Greta Matassa: INTERVIEW

Great Matassa

 

Integrity – I am proud of learning the craft and skills involved in jazz singing, but applying them in an artistic way spontaneously and “in the moment”, as is the Jazz tradition, is my highest ambition.

Greta Matassa – Biography

Greta Matassa

Greta Matassa

GRETA MATASSA is one of the most talented singers working in jazz today.

She has been voted “Northwest Vocalist of the Year” by Earshot Jazz seven times in 15 years! She was voted again, Vocalist of the Year in 2014 and honored with a lifetime achievment award and inducted into the Earshot Jazz Hall of Fame in 2014.

Greta has been a mainstay on Seattle’s Jazz stages for many years and with her recent successful dates at New York’s Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, tours of Russia, Singapore and Hawaii, Japan and New Orleans, Greta’s sound is now reaching new audiences. Greta has released eight CD’s on the respected jazz label Origin Records and a DVD live concert with guitarist Mimi Fox. Her latest CD, “I Wanna be Loved” (Resonance Records) was critically acclaimed.

Greta is also a respected and generous teacher. She has been on faculty at Jazz Camp West, Drayton Harbor Jazz Festival and The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. She has a thriving private teaching practice a new CD is coming in 2016.

 

Greta Matassa – Interview

 

  • Hello Greta! We’re very interested in your singing and teaching. We know you have taught a lot of Japanese students so far. What brought you to be connected to Japanese singers and what do you like about working with them?

In 2007 I was the winner of the Kobe sister city female Jazz competition and came to Japan for the first time. Before that I had worked with a few Japanese students in my private practice in Seattle Washington.

In 2013 through a funny circumstance, I met the Kobe sister city jazz queen from Japan, Aki Miyafuji during her visit to Seattle. After her performance at Jazz Alley she came in to a jazz club where I was singing and we got to know each other. I told her I was coming to Singapore that year for a concert, and would love to stop off in Japan to meet some of her singing friends and musicians. She very kindly introduced me around and I had a very enjoyable trip to Osaka and Kyoto.

I like working with Japanese singers because they are so passionate about American jazz. I was very pleased the first time I came to Japan with how deeply many of the singers had studied the same singers I have studied.

 

  • Could you let us know about a couple of your most favorite musicians!! (no matter what kind of instrumental they play)

It is hard for me to narrow down my favorite instrumentalist.
There are so many that have influenced me as a jazz singer.

I learned so much about to swing from Count Basie and Duke Ellington, I learned so much about improvisation and phrasing from Oscar Peterson and Stan Getz.

I would have to say currently and for the last 10 years the musician who influences me most is guitarist Pat Metheny. His consummate musicianship and beautiful compositions move me deeply. I have embarked upon a project to adapt his songs with my lyrics for an upcoming album project.

 

  • What part of singing Jazz you love the best? And what is your strong point as a jazz singer?

It is easy for me to say that my favorite part about Jazz singing is improvisation!

I grew up with a painter, my father was an abstract painter and a jazz fan. We used to talk a lot about how Jazz is like abstract expressionist paintings. It is the freedom to stylize, compose, or improvise a spontaneous new variation on every piece of music and that allows me to be so expressive.

I love to scat sing!  I am afraid it is becoming a dying art and I pride myself on having been called one of the best scat singers in America and  compliments from instrumental musicians means very much to me.

When the musicians tell me I am one of the most musical singers they have heard, both rhythmically and improvisationally this is the highest compliment.

 

 

  • What do you care most as a jazz singer in your music?

What matters to me most about my music is integrity.

I am proud of learning the craft and skills involved in jazz singing, but applying them in an artistic way spontaneously and “in the moment”, as is the Jazz tradition, is my highest ambition.

As a teacher I try to emphasize to students the importance of balancing the skills and physical nature of our instrument (staying in shape), with intellectual ideas that come from studying the great jazz artists of the past and hearing my fellow instrumentalists as we search for inspirations and new artistic ideas.

