Allmusic.com has said that Barbara Paris is an excellent jazz vocalist able to make even warhorses sound fresh through her enthusiasm and subtle creativity.”
Born in Denver, Barbara grew up in a musical family and as a child played violin, piano, and then guitar. She has performed in Europe as well as both coasts here in the United States. She worked off and on with Legendary Pianist Joe Bonner for over 20 years, fondly referring to him as her “musical soul mate”.
I asked her recently about her Sheroes in jazz, what interested her in jazz, and a few other things.
Barbara who are some of your Sheroes in jazz?
“I have so many Shero's. In my record collection I have approximately 100 vocal cd's that I frequently listen to and refer to when learning a new tune and I do not watch T.V. but I do watch singers on you tube.
I highly respect all jazz vocalists because it is a work of love, not often rewarded financially or with the work they all deserve. Singers can change the world if by only touching the hearts of their listeners. When I look back at the lives of vocalists thru jazz journalists and personal conversations with them, I have learned the way some singers of the past learned much of the craft from big band men such as Etta Jones, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Humes records. I did discover that most jazz singers of late, Etta Jones, Shirley Horn, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington all recorded a tune by the earliest of jazz singers from Chicago Lil' Green. Lil' Green was the first jazz recording by a vocalist I owned. My brother told me I had to listen to her if I was going to be a singer, along with Aretha Franklin. There is a jazz recording I heard by Aretha that was recorded at the Blue Note very early on in her career. The liner notes were interesting in that they mentioned no one at the appearance. The material shows how she was searching for her voice in jazz and found it later in rhythm in blues after her original start in Gospel. Each singer has her own individual style and imprint and there is something by each of them that touches or teaches me something worth knowing.
What started your interest in jazz?
My interest in jazz started when I was born... my dad was a jazz vocalist, he had a beautiful voice. He loved jazz an also sang in Spanish. He would come home from work in the evenings and put me on the edge of the table and sing to me. He sang every day all day when he was home, and he was a very good whistler as well. The great singers were played in my house hold as each of my father’s children loved singing all due to him. My mom is a dancer (now 91), she loved swing music. Records were my entertainment and all the shows on T.V. in the 60's with all the great entertainers. The schools I attended were great musical venues at the time. We would have talent shows holiday shows and every grade was involved. Music was a staple in schools at the time.
What inspires you about jazz?
What most inspires me about jazz are the endless creative possibilities. So many varying choices in the wide range of jazz. The numbers of women that are surfacing in all genres of jazz beyond the vocal aspect. The youth that are getting infused with the flame of desire for it. There is so much to learn, and it seems the more I learn the more I want to learn. It is a life long journey and my natural response to it is love. I just love the jazz in me.
“My heart is in classic jazz, which I completely love. This is the music that feeds my soul.
What is your favorite jazz song and why?
Deciding on a favorite song would be very difficult. There are so many. The American songbook is vast. I love that music, it's melodic and harmonic possibilities. Early on there was Sergio Mendez which introduced me to Bossa Nova. I guess if I had to pick, I would say Carioca Kiss, which I wrote while visiting Brazil and because when I wrote it, it described what I was looking at and feeling and now when I listen to it imparts the same visual. Having recorded some of the Brazilian compositions, it was interesting to be on the beach where I could look behind at the Christo and hear the samba between the waves and the traffic. Quite like going on the jazz walk thru Harlem, singing in the same venue as Billie Holiday and Dinah performed in and seeing where Dinah Washington lived on Lenox Avenue.
More information about Barbara is available at her website.