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Rita di Ghent, Composer, Vocalist, Bass Player: Press

Jazz critic, Scott Yanow, writes about Groove's upcoming new release Rita For a Rainy Day by jazz vocalist, Rita di Ghent.


Rita di Ghent has an interest in a wide variety of music but is particularly skilled when singing jazz. Her latest CD, Rita For A Rainy Day, is a ballad-oriented set that also makes room for some lowdown blues.

 

For most of the selections, Rita is joined by Dave Restivo on organ and piano, bassist Marc Rogers and drummer Daniel Barnes. Trumpeter Nick the brownman Ali, saxophonist Kenny Kirkwood (doubling on baritone and alto) and vibraphonist Fred Raulston are occasional guests and the strings of Yaro Yarosil are sometimes added, most notably on “Good Morning Heartache.”

 

But even with the fine contributions of her sidemen, the main focus throughout this recording is on Rita di Ghent, and she is up to the challenge. “You Go To My Head” establishes a dreamy atmosphere a little reminiscent of late period Billie Holiday although Rita has her own sound. While “You Go To My Head” is taken at a slow tempo, “Willow Weep For Me,” after an introduction by Kirkwood’s baritone that leads one to think that this will be a ballad, surprisingly is taken faster than usual and features a cooking vocal. The vintage “Sugar In My Bowl” and a soulful “Since I Fell For You” precede a very expressive and partly out of tempo “I Loves You Porgy.” Rita really digs into the lyrics on this heartfelt version.

 

“Ne Me Quitte Pas,” which has Rita singing passionately in French, is a change of pace. “Mood Indigo” is given a rare vocal version. Lil Armstrong’s “Just For A Thrill” is not revived very often but that may change after Rita’s emotional rendition. “I Want A Little Boy” is given a sassy treatment and Rita sounds rightfully melancholy on “Good Morning Heartache.”

 

The last two songs find Rita taking songs from the pop world and redoing them her way. Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You” is taken as a sexy and mildly threatening blues. Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” is given a treatment so memorable that it is one of the high points of this fine outing.

 

Overall, Rita For A Rainy Day is one of Rita di Ghent’s finest recordings to date, and is highly recommended.

 

Scott Yanow, author of ten books including The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Record 1917-76 and Jazz On Film    


Review of "Rita For a Rainy Day" CD by Scott Yanow

  

New York critic/author, Will Friedwald writes about Groove's upcoming new release by jazz vocalist, Rita di Ghent.



  Now is a funny time to sing the blues: sometimes I can hear a dozen singers in a row and not hear the blues.  (I won’t go into the distinction between who’s a jazz singer and who isn’t, so let’s just say I’m talking about singers who work in clubs like Birdland and Dizzy’s.) I’ve registered this complaint before, but all too often it seems like most so-called contemporary “jazz” singers would rather sing Bjork or the bossa-nova instead of the blues.  Yet Rita di Ghent reminds me of how many of the great female jazz singers, like Anita O’Day, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and even in her own way, Ella Fitzgerald, also excelled at the blues.  You don’t think of them as rivals to Bessie Smith or Dinah Washington, but they all had their own very personal approaches to the 12-bar melody structures and the basic three-chord harmony essential to the blues.


Rita for a Rainy Day resonates throughout with echoes of those great ladies; Rita reminds us that the blues is not the exclusive property of the apparent thousands of post-Aretha soul sisters who think that the way to express feeling is to shout and stomp and over-embellish everything.  Rather, in the right hands, or tonsils, the blues is as subtle and exquisite as anything by Mozart or Bach.  Rita shows us that she knows what all those great women (as well as guys like Mel Torme and Nat King Cole) knew— that you don’t have to have what’s regarded as a traditional blues voice or sound like you spent your whole life as one of Mahalia Jackson’s choir to sing the blues.


Not that Rainy Day is all traditional blues; for the most part, it’s songs with a strong blues quotient, like “Since I Fell For You” and “Just for a Thrill”, which have always been part of the repertoire of blues singers and are often described as “blue ballads.”  Rita shows that it’s possible to sing all this material in a highly personal and completely understated way.  I hear echoes of Simone (as on her own “Do I Move You”) all over the place, as well as O’Day. Yet, they never resonate so loudly that they drown out Rita’s own voice.  (“Sugar in My Bowl”, one of several tracks that co-stars organist Dave Restivo, connects Rita to the legacies of both Simone and Bessie Smith.)


“Just Like a Woman” made me think of Barb Jungr and Norma Winestone, but I actually prefer this deliberately minimalistic treatment of the Dylan anthem to Jungr’s own (and the world knows what a Jungr fan I am).  Rita employs a spare, pointillist approach reminiscent of the best contemporary movie music – Carter Burwell’s score to True Grit for instance – the kind where you can feel every note and every word, and every emotion assumes importance.  


Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” shows that the impulse of the blues does not stop at international boundaries any more than it does at racial ones.  “Good Morning Heartache” is one of several tracks that proves, even as it did for Lady Day herself, that a good blues singer can work as well with a string quartet as with an out-of-tune two-string guitar.  “Mood Indigo” is replete with references to the blues, both musical and lyrical; “I Loves You Porgy” originated in an opera, but like “Willow Weep For Me,” it’s always been grist for the blues mill; Billie Holiday brought “You Go To My Head” to the attention of blues and jazz singers, even though melodically and lyrically it has more in common with Cole Porter than Bill Broonzy.  (The song is actually the subject of a famous movie gag in which Inspector Clouseau mistakenly attributes “You Go To My Head” to Porter.)  “I Want a Little Boy” has always been a favorite vocal feature for non-singing jazz musicians, yet Rita gives it a change of both gender and of apparel.


   All of which is not to overlook the overarching point of the album, as indicated by the title Rita for a Rainy Day.  Rita was driven by the idea of doing intimate songs about love, the kind you can snuggle to, on a bad-weather kind of a dayeven though the mood of isolation in some of the texts suggests that one may be impelled to snuggle solo.  Rita di Ghent has much to say to us with this album, but her most important point may well be that, more than anything else, the blues is a romantic music.


Will Friedwald  is a New York-based author and music critic. He has written for such newspapers as The New York TimesThe Village VoiceNewsdayThe New York Observer, and The New York Sun, and for such magazines as Entertainment WeeklyOxford AmericanNew York, Mojo, BBC Music Magazine, Stereo Review, Fi(Delity), and other music and film journals.

His books include Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and BeyondSinatra! The Song is You: A Singer's ArtStardust Melodies: the Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs and Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: An Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons, among others.

His Sinatra bio was awarded the 1996 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Music Criticism.

As of April 19, 2007, he is also the owner of the world's largest iTunes library with more than 170,000 tracks.