 

  • How about the recording? Could you share your experience about CD making? 

 

I have a whole workshop dedicated to recording a CD or demo. In this workshop I share with students all the information I have accumulated through 10 CD projects of my own. We cover everything from how to prepare for the recording studio and understanding recording techniques and options to the business side of recording a professional cd versus a demo and the licensing issues etc.

My brief piece of advice to aspiring jazz singers, is do not spend lots of money recording a commercial CD for release until you have a fanbase, i.e.“customers” who will buy it. Instead consider recording a demo that is generally smaller in cost and shorter in length, but can be enhanced at a later date to become a commercial release.

 

  • What brought you to start working as an educator? What do you like about it? And what do you care most as a teacher? And what is your goal as an educator?

It’s funny, I have always considered myself self taught in that I did not take private lessons or go to college for jazz music.

However I did have teachers, they were the recordings of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Frank Sinatra and Anita O’day etc. Everything I know about jazz music I have learned either from studying these masters or learned on the bandstand from 30 years of singing professionally. I have managed in the 15 years of teaching so far to deconstruct and make into workable practice regimens many of the concepts that are involved in jazz singing.

As a teacher I want my students to feel that they can achieve success using some specific exercises and concepts. I sometimes say to students that singing American jazz music is like holding 14 spinning plates in the air at the same time! It is quite a balancing act between all the elements of understanding: melody, harmony, rhythm, song construction, improvisation, vocal range issues, breathing, diaphragm support, taste and artistic choices.

I find if a singer tries to make all of these happen at the same time it can be very frustrating for them. So I find ways for them to focus on one “spinning plate” at a time. Has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career in music. I love sharing with aspiring singer’s a little of the joys that can be had in creating this music with instrumentalist friends.

 

  • Could you explain about your educational materials? We would like to know more detail and how it works, how to use them effectively: Trades subscription series, Phrasing CDs, Scat Study CDs, Improv / Stylizing Custom CDs etc..

 

I have many options for aspiring singer’s to let me help them. On the teaching page of my website there are”practice aids”. There are various forms of study a singer can order on CD or mp3.

Phrasing CDs, where I provide an original reference melody for two standard songs per CD and then proceed to show guided techniques for practicing how to improvise/stylize the songs.

Scat CDs focus specifically on the art of scat singing. Again using guided techniques, where I am singing 2 or 4 bars and the singer is asked to either repeat after me or insert her own improvisation over the track.

Probably my most favorite teaching aid has been the “Greta trades” series which I started last year. I am offering those as Phrasing studies and improvisations exercises over four standard songs per CD (2 hours)

I also teach my singer friends who live outside of Seattle via face time and Skype sessions.

 

  • Please let us know about how to keep yourself so creative and keep giving a lot to people around you.

For an artistic person, I am also, fortunately, a very organized businesswoman. To do this music professionally you have to have a good business and marketing sense. I am self-employed and in America that means I am in charge of my future.

Every singer I coach I encourage to begin to be self-motivated and not wait to be “discovered”. Jazz music can be fun experienced in small community jam sessions as well as big auditorium concerts.

I often tell people jazz is a musical conversation on stage with the singer, her instrumentalists and her audience. Anyone who wants to experience this joyful thing should pursue their interest in jazz music.

 

  • For the closing of this interview, what do you love about jazz? Could you give any messages for singers in Japan? Do you feel welcome if one of a singer say that she/he would love to visit you someday? If you have anything to say, please let us know!!

I believe I answered some of the questions in the previous paragraph.

Let me close by saying I am very interested in meeting and helping Japanese jazz singers please contact me, gretamatassa@comcast.net or visit my website GretaMatassa.com to meet and work with me!

Singers may also ask my friend singer Aki Miyafuji about contacting me too…
Her email is akimusic@i.softbank.jp.

 

 

  • Thank you very much!!

 

Great Matassa

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