Interview: jazz vocalist Alysa Haas
(Published: May 24, 2014)
Q: We've heard from a number of jazz veterans that the scene is still pretty much a boys' club. Have you ever encountered resistance in the field because of your gender.
A: I have never encountered resistance. In fact, I have been invited back after I have performed. I'm very comfortable on the stage, having grown up in a family of professional musicians. I especially love being a woman on the stage. I get to be sultry and sexy and men seem to really enjoy it. My humor has been compared to the young Bette Midler and recently my CD review compared me to Marilyn Monroe. Two women who definitely had stage and screen presence, and I am thrilled to be in their company.
My CD review in All About Jazz on January 23rd 2014 stated, "Haas is clearly having fun, and her high spirits are infectious. "I Can Cook, Too" is sexy as well but Haas' appeal has a retro feel, more Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" than any of today's envelope-pushing pop stars." This made me very proud to be a female performer.
Q: Do you perform live often. Is it tough finding opportunities to sing in front of an audience, especially a paying one.
A: I was performing live, but recently tapped into my other love, directing and choreographing teen theater. I was lucky to direct and choreograph a group of talented students in Alan Menken's and Howard Ashman's production of Little Shop of Horrors.
As a teenager, I got to know Alan Menken at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts in Northern Westchester, NY. Seeing the final production on the stage brought me such joy. While directing this show, I also directed and produced a middle school cabaret performance, training young students not only in voice but also in lyrical interpretation and performance skills. Back in 2009 I was the main act in a wide variety of professional performers to raise money for Northern Westchester Hospital, including Kurt Nikkanen the Concert Master of the New York City Ballet. We raised $20,000. Since then, I have performed in Los Angeles and Don't Tell Mama, The Duplex, Cleopatra's Needle, and The Metropolitan Room in NYC.
I personally love to be involved in causes and am particularly interested in raising money for cancer research, animal rescue, and political fundraisers. I feel a deeper purpose and meaning when I tie my performances to a cause. I also get an opportunity to look for songs that I may not have thought of prior. My dream is to perform in venues such as Dizzy's Coca Cola Club and the Allen Room in NYC.
Q: How long have you been singing professionally.
A: Several years now, since 2007.
Q: Did you record any albums previous to Spasm. What made you decide to record one.
A: Spasm was my first recording. But I grew up in a family of professional musicians who recorded many albums. My mother recorded A Balanchine Album, NYCB The Nutcracker, and A Midsummer Nights Dream as well as the original movie recording of Godspell, and songs on Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic. My stepfather Joseph Rabushka played solo violin at Carnegie at the age of 12 and played solo with the St. Louis Symphony, and has recorded on many jingles as well as the original productions of Peter Pan with Mary Martin, Porgy and Bess, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Finally my father Georges Haas was a world famous oboist, who recorded many albums, and I have all the recordings burned onto CDs. So I feel I was destined to record. This particular recording was of my most recent cabaret show. It was such a success, and I wanted reach a larger audience. I have been told that when people listen to my recording, they feel that I am right there singing in their living room. Hearing this makes me want to record again in the near future.
Q: How did you choose the musicians that appeared on the album.
A: I feel I have been blessed with the musical arrangers and musicians who played on my CD. I was very lucky to be connected with Jeffrey Klitz several years ago. He is a fabulous pianist and creative arranger, and we have worked very closely to develop arrangements that we both feel will work with my musical interpretation and storytelling. I was introduced to the fabulous Tedd Firth (piano/arranger) through Paul Beaudry. When Tedd said he would be interested in working with me, I was thrilled because he is one of the best music arrangers and pianists in the business. Paul and I met in NYC many years ago, and we have been working together every since. Paul introduced me to Tony Jefferson (drummer) several years back. He is one of the most versatile rhythmic drummers who brings a variety of dynamic levels to his playing. Berndt was introduced to me through Jeffrey. I actually met him at the recording. I had never worked with guitar on my gigs, and I personally felt that with the pop tunes, guitar was an important addition, which is how I met Bernd Schoenhart. It was Jeffrey who stated that adding guitar to songs such as "My Funny Valentine," which was already arranged with the trio as a joyful uptempo swing, would bring a more playful essence and quality to the song. He was right, and it is one of my favorite songs on the album, and every time I hear it, I dance.
Q: Do you have plans for another CD.
A: Absolutely! I loved recording! It was challenging, but the end results were incredible. I not only want to sing songs from the American Songbook and Broadway, but I grew up with a lot of music from many different musical genres, and would be interested in working on a future CD, where I will be accompanied by acoustic guitar and/or piano.
Q: What songs on the album are particularly close to your heart and why.
A: I love all my tunes, but there are a few that I truly connected with. "I Can Cook, Too" is one of my favorites, because I am a foodie and love to cook, but I was excited to bring a sensuality to the song, giving it a fresh new tasty meaning. I have always been a fan of Rob Thomas' lyrics and songs. I spent a long time reading the lyrics to most of his songs, and choosing one was challenging. After narrowing the choices down, I had to think about what lyrics did I personally and emotionally connect to. "Ever the Same" made me think about not only people who were close to me, but when I performed it at the Metropolitan Room, I dedicated the song to the families and children of Newtown. The lyrics to this song are global and every time I sing it, it allows me to reflect. I grew up listening to the Beatles like many others. "In My Life" was always a beautiful tune; while in the recording studio singing, I found myself recalling vivid memories from my childhood, which made the song extremely close to my heart.
More Information: http://alysahaas.com