Review of "Rita For a Rainy Day" by Will Friedwald

Review of Rita di Ghent's CD All Baby Wants is Me


  Rita di Ghent is an excellent jazz singer from Toronto. While she has performed a wide variety of music, All Baby Wants Is Me has 11 veteran standards and two of her songs. Joined by Dave Restivo on piano and organ, a rhythm section, saxophonist Kenny Kirkwood, trumpeter Nick Ali and vibraphonist Fred Raulston, she revives Joe Mooney's “Nowhere,” introduces the title track, and comes up with fresh approaches to such songs as “You Go To My Head,” “You're Not The Kind,” “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” and “You Hit The Spot.” While it might be a mistake at this point to sing “Over The Rainbow” (it has been done before!), her version beats most of the ones out today. Rita di Ghent sometimes reshapes the melodies a bit to fit her voice and mood, and does a fine job of filling her interpretations with subtle surprises. She is a singer well worth discovering. 

(Scott Yanow, January 2011)


Review of "All Baby Wants is Me" CD by Scott Yanow

Reviewers unaccustomed to music-spoken word combo’s CD’s are taken aback as if this is some kind of new genre of music that has no pedigree and therefore no reference points that can be linked to this musical product or you are confronted by a number of reviewers, (who shall remain nameless) who are familiar with the genre but shrink in horror---- just plain prejudiced against any kind of spoken word- jazzzzzzzzz music fusion -- please no beatnik bongo music as if the hoary old ghost of our own Ralph ALphonso No Beat readings over rock guitar buzz saw suspended chords or antique quaking s from Old Jack Kerouac over Zoot Sims and AL Cohn instrumental tracks will break up whatever quiet reverie is planned for their respective eve.
 
What we have hear in Rita di Ghent’s new CD. ‘Sprawl Indigo' is just that kind of fusion  that either frightens or intimidates these Philistines of the Boondocks’, these ‘scholarly oxen’.

Rather what we truly have hear is a ballsy gutsy gal move by a brilliant Jazz pop vocalist-artist who possesses a kazillion awards, nominations, citations, and honours from The Late Great Planet Worth that both explores the aforementioned genre and expands it at the same time to sonorously great effect.

‘Sprawl Indigo’(More Tales of the Inner City) could be tales of any city but no it is our own cities that she is tracking with the flinty eyed curiosity and precision of a gold shielded detective poking through the detritus and the glamour bons of our urban props that we call our city furniture and the people that people them.

Produced by Rita and Ian de Souza with pre-production by Monika Ghent, ‘Sprawl Indigo’ was a labour of love that also involved the vocalizing and work on keys of Rita Herself, guitar work of Mark Ghent, Rakesh Tewari on drums, Ian de Souza on bass guitar and programming Gord Webster on piano and rhodes etc etc all seasoned and extremely conscious artists on their own instruments.

All do a cool vibed out number on this here collection where Ritas cool active blowsy vocal stylings recall dare I SAY it: Dinah Washington and the Divine Ella Fitzgerald. Rita both sings and speaks-reads on this CD more times than not effectively intertwining spoken word readings and singing. This chanteuse introduces Herself  with an slightly self mockingly arch and somewhat rhetorical question: how can this voice come outta this body .... with Italian roots yes this Italo Canadian deserves all her accolades that others would give their right eye teeth for.
  
It has been said reviewers should never
review an artists courage curve but this lady has got the guts of a pirate to make this kind of album and then to pull it off with aplomb.
 
Check out especially the opening cut ‘The Body’ as well as 'This Ain’t Livin’
and her cover of Hendrix’s 'Angel'. Other tracks of major note are' Big Shoes', 'There Ain’t No Tomorrow Like Today', 'Stygian Shore'--- all outstanding.
 
Two Thumbs up for this Here and Now Jazz baby and my fellow reviewers get off the pot and give this album a perusing and you will know SHE Done GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

 

Nick Beat is a Toronto-based poet/musician and host of CIUT Radio's "Howl"

Review of "Sprawl Indigo" by Nik Beat

The below is a review of All Baby Wants is Me by Cyril Moshkow, editor, Jazz.Ru Magazine. The review appears in Russian and translated into English.

 


  We are almost confident that the name Rita di Ghent, and the title of her disc All Baby Wants Is Me, which was released by Groove Classic, - is a novelty (or something new), it is new for us personally as well. Moreover, interesting discovery is waiting for CD enthusiasts: Rita di Ghent, who informs little about herself (or who doesn't let us know a lot about herself), had her debut at the beginning of the 1990s in New York. However, unlike most of her fellow countrymen, she did not "get lost" in the USA. For the most part, Rita di Ghent is teaching jazz vocal in her native land, Canada. Little by little she releases CDs and composes jazz songs, which could well become international hits. This is the case, for example, with the title track, All Baby Wants Is Me. This melody, along with another original one, as well as two popular-jazz "evergreens" will introduce (or music lovers to this remarkable person and singer.

 

Мы почти что уверены ,что имя Rita di Ghent и название ее диска ‘All Baby Wants Is Me’ и выпустившего его лейбла Groove Classic- в новинку, как и для нас самих. Тем более интересное открытие ждет Си-Ди гурманов: мало что сообщающая о себе Рита ди Гент дебютировала в начале 1990-х в Нью-Йорке, но – в отличие от большинства своих соотечественников, «не пропала» в США: в основном, Рита ди Гент занимается преподаванием джазового вокала у себя на родине, в Канаде. Понемногу выпускает диски и сочиняет джазовые песни, которые вполне могут еще стать международными хитами. Как, например, заглавная композиция All Baby Wants Is Me. И эта мелодия и еще одна – тоже ее собственного сочинения, и два эстрадно-джазовых «эвергрина» познакомят Си-Ди гурманов с этой незаурядной личностью и певицей.

 

Cyril Moshkow

editor, Jazz.Ru Magazine (www.jazz.ru)


 

Review of "All Baby Wants is Me" CD - Cyril Moshkow JazzRu Magazine

 


статьи

 

Rita di Ghent

То, что вы хотели знать о джазовом вокале, но не знали, у кого спросить

 

менее забавного фильма. Канадская джазовая вокалистка, а по совместительству композитор и педагог, Рита Ди Джент (Rita di Ghent), разумеется, вряд ли раскроет все тайны джазового вокала, но в то же время, думаем, этот материал будет любопытен тем, кого интересует такой специфичный джазовый инструмент, как человеческий голос, в особенности начинающим вокалистам.

 

Рита профессионально занимается джазом с 1990 года. Тремя годами позже она впервые выступила в джазовой столице мира — в Нью-Йорке. В 1995г. она основала собственную фирму звукозаписи“Groove” и уже издала на ней два альбома. Рита продюсирует также крупноформатные джазовые шоу. Среди подготовленных ею программ — “Два поколения в джазе”, “Великие леди джаза” и другие. В 1999г. она организовала фестивальный джазовый тур по десяти городам Канады. Занимаясь преподавательской работой в сфере джазового вокала, она отобрала наиболее часто встречающиеся вопросы, среди тех, что ей задают студенты и попыталась ответить на них в этом своеобразном автоинтервью. Итак:

Вопрос: Прекрасный способ обучения — это прослушивание музыки. Полезно ли для вокалиста слушать великих инструменталистов в той же мере, что и певцов?

