to play this album live. The Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra was suggested to me and it just seemed to be a great fit. I just thought the idea was so cool. The idea that there is a women’s big band in Seattle is just the coolest thing ever. Jazz tends to be a boys club, especially instrumentally speaking. There are a lot of female jazz singers but you never hear enough about female jazz players.
Did you plan on making this album when you went to Denmark?
No, not at all. The only thing that was planned was that it would be a radio broadcast. They perform in this beautiful theater that also happens to have a recording studio in it. I think it all went out live but it may have been edited before they broadcast it. I have always really shied away from doing a tribute record. I think why not do your own records instead of singing someone else’s music all the time. I have been rather bitchy about it actually. Now, suddenly I have a Sinatra record out but my defense is that it was never meant to be a Sinatra tribute record. I love Sinatra. I could sing this stuff all day long. It is just so much fun to find a place for myself in these arrangements. The arrangements are pretty much taken from the original recordings and I just do my stuff on top of that music. I try to pay homage to Sinatra without copying him.
Is it difficult to perform or even practice with an orchestra you have never met?
I fly in the day before, so we will probably rehearse a little that day. Then we will practice a bit when we do our sound check. The charts (sheet music) are all there. These are great musicians that could probably just sight read it and do a halfway decent concert. We are all used to rehearsing stuff quickly and getting a vibe about it all. The fact that I have the recordings helps a lot too. The leader of the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra can listen and get the tempos from those. Jazz musicians are just used to all of this. We have a language we have learned. Sometimes, it is nice to be shot out of the cannon with no net. That is just part of the joy of being a jazz musician. You just don’t always know how things will turn out.
What did you think when you first heard the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra perform?
Well, I found some of their stuff on YouTube. What was cool about them is kind of the broad range of types of jazz that they dig into. There is some really straightforward swinging stuff that is mostly what they will be doing with me. There is also some pretty avant-garde or at least experimental boundary pushing stuff for a big band. They are really good.
What was your favorite take away from that trip or experience?
I think it really helped me realize that I do like singing with a big band. I had experiences before and wasn’t really excited about singing with a big band. First of all, a big band is really loud. You have to be up to singing with a lot of power. I tend to like to sing quietly at times.
Connect with Curtis Stigers and the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra:
Curtis Stigers’ Facebook (click here)
Curtis Stigers’ Twitter (click here)
Curtis Stigers’ website (click here)
Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra’s Facebook (click here)
Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra’s website (click here)
You can always check Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley calendar here.