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Irene Nachreiner with her Latin Jazz Band

Jazz News: Between Sets with Irene Nachreiner by Karl Stober
Articles / Jazz News

A Song for You …A Voice for All

For those of you who happen to have been subjected to Karaoke, my heartfelt apologies from the music industry. The vocally-challenged, often flock to these staged events, filled with the juice from the fountain of ego, thus subjecting the innocent to cries of pain and anguish. Sorry Simon, you did not invent this absurdity. One night in 2003 however at the Club Med in Bora Bora, an uncut diamond took the stage and in a short three weeks, attained the dream stardom lore is built upon. Classically trained entertainer Irene Nachreiner hence fell into the global jazz network, launching her diabolically seductive vocals and silky attitude upon the global jazz network, capturing their romantic passions.

At first spin Irene steps onto our threshold with a voice stewing in charismatic draw. The sophomore project A Song for You intro’s a warm and sensually enticing original, labeled “Dance with Me.” From that point, one surmises that she easily could control and direct any intimate arena. Irene effortlessly makes peace with romance and the Latin songbook, therein creating her signature sway.

In sitting with Irene, I immediately grasped a respect for her “embracing one’s roots” attitude. Never over the top in describing her philosophies and beliefs, this multi-faceted artist is a straight shooter …who stylistically evokes the mood and intentions of the arrangements set before her. One can listen to the texture of her delivery, understanding full well, that a significant portion of her is contained in the performances music sheet. Her tones are consistent and the writing lifts the arches of the surrounding cast on stage. The audience dips their emotional brushes in her intimate palette, assisting and guiding her performance, allowing the evening to coming full circle.

In our time together Irene passes through the channels of her professional and private waterways. Irene also goes on speaking to the concept of making it in this industry as well as, which part of her brain kicks in during the artistic process. One discovers how she engages us to her personality and that part of her process, of which develops and dissects the Latin jazz process she arranges. It is a conversation that exhumes the intelligence, affection, and vocally stimulating appeal, Irene has on an audience.
With all her stylistic sway, its time to go between sets with the sundry talents of Irene Nachreiner.

Karl Stober: Irene, let’s start off with your defining of the So Cal-Brazilian beat/flow. You have explained the geographical nature of the term; now let’s go deeper into the feel of the sound.

Irene: You’re asking me to explain the unexplainable. But I’m going to try. Although most of the members of my band are from Brazil, I’m a Southern California native and as such I can never be a Brazilian singer. We are all influenced by the world we live in and even though we use a lot of Brazilian rhythms and styles in our songs we’re in Southern California and that makes a difference in our sound. We are what we are.

Karl Stober: I know the readers would like to get to know Irene… the inner emotion of her writing, arranging, and most important, the performance of her craft. Please open that door for us.

Irene: I’m basically a right brain creative type, with just enough left brain activity to make me very organized and goal oriented. If that makes any sense! Doing creative activities, like making music is simply the core of who I am as a person. I love singing. I love writing music. I love the whole process of recording and mixing music.
Arranging music is one of the most fun parts of music for me. It’s so much fun to take a simple song or even a very short song out of a fake book and figure out how to make it interesting by using modulations, key changes, repetitions, etc. Then to give the arrangement to my musicians and see what they can bring to it. They always surprise me a very good way. Because no matter how much one imagines how it will sound, they take it and bring it to a level I never even imagined. With jazz the arrangements are a three step process for me. First I arrange the music and create a chart. Then I give it to the band and they make changes and add their own spin. Then when I mix the song I, in a sense, conduct the whole thing.

I’m just about having fun. And my idea of fun is creating something beautiful.

Karl Stober: Your debut project Summer Samba had its own personality. This was drawn from within you at that point in time of your career. When we listen to your current project A Song of You what changes/transformation should we get from the comparison of the two spins?

Irene: Originally for A Song of You I wanted the cover picture to be taken in another tropical place. The cover of Summer Samba was taken on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands by a dear friend of mine, Ted Davis, who had just moved there.

In October 2008, I was on the island of Bora Bora on a singing gig for three weeks and wanted a picture taken there for A Song of You. But the weather simply would not cooperate. It was terribly windy with intermittent rain for the whole three weeks. The local photographer on Bora Bora, Jean-Claude, and I waited and waited for the weather to improve, but it never did. We did, at the end of my stay there, have a brief photo session on the beach, but the wind was so bad and combined with the humidity, made my hair look like a much wilted tossed salad. So I had to give up on that idea. Finally in desperation, I knew I needed to get a picture, so I hired a Los Angeles photographer and had that picture taken in his studio. It’s a nice picture, but it isn’t what I originally wanted.