Ответ: Каждый крупный певец много слушает выдающихся инструменталистов. Все знаменитости — Элла Фитцджеральд, Сара Воэн, Анита ОДэй, Кармен МакРэй и другие — пели с биг-бэндами. Это требует отличной подготовки в сфере ритмики, фразировки и импровизации. Я знаю, как сильно певцов магнетизирует звук голоса, и мы поэтому частенько предпочитаем вокальную музыку. Однако, слушая и разбирая партии других инструментов, вы чрезвычайно расширяете собственную музыкальность как певца. Возьмите вашу любимую джазовую запись (при этом не имеет значения, есть ли там вокал) и прослушайте ее несколько раз, стараясь следить только за ударными. Потом прослушайте еще несколько раз, концентрируясь на звучании фортепиано и возможно даже попытайтесь пропеть ритмические фигуры. При следующих прослушиваниях фокусируйте внимание на игре контрабаса (пропеть эту партию очень полезно для слуха). Продолжите эту процедуру с любой из партий духовых. Порядок чередования инструментов не существенен для этого упражнения, но зато само оно чрезвычайно полезно для певца (да и для инструменталиста).

И чтобы подвести итог этому вопросу: многие инструменталисты тоже учились у выдающихся вокалистов, особенно по части интерпретации, тембра и динамики.

В: Правда ли, что у певцов какая-то тональность является самой удобной? Имеет ли смысл начинать с нее, когда разучиваешь мелодию или репетируешь? (“Сыграйте в соль мажор (G), это моя тональность.”)

О: Вокалисты не поют в какой-то одной тональности. Последняя зависит от диапазона мелодии (соотношения между самой низкой и самой высокой нотой в песне). Для певца нет особой проблемы в попадании в ноту, большинство из вас обладает значительно более широким диапазоном голоса, чем это необходимо для львиной доли песен. Важно, скорее, подобрать для исполнения именно ту тональность, которая лучше всего подходит для данной композиции. Если вы альт, то, к примеру, “Lover Man” надо петь в си-бемоль мажоре (Bb), а “How Long Has This Been Going On” — в соль мажоре (G). Если вам привычнее петь очень близко к микрофону, то надо выбирать более низкую тональность, чем при пении на большем расстоянии или вовсе без микрофона. Несколько слов о тональностях и пении по нотным публикациям: многие певцы предпочитают в этом случае менять тональности, так как в литературе они часто слишком высокие. Будьте внимательны, так как в изменениях тональностей есть свои неписаные законы. В джазе исполнители, как правило, не используют тональности ля мажор (А), си-мажор (В) или ми мажор (Е).

В: Как репетировать, если еще не понятно, чего ты хочешь добиться?

О: Такое понятие, как репетиция без определенной цели, должно быть совершенно исключено! Когда бэнд собирается на репетицию для совместной разработки аранжировок, для певца крайне неразумно начинать репетицию без определенного плана или понимания данной музыки. Если вы, как певец, не в состоянии добиться этого, необходимо сотрудничество с кем-то, кто взял бы на себя роль вашего музыкального руководителя и помогал проводить репетиции. Репетиции — это один из главнейших методов, необходимых, если вы хотите стать певцом-лидером бэнда (как, впрочем, и в случае певца-сайдмена). И, кстати, нет ничего плохого в том, чтобы, оставаясь вокалистом, не заниматься руководством ансамблем. Многие большие певцы не были бэнд-лидерами (но я готова держать пари, что большинство из них умело играть на фортепиано. Впрочем, это уже другая тема).

В: Что понимают под “формой” мелодии?

О: Термин “форма” означает структуру. Большинство джазовых стандартов имеет 32-х тактовую, ААВА форму (например “These Foolish Things”), это значит:

А — 8-ми тактовый отрезок, отражающий музыкальную тему
А — повторение первых 8-ми тактов (седьмой и восьмой такты могут отличаться от тактов с теми же номерами в первом отрезке А)|
В — 8 тактов, в которых мелодия и тональность противопоставляются А
А — 8-ми тактовое повторение первых восьми тактов.

Некоторые исполнители называют последний отрезок С, если гармонически и мелодически он отличается от остальных А-частей. Другие предпочитают называть его А’ (произносится “А прим”).

Другой популярной формой джазовых стандартов является 16-ти тактовая мелодия типа АВ (к примеру,“Gone With The Wind”). Часть А имеет длину в 16 тактов, а затем ее сменяет также 16-ти тактовая часть В. Гармонически, отрезки А и В часто схожи на протяжении первых 8-ми тактов и различаются в следующих 8-ми тактах.

В: Есть ли иные часто применяемые формы (или все сводится к вариациям обычных ААВА, ААВС и АВ форм)?

О: Обычно джазовые хиты укладываются в эту 32-х тактовую песенную форму (впервые примененную и популяризированную Стивеном Фостером в его знаменитой “Swanee River”). Рискну предположить, что в такой стандартной 32-х тактовой форме джазовые музыканты испытывают большую творческую свободу, не затрачивая слишком много энергии на запоминание структурных особенностей композиции. Конечно, есть известные песни и аранжировки, которые не вписываются в эту 32-х тактовую схему. Но не думаю, что ансамбль, с которым вы репетируете, сразу воспримет их с большим энтузиазмом.

Традиционно, джазовые певцы черпают материал у поп-сцены (например, даже у “Beatles”) и в музыкальном театре и адаптируют его к 32-х тактовой форме. Певец может использовать как оригинальную форму (например, гершвиновские мелодии), так и ее адаптацию к менее сложной форме. Аранжируя мелодии, вы можете также и добавлять такты в первоначальную форму, придавая мелодии новое звучание (я, к примеру, поступила таким образом, работая над версией “God Bless The Child”для своего альбома “The Birth Of Sprawl”).

P.S. Непременно не забывайте еще и про такую важную стандартную форму, как 12-ти тактовый блюз.

В: Можно ли добиться более глубокого, сочного звучания, чем есть у вас изначально?

О: В значительной степени ваш голос столь же генетически присущ именно вам, как и костная структура или цвет глаз. Одни люди рождаются с глубокими голосами, другие — с высокими, ярко звучащими, и пока они здоровы, их голоса прекрасны. Однако тренировки с пением в пониженных тональностях могут помочь вам добиться более сочного звучания. Можете поэкспериментировать и с тембровыми окрасками (степень яркости и высокие или низкие обертоны). Но как бы вы не изменяли свой естественный голос, крайне редко восемнадцатилетней девушке удастся зазвучать, как Ширли Хорн. Есть целый ряд факторов, которые делают голос более хриплым или глубоким: возраст, курение, алкоголь, особенности техники (чрезмерное напряжение связок, излишний акцент на грудной регистр). Первый фактор неизбежен, а остальные не следует использовать в качестве постоянного средства для изменения голоса.

