thesalting: everyone should stop what they are doing right now and just listen to your recording of 's wonderful with duda lucena. (go to leahsuarez.com / music) it's luscious. wait, that's not a question...how much rehearsal was involved for this recording?
leah suarez: thank you, darling! very little rehearsal, if any. we both perform the tune as solo musicians, so we know the standard as we would individually perform it. we just needed to adjust for our own keys and find our compromise in the arrangement as two voices. the recording at truphonic was meant to be live and a little raw. we had more of a conversation than a rehearsal. that's the beauty of working with someone as pro as duda. one take later and voila! the video.
ts: please tell us about JAC, jazz artists of charleston. what was your impetus to start this organization?
ls: charleston is where I have spent most of my days in this lifetime and one of the special places I am fortunate to call home. I was deeply inspired by my mentor, jack mc cray, along with other teachers, friends and colleagues in our community who had planted the seeds. I was also inspired by my time in copenhagen and my own personal experiences in charleston. imagine what we could do if we were organized?! for musicians, by musicians. it was an opportunity to marry all of my loves in hopes of raising awareness of the unique place charleston holds as a cradle of jazz, both as musical genre and cultural identity. charleston's significance as one of the most important port cities of this so-called new world is noteworthy and its contributions wide-ranging. most specifically for the under appreciation of its contributions from the african-american, specifically gullah geechee community. it was a bit of a reclamation of fact and, well, the way we saw it, a "return to the source." the cross-section of indigenous, european, and african influence is what makes our little city by the sea so significant.
I am a sucker for history and the underdog. with music being the driving force, it was an easy sell. I was just young and naive enough to dive right in. sink or swim! I am a solid swimmer, so it was born. at some point the revolution becomes the institution. I am proud of what we accomplished during my tenure and happy to see it thriving today as charleston jazz, built on the strong foundation of a magical era.
ts: we love the quote about you from jack mc cray, charelston magazine: "color her sound blue and green." what would you say are your main influences to your sound?
ls: oh jack. that man had a way with words. the amalgamation of the sea, my heritage, stories and folklore, and all of everything that I personally experience is certainly what "colors" my sound. my musical influences are as much of a mixed bag as I am; that's the blue in the green.
ts: first musical memory?
ls: picking out any and all tunes by ear on the piano and sing-a-longs with my mother, who was always singing harmony.
ts: we have to thank our dear friend cator sparks for the introduction! how did you two meet?
ls: cator had just moved back to charleston from nyc and was the cannonborough-elliottborough neighborhood association president for some years. that neighborhood is where our non-profit (JAC) was headquartered. he was looking for someone to sing for a very special event and the rest is history. we both deeply care for our community and our worlds tend to collide in the most unexpected, meaningful and marvelous of ways. I deeply treasure our friendship and his way of bringing out the best in me and everyone who has the privilege of being in his light.
ts: do you have a favorite type of venue for performing and why?
ls: the stage is my sanctuary, so creating that space anywhere that calls for it makes that particular space my favorite space for performing. my job is to create that space - an intimate, full-sensory vibe for people to meet us in the music. it's my version of "home."
ts: summer plans?
ls: I'll be spending my summer in the yucatan peninsula of mexico. let's just say I'll be somewhere between the "shed" and the cenotes.
ts: three favorite restaurants in charleston?
ls: chez nous | buckshot's | jack of cups
ts: describe your high school self in three words
ls: vexed | precocious | resilient
ts: describe yourself today in three words
ls: whole | radiant | chingona
ts: please share 3 spots on this beautiful planet that bring you happiness
sunrise, sullivan's island, south carolina, usa
summer light, copenhagen, denmark
sunset drive, chapman's peak, cape town, south africa
vida cotidiana (daily life), la ciudad de mexico (mexico city), mexico
anywhere by/in/on the sea.
somewhere on the stage.
that's 3 right?
ts: do you have a favorite memory from any of your performances that you would like to share with us?
ls: looking up to see the legendary milton nascimento (and his entire band and entourage) sitting in the courtyard of hotel kong arthur where my band was performing in copenhagen, denmark. I was singing "a felicidade." it was an unforgettable experience that led to a series of unforgettable magic.
ts: 3 favorite movies
*the godfather (no.1)
*kill bill (all of them)
*west side story (1961)
ts: we often collaborate with different artists at thesalting and welcome their energy and vision to our brand. if you could perform a duet/ collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
ls: just one?! impossible.
*yo-yo ma. his humanity radiates in everything he does, from every word he utters to every note he plays.
*etienne charles. his uniqueness lies in the combination of his pancultural perspective, rooted intellect, and brilliant delivery in creating meaningful connection, all fueled by his artistic genius.
the list is endless, really. I welcome all creative collaboration, including this one! we are limitless when we create - together.