So bottom line is this, the picture doesn’t tell a lot about where my psyche was at that time. I just needed a good picture and the ocean in Los Angeles can never look like the ocean in a tropical place. So I had to go to a studio to get the picture taken.

That said “A Song of You” is part of my progression as a musician. I learned so much from making “Summer Samba” and I was able to take all of that and add more to my base of knowledge with “A Song of You.”

Karl Stober: Let’s talk business - music business. As a self produced label artist, what did you learn along that trail of the process ? How do you market your project including social networking? Any advice!

Irene: My advice? If you want to make a record you have a choice; you can hustle and grovel and beg a record label to give you a shot or you can just do it yourself. I prefer to get my own funding and just do it.

Also, you must network, network, and network. Promote, promote, promote. It just isn’t enough to make your record and release it. You have to get out there and beat the bushes to get people to listen to you. If they like what they hear they will come back for more.

I’m on a lot of social networking sites and I’ve discovered that there reaches a point where you spend so much time on those sites that it distracts you from making music. So, I’ve had to find a happy medium between social networking and making music.

Karl Stober: Marco Tulio and Cristano Novelli seem to have had more than just a musical impact on you. Can you speak to their influences; both on a business and personal level?

Irene: Marco and Cristiano are both amazing musicians. I rely on Cristiano to create a rhythm that is the base. He has amazing sense of what is needed for each song. Marco is such a good guitarist. I give him the charts and he makes magic with it. They both bring so much to the table there is just no way to express it in words. But I am grateful to have found them.

Karl Stober: Go into the progression of taking classic tunes such as Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” and administering the Latin feel. Which cut caused you the most work and development?

Irene: I was in the Hollywood Sheet Music store last year and was walking past a wall of charts for individual songs. I saw “Change the World” and it just sort of popped out at me. I looked at it and thought, “Huh, what would that sound like with a Latin rhythm?” I took the music over to the store piano and played the tune. I immediately thought, “This could work.” So I bought the music and immediately started arranging it for me. The sheet music incorporated a lot of pop vocal flourishes that I didn’t feel that were right for a Latin version, so I simplified it and took those out. After I had worked on it for about a month, I showed it to Marco Tulio and asked if he thought it would work as a Latin tune. He had never heard the song before as it was a hit here before he moved to the US. He played my arrangement and said that it was a great song and it would work very well. So we went into the studio and recorded it. The band had a great time with it. I know for some it was a surprising choice, but you just have to take chances. I spent a lot of time on that arrangement getting it to work, but the song that caused the most work is without question “La Foule.”

Karl Stober: Irene, you tend to go outside the rule book with your vocal ventures. I respect that adventurous temperament. Where and when did that come from? Give us an example on A Song of You where you went – a bit left of center…

Irene: I have to credit the development my vocal style to my music teacher, Alex Varden. It comes from his philosophy that we are all individuals and it’s his job to find what is unique about our voices and help us to develop that. As a result when I go to his annual Russian Christmas Party in January, where all his students sing, we all have our own unique style. That can’t be said about many teachers. I have heard groups of students and you can tell they all have the same teacher shoe-horning them into singing the same way. As far as your question about going left of center, I never feel like I’m left of center. I’m just right on center for me.

Karl Stober: You’re quoted as saying “The idea of vocal Latin jazz is that the rhythms affect your body while the lyrics give you something to think about.” Don’t you think that the sound can also make one think as well as affect ones physical feel? I agree with your statement however I have heard your rhythms, and it does still my imagination as well.

Irene: You can’t really separate the body and mind. They are both interconnected. When you have only music your imagination can send you anywhere. When you have lyrics it sends your mind in a specific direction, but then your imagination takes over and adds to the words. Music is about emotion and feeling, something that can’t be measured.

Karl Stober: Your intro song “Dance with Me” has that appeal of the old ballroom experience. One can actually put themselves on the hardwood stage and undergo the delight of a couple’s first dance with a unified virgin romantic draw of two hearts. Walk us through the arrangement and lyrical approach of this cut.

Irene: Writing the lyrics for “Dance with Me” was an interesting experience. I had a scratch track of the music that Scott Martin had sent me with no instructions from him what-so-ever on what the song was about. On the day I started working on the lyrics I had a crew of men jack hammering out my back patio. So there I am listening to the music and the jack hammering and one phrase of the music put the idea of a couple dancing into my head. I had been watching “Dancing With The Stars” and on the previous episode they were dancing the Rhumba, which is what that song is. There had been a particularly steamy Rhumba on the show and I just imagined myself in that position. I kept thinking of that dance and the emotions it brought up and did my best to put it into words.

Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful” was plated with a new appeal as the arrangement was enhanced more so by the string work of Marco Tulio. From the outset of the piece, his development of the string work mirrored the classic voice structure you delivered. Can you take us back to the production of this piece?

My idea for the arrangement of “S’Wonderful” was that it would start out very simply with just voice, guitar, piano, bass, and drums. At each verse I modulated up one key and added more instrument, to make it interesting. And I held back the saxophone until the instrumental in the middle. If you listen carefully you can hear new percussion instruments joining in as the song goes along. The interplay between the piano and guitar at the beginning then becomes interplay with piano, guitar, and saxophone by the end. Marco is particularly talented at adding those little guitar riffs and Rique Pantoja did a wonderful job mirroring him on the piano. Then when Scott Martin comes in at the end it’s just magic. This song sort of became a Latin “call and response.”

Karl Stober: I have to agree that shades of Edith Piaf came from spinning “La Foule.” Your delivery was very much reminiscent of her style. You mention it was done in a new time signature…. Expand please.

Irene: “La Foule” was one of the most difficult arranging jobs I have ever done, to date. The tune for the song was originally a Russian Folk song. That tune was then used for the Spanish language love ballad “Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir” which was written in 2/4 time. That tune was turned on its head, sped up and became “La Foule” in a waltz tempo or 3/4 tempo. I had heard Edith Piaf’s version of that song many times, but her arrangement was very much of the Big Band era and it never occurred to me to sing the song until I stumbled across a video of a Latin guitar version on the internet. It was at that point I went looking for the sheet music for the song. I found it on the internet at a music store in Paris. But when I got the chart it was the Edith Piaf style arrangement. I took those words and then put the music back into a 2/4 tempo. Taking those words in French and making them work in a 2/4 tempo was a project that just about drove me nuts. But in the end it was worth the effort.

Karl Stober: Reflect on the making of A Song of You and was there a moment when all that was coming down …felt in sync. Was there a moment when you said “We have it?”

Irene: Since I do my own mixing, I spend months getting it just right. I listen to my mixes with a yellow note pad and a pencil. When it gets the point where I listen to all the tracks and at the end of the last song I have no notes, then I know I’m done.

Karl Stober: Any thoughts of breaking out of the Latin mode and bringing your innovative style to another genre?

Irene: I need a challenge. If I’m not moving forward I’m moving backwards and that just isn’t acceptable to me. When I reach the point where I don’t think there’s anything more I think I can learn from Latin music I’ll move onto something else. But I don’t know what or when that will be until that moment comes. Right now I’m working on an album of Christmas tunes, which is challenging because a lot of those traditional songs are in a 3/4 tempo which just doesn’t work with Latin rhythms. So this has been an interesting experience figuring out how to make it work.

Karl Stober: Have your other talents like as dancing, screenwriting, and acting played into your jazz vocal career? Explain how.

Irene: Who you are is the totality of your life experience. Everything you do informs everything else in your life. There is no way I can separate one talent from another. The thing about talents is that once I develop one, I discover another. It’s been an endless discovery and learning process. All the time I spent learning script writing has made writing music that much easier because writing scripts taught me how to tap into my creativity whenever I needed it. I had deadlines and I had to meet them. Acting and particularly improvisational acting has also taught me how to tap into that creativity in an effortless way. With dancing it’s the same thing. The thing about creativity is that I believe it can be developed. But you have to learn how to turn off the judgmental side of your brain, so you can let ideas flow.

Karl Stober: Now for the toughest questions you’ll ever face….

• What percentage of you is extraverted and what percentage is introverted, and what’s left is what?

I’m probably 55% introverted and 45% extroverted. I was painfully shy as a child and had to work very hard to overcome that. I’m still working on it.

• The defining love song is….

“Like a Lover” lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Their words are genius personified.

• When are you most at peace?

I am most at peace when I am snorkeling over a beautiful tropical reef, looking at fish and coral without a care in the world.

• The one album that best defines your taste?

That is such a hard question because I love so many different kinds of music. I just can’t answer that question.

• My favorite screenplay is……

“Harrow Alley” by Walter Newman Brown! It has never been produced, but it is just breathtaking to read. I had been told about that script for a long time before I came across a copy of it in a magazine. It is without doubt the best script I’ve ever read. Reading the script of produced movies is often fascinating, particularly if you can find an early draft, because the changes that are made before it gets to the screen often take a good story and muddle it up.

• My favorite date spot is …
Any top notch French restaurant as I like to eat!