В: Есть авторы песен (Джордж и Айра Гершвины), которых я так люблю, что любое изменение в мелодии или тексте кажется мне противоестественным! Не станет ли преступлением, заслуживающим “джазовой тюрьмы”, более “гладкое” исполнение некоторых мелодий?

О: Безусловно нет. Чтобы усовершенствовать красоту этих мелодий, нужны великие вокалисты. Поступая таким образом, вы жертвуете некоторыми оригинальными чертами композиций. И это, разумеется, необходимо компенсировать необычным аккомпанементом или нестандартным размером. Записывая свои сборники песен, Элла Фитцджеральд исполняла их весьма “гладко” (а также в более низких тональностях, чем оригинальные версии). Я люблю слушать эти записи — прекрасный пример работы больших мастеров. Когда сборники увидели свет, Эллу критиковали за слишком вольные интерпретации лирики и даже ставили под вопрос ее статус джазовой певицы. Но эти записи оказали (и оказывают) огромное влияние на основную массу публики и с этим аргументом трудно спорить.

В: Может ли соответствующий аккомпанемент и исполнение “с чувством” придать популярной мелодии джазовый характер?

О: Это трудный вопрос. Да, “гладкое” пение под джазовый аккомпанемент сохранит джазовый статус композиции. Разумеется, такой подход хорош лишь при обращении к не совсем джазовой аудитории. Возможно, это прозвучит снобистски, но представьте другую ситуацию: я решила сделать альбом из мелодий Пуччини. Я не могу петь очень высоко и исполняю эту музыку ниже, в удобном для себя диапазоне. Я не знаю особенностей классической фразировки и секретов классического пения, и поэтому я пою так, как это привычно для меня, но под аккомпанемент большого академического оркестра. Некоторым, особенно моим поклонникам, такой диск может понравиться. С другой стороны, я не претендую на подмостки Метрополитен-оперы или Ла Скалы. Их аудитория культивирует особую, классическую эстетику. Они оценят (если все остальное, кроме моего пения, будет соответствовать классическим традициям) подобный эксперимент так: “Я предпочел бы послушать эту музыку в интерпретации хорошего классического вокалиста”, и я не могу их за это осуждать.

В: Когда исполняешь темповую музыкальную фразу, как лучше всего добиться ясности и четкости звучания отдельных нот?

О: Не знаю, есть ли лучшие методы, но я порекомендовала бы следующее. Самая важная составляющая моего способа заключается в том, что я заучиваю фразу медленно. Избегайте ускорения темпа, пока вам не удастся аккуратно и точно пропеть каждую ноту. Если при исполнении в таком умеренно-медленном темпе все же есть места, где вы ошибаетесь, прорабатывайте их снова и снова (например, переходя от соль мажор (G) к соль диез мажор (G#). Когда вы научитесь проходить эти коварные участки без ошибок, повторите вновь всю фразу с самого начала. Ускоряйте темп исполнения только когда вся фраза проходит без ошибок в медленном темпе (мой личный вариант — когда мне удается спеть все без ошибок три раза подряд). На этой стадии полезно применять метроном. Когда вы отшлифовали фразу до совершенства как ритмически, так и мелодически в данном темпе, можно увеличить его еще раз. Отрабатывайте фразу на каждом новом уровне, постепенно достигая необходимой скорости исполнения.

Rita di Ghent Перевел Леонид АУСКЕРН

© 2007 Jazz-Квадрат

 

Interview (in Russian) - JazzQuad (Russian Jazz Magazine)

Rita di Ghent has created an amazing new type of sensational Jazz experience with her unique blend of Soul and Nu Jazz. Rita's sultry voice adds to the sensual and seductive sound of her music. What make her music especially hot to listen to are the intoxicating lyrics that perfectly blend nicely with the artist's voice. In this spotlight with our Webzine, Rita speaks to us about her music and why she loves what she is doing. 

 

Isaac: Describe your origin. 

 

Rita: I came up as a jazz musician, but I started experimenting and trying to create a viable hybrid of jazz and contemporary urban music. I didn't want to describe my music as jazz because that either connotes something specific in people's minds or else it casts too wide a net for people to get a sense of what the music's about. 

 

Sprawl started out as an acronym, but now it just stands for the name given to my original contemporary jazz material. By saying that my musical genre is Sprawl, I get a chance to explain what the music is about. If I said my music is jazz, that might be a door-closer. 

 

Isaac: Who are your major influences? 

 

Rita: All the classic jazz masters, both instrumental and vocal and any kind of music that grooves. I'd say my parents were the primary influences because they both loved music and raised me and my four siblings in a musical household. 

 

Isaac: How long have you all known each other? How did you meet? 

 

Rita: Because I use jazz players, there's no band, per se. Usually, jazz players are hired guns, freelancers. It's becoming more and more rare that the same group ofjazz musicians record and perform on a long-term basis. I hire whoever is available from the A-list jazz players on the scene. 

 

Isaac: Do you have a record label

 

Rita: Yes, I formed my own label, Groove, in 1995 and the subsidiary, Groove Classic, in 2001. The label's motto is "keeping one foot in the future and one foot in the past!" 

 

Isaac: Are you a member of any music organizations? 

 

Rita: SOCAN. 

 

Isaac: Where have you performed? 

 

Rita: I've performed at festivals and clubs in Canada, the U.S, Mexico, Europe, and Asia. 

 

Isaac: What are your favorite and least favorite venues? 

 

Rita: I enjoy playing anywhere where people are there for the music. It doesn't matter if there's an audience of 20,000 or 20. I also enjoy playing places where the presenter values the music and the musicians. I like working with laid-back and professional people. 

 

Isaac: Do you have any upcoming shows? 

 

Rita: The gigs that I have coming up in the next couple of months gives a sense of the diversity: 

 

Oct. 8: a fundraiser for JAZZFm, the Toronto all-jazz radio station 

Oct 17: a concert at my house in Picton, ON 

Oct 24: a fundraiser for Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, Picton, ON 

 

 

Most of my gigs for the next few months are close to home since I teach in the Jazz Department at Toronto's York University. When school gets out, I'll be teaching farther afield. 

 

Isaac: Which songs do you perform most frequently? 

 

Rita: The repertoire is driven by the type of gig and audience. I will perform everything from jazz standards to Sprawl to blues. 

 

Isaac: Do you ever play any covers? 

 

Rita: Yes, the jazz standards are covers. For my one act, Rita's Parlour that I do with guitarist Sam "the Shark" Sharkawy, I also cover 30s and 40s novelty tunes and blues numbers. 

 

Isaac: Do you have a set play list? 

 

Rita: It tends to be different for every gig. 

 

Isaac: Who writes your songs? 

 

Rita: I do, mainly. I co-wrote some tunes with bass player Ian de Souza on the new CD, Sprawl Indigo. 

 

Isaac: What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? 

