We had the chance to catch up with renowned jazz vocalist, Ms. Eileina Dennis last week as she prepares to grace The JAZZ ROOM with a tribute to the legendary, “divine” Sarah Vaughn (with strings).
Here is what we learned about the talented internationally renowned vocalist…..
When did you start singing? How have you learned to be a vocalist?
Eileina has a strong gospel music background, with much of her earlier experiences singing in church as a child. Several family members are musicians, including her father and siblings. Amazingly, Eileina is a self-taught professional artist. “The stage is my teacher” says Dennis, and “I learn on a daily basis” from being on the stage and performing. As a musician, she says her learning will never end.
Who are some of your most favorite musicians, and musical influences?
Eileina had a large list of those who influenced her music. Some of those notable musicians are “Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Stanley Turrentine, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Wynton Kelly, Roy Haynes, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Betty Carter …. There’s an endless list. Each adds and brings a high level of creativity, excellence and depth to the art form of Jazz which I strongly admire and believe in.” From her own experience, she does not know who she is truly influenced by until performing on the stage.
What musical genres do you study? Are there any particular ways that you practice?
Eileina studies different musical genres, all while doing other daily tasks. (This would be considered her “practice regiment”.) Dennis says, “this ranges from Brazilian, classical and of course Jazz. At best, I go over tunes in my head so it’s more of a mental session, which can be done anywhere. For example I do not walk around my place singing when I am not on stage. I do not know of any exercises, but I’ve heard some singers do this but I have no idea what that would entail.” Currently, Dennis does not coach or teach other vocalists, but has been parts of seminars world-wide, including workshops in Brazil, Italy and France.
What can we expect from you at the upcoming JAZZ ROOM show?
“I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with drummer Ocie Davis (which is how we met) and we discussed many times of doing a show together and now the opportunity has finally presented itself in the guise of this tribute. All I can share is that I am an admirer of Sarah Vaughan… there will always and only ever be ONE Sarah…. I’m not in the business of emulating or trying to be ‘Sassy’ … All I can do is to perform well, and to try to reach the bar of excellence which has been set. You may or may not be able to pick out a few inflections but I’m looking forward to honoring this amazing American Jazz icon and hope to do justice to the performance.”