Spring 2013: Story, p. 23.
Passersby took pause as Philadelphia-based jazz singer Laurin Talese illumined University of Pennsylvania's historic Locust Walk. Draped in a floor length red sequin gown... she stole the night. Awestruck undergrads stopped to steal glances as JUMP's Rick Kauffman directed Talese into one glamorous shot after another.
The pages are printed and the story is out. Laurin Talese is t h e c h a n t e u s e.
The Spring 2013 issue of JUMP highlights artists who juggle two lifestyles: music and... everything else. We in turn caught up with Talese to delve into her dual lifestyle - from Ohio to University of the Arts to Adam Blackstone to Bilal to Robert Glasper to Vivian Green to Wharton and back again.
|PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@LAURINDARLING at Capogiro after JUMP photo shoot.|
I N T E R V I E W
HOW DID YOUR MEETING IN NEW YORK GO?
It was good! It was just to hopefully work with somebody on some music. Filtering out ideas.
YOU MET AT THEIR STUDIO?
NOT READY TO SAY WHO THAT SOMEBODY IS?
Not yet! Hush. Hush.
I SAW YOU PERFORM AT THE KIMMEL CENTER'S SITTIN' IN AS THE NIGHT'S HEADLINER. EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE HAD A SMILE ON THEIR FACE. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT A JAZZ PERFORMANCE THAT CHARMS LISTENERS. WHAT CHARMED YOU TO JAZZ? WHAT MADE THAT YOUR GENRE?
I went to the Cleveland School of the Performing Arts in Ohio. I went from 5th to 12th grade. A little before high school I heard one of our jazz ensembles. I grew up hearing all of these high school students who seemed so big singing it [Jazz]. I fell in love with it then.
But I really fell in love with it through a high school boyfriend that I had. ::laughs:: He gave me this compilation CD with Sarah Vaughan and Chet Baker. They’re still some of my primary influences.
GIFTS LIKE THOSE CHANGE LIVES.
Mmmhmm. I’m missing one… Nina Simone. What was the song? My Baby Just Cares for Me. I remember thinking it was a guy at first. Well! I was so enchanted when I found at that it wasn't I listened to all of her stuff. I thought her voice was just so… different. But vocally, I didn't relate. My voice is not like hers. From really early on I tried to find people’s whose voices I could mimic or felt at ease when singing it. Chet Baker was one. His voice had a very straight tone.
IT'S CLASSIC. LIKE YOURS.
At the same time I was doing Jazz, I was in Gospel chorus. My best friend and several others had big, raspy, Gospel voices. And I never did. I always felt very self-conscious in the choirs and those settings. I didn’t do all of the riffs and I didn’t have that type of grit – this big audacious power. So when I found them [Vaughan and Baker], I felt so at peace. It makes me feel good to sing it. The music around it reminded me of such a glamorous time. It made me feel glamorous. Ella Fitzgerald… I felt part of their time.
DURING YOUR PERFORMANCE VIVIAN GREEN JOINED YOU ON STAGE FOR A SURPRISE DUET. I SPOKE WITH HER BRIEFLY. SHE GUSHED ABOUT YOUR TALENT. WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SINGER?
We’re really good friends. I started singing background for her in 2006. And we became friends through that. Everything I do she tries to be there and support.
HOW WERE YOU INTRODUCED?
Adam Blackstone was Vivian Green’s musical director. I was asked to join. It’s a long circle, but it all goes back to Adam.
RIGHT! AND ADAM'S NOW WORKING WITH...
I WAS GOING TO SAY YOU!
Oh yes! He’s producing on my present album. He couldn’t come to the Kimmel performance because he was with Justin Timberlake in LA. He was Musical Director for Jay Z’s Barclay Center concerts and Rihanna’s 777 Tour.
WOW, HE'S IMPRESSIVE.
He is impressive.
On Instagram there’s the “Photo Challenge” and number three is “Role Model.” I’m trying to think of posting someone strong and female because I’m so pro-female. ::laughs:: But he’s totally in that list as one of my role models. I met him at the University of the Arts. It was actually on the first day of school. We began in 2000. We’ve just been friends ever since.
I remember when he wasn’t doing what he’s doing now and to see what’s he’s doing now is amazing. Big example of hustle and grind and knowing what needs to happen and making it happen.