 

Rita: Some of them are just cute and catchy like All Baby Wants is Me and Short Man Blues and others are more socially conscious. For example, $20 Ring is about a poor girl who saves up for a fake diamond and then gets robbed and killed by a punk who thinks it's real. Peace Conspiracy is about karma and higher consciousness. This Ain't Livin' is a day in the life of a homeless man. L'incanto is about a woman who uses Italian witchcraft to get her lover back. 

 

Isaac: Do you think these topics will change over time? 

 

Rita: Yes, I do. The music reflects my headspace at the time. I've written two albums of work that are what I call Tales of the Inner City, but I think I'm done with those observations for now. I feel myself moving into a different head space. I'd like to write an album entirely of blues. I'd like to write a folk album about the roots of America. 

 

Isaac: Could you briefly describe the music-making process? 

 

Rita: Well, it's really varied. Sometimes I write the lyrics first, sometimes the music. Usually, it grows from an initial small spark of inspiration--something I've heard or seen. Sometimes it comes all at once and sometimes a song takes many months of putting it away and taking it out again before it comes to life. 

 

Isaac: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous? 

 

Rita: Rehearsals are a luxury. Luckily, all the players are top-notch and need, at most, a quick run-through. Sometimes, there's no rehearsal at all--that's jazz! 

 

Isaac: What has been your biggest challenge? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how? 

 

Rita: Maybe the biggest challenge is commanding a respectful fee for a performance. 

 

Isaac: What's your ultimate direction for you? Are you seeking fame and fortune? 

 

Rita: I'd say I'm seeking to keep writing and making records and living a life that's balanced. The most important thing is love and peace of mind and a sense of contribution. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. 

 

Isaac: What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands? 

 

Rita: Have a leader and have the leader be a cool person! 

 

Isaac: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? 

 

Rita: Thank you for asking. My music is available on iTunes, CDBaby, and amazon.com 

 

Isaac: Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD? 

 

Rita: CDBaby has samples of all my music, the straight-ahead stuff and the Sprawl stuff. 

 

Isaac: Is there anyone you'd like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support? 

 

Rita: First and foremost, my parents. Then, there are the wonderful musicians who have lent their beautiful musicianship to my projects. The Toronto Arts, Ontario Arts, and Canada Arts Councils have been tremendously supportive. So has CBC Radio. Nick Blagona, who engineers/produces my albums, has been extremely generous with his talent and support. 

 

Isaac: Any last words? 

 

Rita: Thank you for this interview and for your support for non-major label music. I'm honored to have been featured in Junior's Cave. 

 

I'd also like to say that music has value. Please support independent artists by paying for their music. Go see live music and feel good about shelling out like you do at the movies. It's the ultimate healer--that's worth something, isn't it? 

 

 


 Interview with Journalism Student, Nora Ottoway: Sprawl Indigo 

 

Rita di Ghent enjoys Wimpy’s Diner in part because their vegetarian gravy is so

good that it deceives the large construction worker types who think they’re having an all-meat

experience. Signing up for one thing and getting another is nothing out of the

ordinary for this jazz vocalist. Born into a musical family in Hamilton,

Ontario and raised in Chicago, Rita di Ghent interprets jazz standards and adds hip hop

and spoken word flavour to traditional musical forms. She is a story-teller with musical

training, and the stories she tells blend personal experience with critical observation, new

musical ideas, and traditional narratives. These are stories where the flipsides have

flipsides, and seemingly contradictory elements are revealed to make perfect sense, if one

is willing to listen closely.


  The first hint of dissonance between what you hear in Rita di Ghent’s music and

what you get when you actually talk to her comes from the revelation that for an artist

whose songs have an inherently urban feel, with images that crisply render the pavement

of city streets on a rainy night, Rita di Ghent is a nature-lover who is at her most creative

when she’s sequestered at her cabin in eastern Ontario. The city girl with the country soul

is an example of the layered nature of an artist whose songs and music fill out the sparse

sketch of her official history. She says that spending a few days the way her

homesteading ancestors did allows her to tap into a creative energy that is difficult to

access in the city. “I’m way more creative in nature than when I’m not in nature,” she

says.


  Forcing herself to do things outside her comfort zone is another way she jumpstarts

her creativity. Walking alone in the woods is a time for her to reflect on a jumble of

city experiences, despite the reality that “there are bears [and] I’ve always been deathly

afraid of bears, but I make myself do it anyway.” The payoff of subjecting herself to that

tense experience comes in being able to access a creative energy that becomes blocked

and distorted in the chaos of urban life. Her inspiration comes from the city and her own

experiences, but it is in the solitude of her cabin’s setting that ideas seem to spring nearly

fully formed, ready to be put on paper, or to music.


While walks in the woods and the possibility of a bear attack are part of the cabin

experience, you won’t find any songs in di Ghent’s repertoire about fluffy clouds or

adorable wildlife. Despite her love of the wilderness, her songs are about cold, hard urban

life. An example of this narrative focus is “$20 Ring,” about a girl who longs for a cheap

piece of pawn shop jewellery, finally succeeds in owning it, and is killed by a mugger for

refusing to surrender the ring, which represents her pride and self-worth. Like di Ghent

herself, the song functions on multiple levels. Most superficially, it is an interpretation of

Nina Simone’s “Plain Gold Ring,” the kind of jazz standard that, for all its charms, is at

heart about “romantic heterosexual love”, a theme di Ghent wants to move beyond in her

own work. “I don’t want to write about that stuff,” she says. “I want to tell my own

stories.”


  Delve deeper into “$20 Ring,” and the song reflects di Ghent’s early days,

“growing up extremely poor and just always feeling like I was on the outside, looking

in.” Go down another level, and it is inspired by true events: “I know what it’s like to

have a gun pointed at me…my life was pretty bizarre in some ways.”

 

 

  Another story from di Ghent’s life is filtered through a number called “Flim Flam

Man.” The song samples a boarding call from the loudspeaker at a bus station. It

represents “going from a small place to a big place,” she says. What is a Flim Flam Man?

The song itself is poppy, catchy, and ideal for singing in the shower. Considering the

layered meanings in di Ghent’s songs, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that “Flim Flam

Man” isn’t as happy as it sounds. di Ghent describes girls who leave their small towns for

big cities, and the men who hang around bus stations, waiting for them, offering

compliments and food and shelter, “and before you know it, [the girls are]…crack

whores.”


  The song is neither a social commentary nor a political tirade: it is story-telling

influenced by personal experience. “I left home when I was fifteen so I’ve been at those

bus stations…I was one of those girls,” di Ghent says. Despite their personal nature, her

songs are by no means an invitation to pity: “I am completely not interested in writing in

a way that makes anybody feel sorry for me. It’s not really about me. I know about this

stuff, and I know you people do too, so if I sing about it, it can make you feel it and you

[won’t] be so alone.”


  The idea of shared experience is the heart of story-telling, and it is her refusal to

take part in self-pitying narratives that take di Ghent’s stories beyond the standard into

innovative art. The woman who walks in the woods, wary of bears, shows us the self-described

“bad kid” she used to be. But she is hesitant to spend too long in the past: “I

don’t want to give too much away,” she says. Her past is hers personally; her image as an

artist is what’s important now.

