Catching Up With Rita Edmond
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the wonderful jazz vocalist, Rita Edmond. Rita’s debut album, Sketches of a Dream, is a very tasteful interpretation of several jazz standards and it has received airplay on over 150 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. I like this album because it appears to reflect Rita’s opinion of jazz music, which she describes as “the most liberating free form of music there is”. Sketches of a Dream definitely showcases Rita’s polished voice and unrestricted singing style and my favorites are her covers of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ Never Let Me Go and Erroll Garner and Johnny Burke’s Misty.
Rita kindly answered a few questions about what inspires her music, how she chose the songs on her album, and her vocal style. Here’s what she shared:
Mimi Soul: What are some of the things that inspire and influence your music?
Rita: My greatest inspiration has been my Father, who always believed in me and encouraged me. My musical influences are the great classic jazz vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn as well as Carmen McCrae, Nat King Cole and Joe Williams to name a few.
Mimi Soul: Your album features beautiful renditions of classic songs including Dindi, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and Misty. How did you decide which songs to put on the album?
Rita: That’s easy… I didn’t. Ha! Ha! Let me explain. I recorded 23 songs and I found it impossible to choose. So, I solicited the help of family and friends. I gave them each a CD with 23 songs and I asked them to take a listen and get back to me with their top 12 selections. Well of course, no one chose 12; instead they all chose practically the same 15 songs. I added an extra song to even out the numbers. And, as fate would have it, Sketches of a Dream was born.
Mimi Soul: Are there any songs on the album that are extra special to you?
Rita: Yes, I would have to say there are at least three. The first is Dindi. This song represents everything that I’ve been saying about singing without limitations. You see, I took several liberties with this song. I also took a little flack for it as well. I changed the melody on various parts of the verse and chorus and I extended measures and turned the beginning into a very slow rubato, riffty part.
The second song is All The Way. I was asked not to record or sing this song in this way because it had been a successful hit recorded by Frank Sinatra. My reply was, “If it was a hit for him, perhaps 5 decades later it could be a hit for me.”
The third song is On The Street Where You Live. I barely knew this song when I recorded it. It was such a magical moment in the studio singing this one. It truly turned out to be something very special, mostly because it’s the only song on the CD where I scat and I feel that the ending comes as an abrupt surprise to most.
Mimi Soul: You’ve described your singing style as free-flowing and it’s amazing to hear how you combine that style with your four-octave range to cover the songs on your album. What process did you use to connect with the songs and freely make them your own?
Rita: Great question! Well, this is difficult to explain mainly because for years I sang with the heart and not from the heart. To me, to sing with a free-flowing vocal style is to sing from the heart. It is a natural progression I feel based on what the character of the piece dictates. What I mean is that I listen for the song’s energy; the spirit and life force that drives it. If I can feel the spirit of a song, then there is no doubt that I can put my heart and soul into the vocals.
By singing from my heart, I can achieve a free-flowing vocal style because I am able to fully express myself and show my love for a song by bringing new life to it. A free-flowing vocal style allows me to sing without regrets, apologies and restraints. I’m able to sing any way I want and do whatever I want vocally with a song. But, as you can hear, I really don’t go too far off the beaten path; just enough to revitalize the old sound and present it with a new personality.
Mimi Soul: Your biography says that with your debut album, you’re sketching out a lifetime dream of what you want to do vocally. Now that you’ve started that process with an album of standards, do your future goals include an album of original compositions?
Rita: Yes and No. I absolutely intend to record original material. In fact, I’m currently working on my next project and it will include original compositions. However, I don’t think I will stop recording, singing or swinging with jazz standards any time soon. These are such beautiful songs and I cannot imagine ever not including them on any project.
Mimi Soul: What would you like listeners to gain from your music?
Rita: I would like people of all ages and cultures to gain a better understanding and appreciation of this beautiful music. I would like for everyone to listen and find at least one song on the album that they can personally relate to so that perhaps they too might fall in love with this music just as I have.
Thanks for sharing with us Rita! You all can read more about her music on her website and you can purchase Sketches of a Dream at iTunes or CD Baby.