Jazz vocalist Melody Gardot brings emotions to the surface
Melody Gardot considers herself a citizen of the world; she is certainly a world-class jazz artist. Grammy nominated, the 27-year old singer has released three best-selling CDs - "Worrisome Heart," "My One and Only Thrill" and most recently "The Absence."
Her latest recording globe-trots with sounds from Morocco, Lisboa and Buenos Aires tango bars. It is produced by Brazilian film composer and guitarist Heitor Pereira, who has collaborated with such stars as Sting and Gaetano Veloso.
Originally from Philadelphia, Gardot’s life and career were threatened after she was the victim of a hit and run accident when she was 19 while riding her bicycle on a Philadelphia street.
The injuries sustained in the accident resulted in her having to rebuild her musical career in a different way. She was confined to a bed for a year-and-a-half, developed a hyper-sensitivity to light, suffered from short-term memory problems and found it difficult to find words to articulate her feelings. According to her Wiki page, she called herself "a bit of a vegetable."
Prior to her accident, Gardot was an avid, young performer on the Philadelphia music scene where she would sing songs from artists as varied as the Mamas and the Papas, Duke Ellington and Radiohead. Her doctor suggested that music might help in her recovery. She first learned to hum and sing, then write music and play the guitar.
She now is a vocal advocate for musical therapy, for people with brain and spinal injuries.
Gardot is winding up a cross-country tour with stops in Boston, New York and Philly for a one night only dates before embarking on the European leg of her tour.
Gardot was traveling between dates, but took time out for an EDGE interview via email.
EDGE: Where are you now?
Melody Gardot: Chicago after the gig - fantastic audience and a great city - was lost wandering around today, but loved every moment of it!
EDGE: Coud you talk about your work you as an advocate for music therapy. Your main objectives for that cause?
Melody Gardot: Music is incredible as it connects us all to the great feelings we experience as human beings. We feel through the notes, through the rhythm, through the emotion of a lyric; things we feel deep inside. Its job (music) is to bring all these emotions to the surface.
For the therapy program we’ve put together, the mission is not far from this. Its about helping people who have been in recovery (accidents/trauma/etc) come back to the place of joy they knew before, while also helping to repair great damage to the brain. Musical experiences via listening, playing and interacting offer this opportunity, so its a great joy to share this with the world. Its how I healed over time, and its what brought me back to life.
EDGE: Just heard your jam vocal of Ellington’s ’Caravan’ from Live Jazz a Juan 2010, and want to ask you about your approach to such iconic standards. Vocally you have so much invention but it completely is inside the music.
Melody Gardot: I love taking standards and twisting them through the blender of modern concepts. It’s beautiful to be a musician and appreciate what was already great to begin with then turn it on its head and reinvent. Its like straightening the leaning tower of Pisa just to look at it - then leaning it back on its side again to preserve its uniqueness and form. We don’t break the tunes, we just take a look from another angle.....
EDGE: Commercially, you are going a long way putting some of the genres back on the front commercial burner. What interests you most?
Melody Gardot: Jazz is beautiful because it represents freedom. How the music will unfold on any given night. We create the form of the air, we change the environment.
What makes jazz exciting is never-knowing exactly how its going to wind up, but riding the wave until you reach the end of the tune. You have an idea of where you’re going but how you get there is a journey. I love this.
EDGE: You seem to have such joyous camaraderie with the other musicians onstage. Can you say a few words about your players, singing live and touring?
Melody Gardot: Mitchell Long (guitar), Pete Korpela (percussion), Chuck Staab (drums), Irwin Hall (sax/flute/clarinet), and John Leftwich (bass), for the moment these are the guys on the road - we live on the road together and we celebrate on the stage. Each one has a different personality; what is amazing is to see how they all come together. Everybody’s gifted. Everybody’s free, its like dancing in the dark. Perfectly.
EDGE: Are you looking forward to being back in your home town and now as part of the great jazz legacy. What do you have planned for the concert?
Melody Gardot: I miss Philly. I miss the feeling of walking to the Markets, south Philly and the Pho joints on Washington. I miss the late night joints in the north side near Ortliebs. I miss the smell of the trains near 30th Street. But I love that I can come back and realize what these beautiful things are since I’ve left and had TIME to miss them.
What’s planned? You’ll see.....
An Evening with Melody Gardot will be performed in Boston on September 27, 2012 at the Berklee Performance Centre; in New York City on September 28, 2012 at Town Hall; and in Philadelphia on September 29, 2012 at the Merriam Theatre, Philadelphia. For more information, visit her website.