 

Nora Ottoway, Ryerson Journalism Program, Toronto

Nora Ottoway - Interview

Review of All Baby Wants is Me by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke for The WholeNote

  In her seventh and latest recording “All Baby Wants is Me” evocative songstress Rita Di Ghent presents a tasty sampling of much loved standards as well as two original compositions, including the jaunty title track. Di Ghent’s trademark haute-cabaret presentation and impeccable good taste are in full swing on this highly enjoyable recording. She effortlessly conjures up visions of smoke-filled speak-easies, and the bluesier numbers are well-served by her smoky, understated vocal style - reminiscent of the late great Lee Wiley.

Rita served as producer and arranger on this project, and she has surrounded herself with an elegant supporting cast of Dave Restivo on piano and B3 organ, Marc Rogers on bass, Daniel Barnes on drums, multi-cultural jazz artist Kenny Kirkwood on saxophone, Nick “Brownman” Ali on trumpet and Fred Raulston on vibes/percussion. The ensemble is nothing short of perfection, and never overpowers the diaphanous Di Ghent. Dave Restivo is acknowledged as one of the most gifted jazz pianists on the scene today, and on this recording he also shows himself to be a masterful accompanist - in the best possible Alan Broadbent sense.

Di Ghent’s clever composition, Nicely Situated is a song in search of a Broadway show, and she delivers it with humour, flair and melodic integrity. Other outstanding tracks include an up-tempo What a Little Moonlight Can Do and George Gershwin’s classic I’ve Got a Crush on You, replete with a gorgeous string arrangement and performance from Jaro Jarosil.

 

http://jazzrytmit.com/wp/s8-levyarvostelut/c29-levyarvostelut/rita-di-chent/Levyläjäni sekasorron alaosista löytyi ohuessa pahvikotelossa levy, jonka saate oli päivätty jo viime syksylle. Työnsin levyn kuitenkin soimaan.  Levykansi ja artisti nimi Rita di

This is a review by a Finnish critic. The English translation follows:

 

Levyläjäni sekasorron alaosista löytyi ohuessa pahvikotelossa levy, jonka saate oli päivätty jo viime syksylle. Työnsin levyn kuitenkin soimaan. 
Levykansi ja artisti nimi Rita di Ghent antoivat odottaa jotain tusinatavaraa, keskinkertaista jazzlaulantaa. Sitä massaosaamisen tylsyyttä, mitä on tarjolla turhan paljon laulujazzin levymarkkinoilla. 
Mutta istu ja pala! Enpä osannut heti yhdistää nimeä oikeaan henkilöön…
Ei yliyrittämistä. Ei liikafraseerausta. Ei äänialan rajapinnoilla horjumista. Ei kuuseen kurkotusta ja katajaan kapsahdusta. 
Tarjolla olikin erinomaisen sensuellia jazzlaulantaa. Rehellistä osaamista. Upeasti soivaa. Sitä itseään. Sitä joka Billie Holidayn ja kumppaneitten viitoittamalla tielä vie kohti jazzin syvintä olemusta. 
Rita di Ghent on syntynyt Ontarion Hamiltonissa Kanadassa joku vuosikymmen sitten. Hän varttui Chigagossa ja suoritti suoritti musiikkitutkintoja 1990 -luvulla mm. Yorkin yliopistossa. 
Ensi levynsä, Mindin’ the Shop, tämä jazzlaulajatar teki 1995, jonka jälkeen hän tehnyt kuusi omaa soololevyä. 
Hänet on palkittu Canadian National Jazz Awardsissa vuoden vokalistina vuosina 2003 ja 2004, Montreal Jazz Festivalin Prix de Jazzilla sekä useilla muilla palkinnoilla ja kunniamaininnoilla.
Eikä suotta, sillä paljon jazzlaulajattaria kuunnelleena ja heitä yli 10 vuoden ajan kansainvälisissä jazzlaulukilpailuissa tuomaroineena ihastuin hänen lauluunsa. Sen aidon rehelliseen artikulointiin. Pieneen, sopivaan flirttiin kuulijan kanssa. Hänen äänirepertuaarinsa on laaja ja se sisältää tumman perussävyn lisäksi erinomaisen laajan tulkinnan värigenren. 
Reilu parinvuosikymmenen rutiini paistaa esityksestä positiivisena. Ei kuitenkaan yliolkaisena, vaan tietoisuutena siitä, mitä ollaan tekemässä. Ja totta vieköön hän sen tietääkin… jazzillisen hienosti, turhia klumeruuleja ja teennäisyyksiä välttäen. 
No ei hän sentään mikään täydellisyys ole, mutta hänen esityksessään lepää niin kuulijan korvat kuin mielikin. Oma osuutensa on myös säestävällä orkesterilla, joka soittaa perinteisen hienoa jazzia, kuitenkin erinomaisen tuoreella otteella. Oikeaoppisen peruskompin lisäksi muutama täräkkä että tunnelmallinen saksofoni- ja pianosoolo antoivat lisää hyvänolontunnetta makoisan laulajattaren oheen. Hieno laulaja-orkesterikokonaisuus.
Olen monesti ihmetellyt suomalaisten jazzlaulajattarien ”uskon puutetta”. Sellainen rehellisen retvakka ulosanti on liian usein heille outo käsite. Käperrytään liiaksi omaan, väkisin tehtyyn lookiin ja teknisen osaamisen ”insinöörioppiseen” tulkintaan. Ei siis uskalleta laulaa jazzia, kuten sitä isossa maailmassa lauletaan…liekö sitten tarpeenkaan? Mene ja tiedä…
No tällä levyllä on sitä oikean jazzlaulannan makua. Elettyä elämää. Tunteenpaloa. Sitä jotain, joka saa kuulijan sieluun hämillistä hyvää oloa… kaipuuta… 
Levy on erinomaista herkkua kaikille niille, jotka pitävät aidosta, ”oikeasta” amerikkalaisesta jazzista.

