A young New York singer releasing her first full-length (after an EP I haven't heard), Chari is part of the new breed of jazzers who are looking beyond standards for their repertoire. Not that other jazzers haven't already covered the Beatles (she sings "Here, There, and Everywhere") or Billy Joel (in my youth I heard Count Basie play "Just the Way You Are," which not only closes this album but also gives it its title), but I bet she's the first to take on Depeche Mode's "World in My Eyes" and Linkin Park's "Shadow of the Day." The funny thing is, as much as I was ready to look down my nose on the latter choice, it works beautifully, thanks not only to her vocal delivery but to Vikas Hebbar's lovely arrangement, which features violin and muted trumpet.
The majority of the song choices will be less shocking to jazz sensibilities, as she has interesting taste in standards: not only the usual suspects -- "Night and Day," "Sophisticated Lady," "Skylark," Old Devil Moon" -- but also less common choices: "Black Orpheus" and, especially, Duke Ellington's blues "Rocks in My Bed." Her backing band's good as well, with -- as already noted -- more than the expected piano trio backing. I'd like a little more world-weariness (or psychological depth) on some numbers, notably "Sophisticated Lady," but that will come with maturity. She's beyond promising; she's already good and seems likely to get even better.
The growth of an artist is measured between records. In the case of New York-based jazz vocalist Dheepa Chari, it is the creative evolution unveiled from her 2010 debut EP, On 4th Street, to her new full-length debut, Some New Fashion. The first glimpse of development is already revealed on the first track, “Rocks in My Bed." Here Chari offers a deep, bluesy delivery that is quite unlike anything from her EP. It's a exciting shift in style, one that promises even greater risks. Sure enough, Chari remodels Depeche Mode's “World in My Eyes" as a jazz ballad, tweaking the icy, electronic pulse of the New Wave classic into something warm and sensual.
With such a spellbinding effort, it was time to catch up with Chari and discover how it all began.
Q: Where were your born?
A: I was born in Vancouver, B.C. and moved to the U.S. when I was 6. I've lived in Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City since then.
Q: Where were you raised, and did your parents encourage your interest in pursuing music?
A: I was mostly raised in Canada and Texas. My parents were very encouraging with me pursing music and had me start singing lessons at a young age. My grandmother was a professional Hindustani singer in India so music has always been an important activity for our family.
Q: What attracted you to music to begin with?
A: I was drawn to music primarily because of its ability to express emotions in a way that regular speech cannot. There is a beauty, complexity, and depth in many different forms of music that I immediately connected with at a young age.
Q: Who were your musical influences?
A: I've had many musical influences, but primarily jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Billie Holiday.
Q: How do you say you have evolved as an artist from your EP to your debut album, Some New Fashion?
A: I think I learned a lot in the last year between the two projects in finding music I better connected with and in also being able to express the sentiments in a more genuine fashion. I do feel that I have more evolving to do in terms of finding my own style and becoming stronger vocally in jazz, but I'm hoping that I've started things out on a good note.
When Dheepa Chari sings, there is a sense that everything is alright with the world.
Although music can be broken down to its various parts, each component meticulously analyzed, it doesn’t change the fact that, for many listeners, its primary function is to provide escapism. Through Chari’s dulcet croon, that imaginary paradise is found.
In many ways, Chari recalls Sade. They are both exotic beauties with a soft, soulful voice, cool as ice yet radiating warmth; it’s a delicate balance that borders on contradiction. The main difference is that Sade has a rich British accent which stood out amidst the Whitney Houston high-note divas of the ‘80s. But Chari shares Sade’s subtle touch. Chari never shouts, never aims for unnecessary high notes; she is a smooth operator herself, seducing ears with lovingly crafted melodies.
On “My One and Only Love,” Chari gives a sweet, breezy performance that echoes the liveliness of Marc Gaston’s piano playing. Together they harmonize like the spring air. This is vocal jazz at its most emotionally uplifting; it’s hard to listen to “My One and Only Love” without smiling, without feeling the invigorating massage of the sun on your back.
“Summertime” is appropriately giddy, Fabio Serafini’s tumbling drums catching the wild energy of hip-hop. “Peel Me a Grape” hints at funk but Chari, who is classically trained, offers the gyrating rhythms deeply felt passion; her voice pours down like honey. The slower, highly romantic “Angel Eyes” is a work of nearly blinding gorgeousness. Chari’s sultry singing is absolutely breathtaking here as Gaston’s late-night piano helps turn the song into a candlelit love affair.
At only five tracks, “On 4th Street” provides merely a glimpse of Chari’s unmistakable talent; however, it’s more fulfilling than a number of recent whole albums.
Los Angeles jazz vocalist Dheepa Chari makes timeless debut with new EP
(Los Angeles, CA) - Written by Robert Sutton. If Dheepa Chari's silk-woven voice sounds timeless, it may be because she is classically trained. On her debut EP, On 4th Street, Chari croons with a self-confident strut that seems beyond her youthful appearance.
Heavily influenced by Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, Chari's singing could have emerged in a different era, one in which angelic vocals were considered the heart of jazz. There are no artificial sweeteners in Chari's voice, no lazy notes, no bogus emotions; she sings with the incandescent flow of a waterfall.
On "Peel Me a Grape," Chari's vocals are both flirty and soulful, achieving that delicate balance of innocence and seduction. To accomplish that is no result of technical skill, at least by itself. Chari is comfortable with her voice; through practice and experience, she knows its highs and lows. "I started singing around the age of five," Chari said. "My grandmother was a professional singer and my parents were also musicians, so I started singing in a classical choir at school and also studied eastern classical music with a private voice teacher. I minored in vocal performance in undergrad and started focusing more on jazz after graduate school in New York. During that time, I worked with a jazz vocal coach for several years to better refine my singing technique."
The unrequited love of "Angel Eyes" is delivered with equal parts sultriness and melancholy by Chari; it is among the EP's highlights, a blue Valentine wherein her voice smokes as much as it melts. Chari selected "Angel Eyes," as well as the other jazz standards on the CD, because "they all had distinct meanings from one another and contained lyrics that I connected with in some way."
On 4th Street is simply the beginning for Chari. "I am planning on putting together a full-length album over the next several months which will include both standards and originals. I'm hoping to complete it late 2011 or early 2012," she revealed.