ADAM BLACKSTONE IS THE PRODUCER. WHO ARE YOUR OTHER COLLABORATORS ON THE ALBUM?
Adam has the gift of adding the finishing touches and having the track crossover – having it become instrumentally complete. He definitely exercises his musical director experiences.
Additionally, I write all of my songs with Eric Wortham who is my pianist. Most of my songs on the upcoming album will be Eric and I. I actually toured with Eric in 2006 for three months in China and in 2005 when Zanzabar Blue was still open on Broad Street, we played there every week performing originals and jazz standards.
I REMEMBER ZAZABAR.
So upsetting that it’s closed. A lot of the Jazz clubs have gone in the city. It’s time for a revival.
But yes, Eric went to CAPA, but I met him via Steve Tirpak who attended UArts with me as well. Tirpak wrote the charts for all of the horns on my album.
SO STEVE TIRPAK INTRODUCED YOU TWO.
Yep. There was immediate chemistry because the chords Eric played were the chords I hear in my head when I write my songs. It’s a blessing to have met Eric. He hears what I hear.
SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT TIME OF INSTRUMENTALISTS.
It is. Anwar Marshall is on drums for some of it. A good drummer makes it complete. I love the rhythm section – the drummer and bassist. They move me.
ON THE SINGLE WINTER YOU WORKED WITH ROBERT GLASPER. THAT'S AMAZING. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I met Robert Glasper years ago, through Adam as well. I sang background for Bilal around 2003 and 2004. Right when I was about to graduate from school. He’s a great person and it was really natural. Really happy to have him.
HOW IS YOUR FORTHCOMING ALBUM, "THE GLAM SUITE," COMING ALONG?
Mmhmmm! We’re in the final stages of mixing.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THE ALBUM?
This album is more about the stages of a relationship. Who I am. Who I was. There are times when I felt really connected to a person and really overwhelmed by passion. And then there were times when I was going through the motions. Bored. You’re over it. And in relationships you either decide to be single at that point or something happens that draws you back to the love you had or something new, but familiar. Those times when you sneak into his office with a trench coat on and nothing else. ::laughs:: This album explores all of those instances.
WHAT DREW YOU TO PHILADELPHIA?
I remember telling my best friend when we were auditioning for colleges “I don’t care where you’re going. I’m going to University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It’s my place.”
::LAUGHS:: YOU WERE CONVINCED!
It was just so big. So artsy. Philadelphia in the early 2000’s, musically, was an incredible place to be for certain genres. I love my hometown, but Cleveland couldn't compare. I've always been a bubbly person and everyone I met at University of the Arts was like me. I felt at home.
UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS – ESSENTIALLY HOW YOU'VE MET EVERYONE YOU'VE COLLABORATED WITH.
It’s so divine how everything happened. The bonds I have are unshakable.
YOU PRESENTLY LIVE IN WEST PHILADELPHIA. IS THIS DUE TO ITS PROXIMITY TO A CERTAIN UNIVERSITY?
After college I toured immediately. I began with Jaguar Wright and Joy Denalane. But then tours started becoming scarce. I remember thinking I need to find a job. I need security. I got into full Virgo mode. ::laughs:: I thought, strategically, that a job at a university would be the most secure job.
WHY UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA?
I used to live on Fitzwater and one day I crossed the bridge and fell in love with this part of West Philadelphia. Its diversity. Its musicality. It has a sleepy urbane feel.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT WHARTON?
I offer light advising and academic registration at Wharton. It’s incredibly student facing. Everyone is so supportive of what I do outside of the university. They come to my shows! Extremely supportive.
And again, super divine. I’m around type-A personalities who are about money-making. I watch Bloomberg financial news all day. I’m exposed to things I would never have been otherwise coming from my academic background.
A PERFECT COMPLEMENT.
It is. At first I felt lucky to be able to be in a stable situation and still tour. I am super appreciative of the small things, like being able to pay for a plane ticket whenever I want. And benefits! ::laughs:: But music is my life. I enjoy helping the students. But sometimes I think “this is your career and my career is after 5.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAIRY-TALE ENDING?
My fairy-tale ending? Of course singing. Singing at The Met or Carnegie Hall. Classic jazz and original pieces to throngs of people. Living comfortably.
TO FULFILL YOUR CALLING TO PHILADELPHIA. TO PERFORM.
Absolutely. I want to be the artist.