 

Translation: 

 

In the chaotic lower shelves of my music albums I found a thin cardboard box plate with a cover that was dated to as early as last autumn. I decided to listen to it. The cover of the disc and the name of the artist Rita di Ghent made me expect some everyday stuff, a mediocre singer. I was expecting the boredom of the too many wanna-be artists, which is being offered too much in the vocal jazz market. But lo and behold! I had not connected the name to the right person. There is no over doing, no over phrasing. No exaggerating audio interface unsteadiness. There is no going to extremes and no falling short and no disappointing. What is being offered is excellently sensual jazz singing. Honest know-how. Exquisitely sounding. Just it, itself. The same skill as Billie Holiday and others took us on a path towards the very essence of jazz. Rita di Ghent was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, a few decades ago. She grew up in Chicago and received degrees in music and performed in the 1990s for example at York University. Her first album, Mindin’ the Shop, this jazz singer did in 1995, after which she has created 6 solo albums. She has been awarded at the Canadian National Jazz Awards as the vocalist of the year in 2003 and 2004, at the Montreal Jazz Festival the Prix de Jazz, as well as several other awards and citations. And not without reason, because a lot of listening to jazz singers and judging them for over 10 years at international jazz vocal competitions, I fell in love with this singing. There is genuine honest articulation. There is a small, convenient flirt with the listener. Her voice repertoire is extensive and includes a basic dark tone for an excellent addition to a broad interpretation of color genre. The routine (experience) of a couple decades sounds in a positive way in the performance. However, it is not with contempt but with skill and awareness on what is being created. And of course she has the knowledge of it all, with a jazzy finesse, avoiding needless and unnatural musical exaggerations. Well, no, she isn’t perfect but in this presentation the listener’s ears and mind will rest. The orchestra does its’ own part playing great traditional jazz, however with an excellent fresh twist. In addition to the accompanying background music a few loud (?) and atmospheric saxophone and piano tunes give a wonderful sense of well being in addition to the sweet singer. The combination of the orchestra and singer is great. I have many times wondered about the Finnish jazz singer’s lack of faith. This kind of honest performance is a strange concept to them. We are too much within limits and a look that is exaggerated and the interpretation is often too “learned”. We don’t have the guts to sing jazz the way it is being sung in the big world. Is it necessary? Who knows. Well, in this album there is the true taste and feel of a great jazz singer. Experience of life. The fire of feelings. It’s that something that makes the listener’s soul fill with good feeling and a sense of longing... The album is an excellent treat for those who like true and real American jazz.

Forget about the fakes, Rita is the real deal

With so many ageing rockers and wanna be Sinatras out there recording mediocre albums of the standards these days, it's so refreshing to hear someone who does it just right. If you are a fan of great jazz singers like Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, I guarantee that the moment you hear her break into the opening track on this album, "What a little Moonlight Can Do", you will fall under the spell of Rita di Ghent.

From beginning to end this album is pure magic. Rita is a true jazz vocalist, she takes every one of these old favourites and makes it her very own. The musical arrangements are perfect, not over done and the band is outstanding as well, particularly the piano of Dave Restivo. Must hear tracks on the album include "You Go To My Head", "I Want A Little Boy" and "He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped". Rita di Ghent is a true Canadian treasure and one of the most stylish and innovative artists of our time.

Bio: Rita di Ghent is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist-composer, born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised in Chicago. Since 1990, Rita has enjoyed a professional career as a bandleader, vocalist, composer and teacher. She made her New York performance debut in 1993 as a special guest with Verve recording artist Mark Ledford; her debut CD was released in 1995. Her new release "The Birth of Sprawl" was produced by Nick Blagona (Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Cleo Laine, and others.)

Rita has studied with many great musicians at several highly distinguished institutions and holds Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Arts degrees. She currently teaches singing in the Jazz Department at York University in Toronto. She regularly produces and performs in large-scale shows. Some of her recent productions include "Two Generations of Jazz", a double-bill with jazz legend Sheila Jordan, "The Great Jazz Piano and Voice Series", and "The Canadian Independent Jazz Vocal Artists (CIJVA) Showcase". In the summer of 1998 Rita toured with the self-written and self-produced show "Great Ladies of Jazz: the lives and music of Sarah Vaughan, Anita O'Day, Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen Mcrae and Annie Ross". Her Sprawl project is being presented at major Canadian jazz festivals coast to coast in June and July of 1999.

The number of women bandleaders with staying power in the Canadian jazz scene can probably be counted on one hand. The number of women bandleaders of longevity who invent their own musical style is even less— Rita di Ghent is one of those rarities. 
Reviews of her debut album all decreed Rita a unique voice. The album, "Mindin' the Shop", was a neo-traditional tribute to her musical influences. This latest project marks the birth of a jazz style of her own invention: Sprawl. Whereas Sprawl shares features with other swing, funk and hiphop styles, its uniqueness lies in the incorporation of melodic, harmonic or lyrical elements from jazz standard repertoire. For example, di Ghent's Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood is alternative hip hop, with a bassline that paraphrases the theme to Spring is My Joy, an intro that borrows from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and horn shots devised from other jazz standards about spring.

Sometimes di Ghent shifts gears from a jazz standard— for which she's written lyrics— into a hip hop invention that expands upon the standard's lyrical content (e.g. Whiting and Moret's She's Funny That Way becomes di Ghent's Jazz Habit; Miles Davis' So What becomes di Ghent's So What, the Funk!; McCoy Tyner's Search for Peace becomes di Ghent's Peace Conspiracy.)

The beginnings of Sprawl took shape as far back as 1989 when Rita started incorporating hip hop into jazz standards. Rita was struggling to reconcile the need for the thematic content of vocal jazz to evolve and the need to retain the "jazzness" of the new compositions. It's often been pointed out that one of Rita's distinct features is that she doesn't just limit herself to singing about love relationships. Her lyrics delve into the realness of her inner-city world: poverty, prejudice, and hostility that exist alongside humanity's longing for spiritual evolution.

Rita di Ghent has created an amazing new type of sensational Jazz experience with her unique blend of Soul and Nu Jazz. Rita's sultry voice adds to the sensual and seductive sound of her music. What make her music especially hot to listen to are the intoxicating lyrics that perfectly blend nicely with the artist's voice. In this spotlight with our Webzine, Rita speaks to us about her music and why she loves what she is doing. 

Isaac: Describe your origin. 

Rita: I came up as a jazz musician, but I started experimenting and trying to create a viable hybrid of jazz and contemporary urban music. I didn't want to describe my music as jazz because that either connotes something specific in people's minds or else it casts too wide a net for people to get a sense of what the music's about. 

Sprawl started out as an acronym, but now it just stands for the name given to my original contemporary jazz material. By saying that my musical genre is Sprawl, I get a chance to explain what the music is about. If I said my music is jazz, that might be a door-closer. 

Isaac: Who are your major influences? 

Rita: All the classic jazz masters, both instrumental and vocal and any kind of music that grooves. I'd say my parents were the primary influences because they both loved music and raised me and my four siblings in a musical household. 

Isaac: How long have you all known each other? How did you meet? 

Rita: Because I use jazz players, there's no band, per se. Usually, jazz players are hired guns, freelancers. It's becoming more and more rare that the same group of jazz musicians record and perform on a long-term basis. I hire whoever is available from the A-list jazz players on the scene. 

Isaac: Do you have a record label? 

Rita: Yes, I formed my own label, Groove, in 1995 and the subsidiary, Groove Classic, in 2001. The label's motto is "keeping one foot in the future and one foot in the past!" 

Isaac: Are you a member of any music organizations? 

Rita: SOCAN. 

Isaac: Where have you performed? 

Rita: I've performed at festivals and clubs in Canada, the U.S, Mexico, Europe, and Asia. 

Isaac: What are your favorite and least favorite venues? 

Rita: I enjoy playing anywhere where people are there for the music. It doesn't matter if there's an audience of 20,000 or 20. I also enjoy playing places where the presenter values the music and the musicians. I like working with laid-back and professional people. 

Isaac: Do you have any upcoming shows? 

Rita: The gigs that I have coming up in the next couple of months gives a sense of the diversity: 

Oct. 8: a fundraiser for JAZZFm, the Toronto all-jazz radio station 
Oct 17: a concert at my house in Picton, ON 
Oct 24: a fundraiser for Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, Picton, ON 


Most of my gigs for the next few months are close to home since I teach in the Jazz Department at Toronto's York University. When school gets out, I'll be teaching farther afield. 

Isaac: Which songs do you perform most frequently? 

Rita: The repertoire is driven by the type of gig and audience. I will perform everything from jazz standards to Sprawl to blues. 

Isaac: Do you ever play any covers? 

Rita: Yes, the jazz standards are covers. For my one act, Rita's Parlour that I do with guitarist Sam "the Shark" Sharkawy, I also cover 30s and 40s novelty tunes and blues numbers. 

Isaac: Do you have a set play list? 

Rita: It tends to be different for every gig. 

Isaac: Who writes your songs? 

Rita: I do, mainly. I co-wrote some tunes with bass player Ian de Souza on the new CD, Sprawl Indigo. 

Isaac: What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? 

Rita: Some of them are just cute and catchy like All Baby Wants is Me and Short Man Blues and others are more socially conscious. For example, $20 Ring is about a poor girl who saves up for a fake diamond and then gets robbed and killed by a punk who thinks it's real. Peace Conspiracy is about karma and higher consciousness. This Ain't Livin' is a day in the life of a homeless man. L'incanto is about a woman who uses Italian witchcraft to get her lover back. 

Isaac: Do you think these topics will change over time? 

Rita: Yes, I do. The music reflects my headspace at the time. I've written two albums of work that are what I call Tales of the Inner City, but I think I'm done with those observations for now. I feel myself moving into a different head space. I'd like to write an album entirely of blues. I'd like to write a folk album about the roots of America. 

Isaac: Could you briefly describe the music-making process? 

Rita: Well, it's really varied. Sometimes I write the lyrics first, sometimes the music. Usually, it grows from an initial small spark of inspiration--something I've heard or seen. Sometimes it comes all at once and sometimes a song takes many months of putting it away and taking it out again before it comes to life. 

Isaac: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous? 

Rita: Rehearsals are a luxury. Luckily, all the players are top-notch and need, at most, a quick run-through. Sometimes, there's no rehearsal at all--that's jazz! 

Isaac: What has been your biggest challenge? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how? 

Rita: Maybe the biggest challenge is commanding a respectful fee for a performance. 

Isaac: What's your ultimate direction for you? Are you seeking fame and fortune? 

Rita: I'd say I'm seeking to keep writing and making records and living a life that's balanced. The most important thing is love and peace of mind and a sense of contribution. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. 

Isaac: What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands? 

Rita: Have a leader and have the leader be a cool person! 

Isaac: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? 

Rita: Thank you for asking. My music is available on iTunes, CDBaby, and amazon.com 

Isaac: Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD? 

Rita: CDBaby has samples of all my music, the straight-ahead stuff and the Sprawl stuff. 

Isaac: Is there anyone you'd like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support? 

Rita: First and foremost, my parents. Then, there are the wonderful musicians who have lent their beautiful musicianship to my projects. The Toronto Arts, Ontario Arts, and Canada Arts Councils have been tremendously supportive. So has CBC Radio. Nick Blagona, who engineers/produces my albums, has been extremely generous with his talent and support. 

Isaac: Any last words? 

Rita: Thank you for this interview and for your support for non-major label music. I'm honored to have been featured in Junior's Cave. 

I'd also like to say that music has value. Please support independent artists by paying for their music. Go see live music and feel good about shelling out like you do at the movies. It's the ultimate healer--that's worth something, isn't it? 


The new CD by Rita de Ghent on Groove Records Sprawl Indigo is a disc that I will be paying close attention to. I recently became aware of Ms. di Ghent during her performance as part of Lisa Particelli’s, Girls Night Out. I could hear a blues influence, a Chicago blues tinge, is that harmonica or sax phrasing from her vocal renderings? That sustained note bending in the middle, to swoop back down low, then rising up and striking you with a flash of brilliance, just like a cottonmouth. She has a strikingly good look on stage, slim and athletic, with piercing eyes that seem to look into your soul. A gift of a CD had me listening intently to her Jazz Standards Sessions 2, (Groove Productions 2003), standards performed with a distinctive style and showing individual artistic freedom of exploration.

Rita di Ghent is a jazz singer - when she wants to be, a beat poetry artist, sometimes and always a contemporary musician, composer, lyricist and vocalist. I hear some influences from jazz and blues folks. She has some Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Ella going on. I even hear some Koko Taylor and Willie Mae Thornton. These are some of my favorite vocalists, vocalists whose styles are distinct and in their time, they were different and original. Rita di Ghent carries on that tradition - she is one of a kind. To witness a live performance is to fall in love with this sublime voice.

Arriving late, I walked into Chalkers Pub for Ms. di Ghent’s "L’incanto" her rendition of "I Put A Spell on You", and so she did, in Macumba (Brazilian voodoo) fashion. Ms. di Ghent was joined by Adrean Ferrugia (piano), Brendan Davis (bass) and drummer Rich Brisco. They performed many of the songs from the new album Sprawl Indigo . "Signs of Spring in My Neighbourhood" was performed in a cool, easy going rap style, a hip hop meets bop tune with R&B rhythms swirling in the background. A song from the Rita di Ghent CD Birth of the Sprawl (Groove Productions 1999). The song "This Body" from the new album engaged the audience. The lyrics are poignant, a self portrait of an artist, a moving tribute to knowing and not judging. The sad life story of urban living "This Ain’t Livin’" a beat poet style of delivery that transitions to pure liquid gold singing, drawing tears of heart wrenching sorrow and soulfulness. Every line is delivered with truth. Ms. di Ghent could be making make believe for dramatic effect, but it’s very believable, these lines on life she would seem to have lived.

The set finished with a song from the new album "Bohemia" followed by a song from the first Birth of the Sprawl a tune that included the audience in a lyrical jam session with responses in harmony, What? How? A swinging ballad. Rita di Ghent sang the song with a soprano voice and in saxophone style she allowed her notes to float, to come out punching, billowing and sustained. The edges of the notes rounded and smoothed out, maneuvering the series of notes through her full range with lyrical grace. All of this, created a wow factor, playing a large roll in evoking a standing ovation. I haven’t seen an ovation in a club for quite some time. Bravo!

Ms. Di Ghent graced us upon her return to the stage with "Honeysuckle Rose". The high light fell on her pianist, Adrean Ferrugia - as she directed the audience to his incredible Waller like solo.