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Tenerife jazz singer Anna Rodriguez exclusive interview

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Anna Rodriguez and Eliseo

Anna and Eliseo
Credit: Photo courtesy of Anna Rodriguez

Jazz singer Anna Rodriguez in the interview chair

Anna Rodriguez talks back

Please introduce yourself and say a bit about your background in music. How did you get started as a singer?

My name is Anna Rodriguez, and I’m a jazz singer. I started singing before I could speak (so I’m told); according to my mother I used to sing all the nursery rhymes to her and her friends banging away in time on a toy drum. My first “real” singing experience was when I was five or six; I was asked to sing a lullaby in a school play. This was the key moment in my life, when I realised that I wanted to sing, I (obviously) didn’t know how or what, but I knew that that is what I wanted to do.

Years of singing in school plays and the school choir followed, but never again as a soloist…so I kept my dream to myself, and assumed that as nobody was wanting me to sing I didn’t have talent.

I had a huge curiosity with regards to different musical styles. My mother is a huge music fan and introduced me to a huge selection of music ranging from the 1920s onwards, including jazz (Peggy Lee, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald etc). Classic jazz. There was a cassette which I actually bought for her of Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall; she was singing jazz standards in her style and I remember sitting in the car singing along and wishing I could sing these songs one day, dreaming that I’d be able to sing with such passion. 

As a teenager I listened to everything that came my way, ranging from heavy metal to jazz fusion and everything in between. I listened to a lot of the 80s pop, as did everyone else, but was introduced to a lot of different styles by different friends I met along the way.

I remember when I was 18 or 19 I started listening to Radio 3 and heard Al Jarreau singing “Since I fell for you” with David Sanborne. This, plus listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Live in Berlin” album, was probably the key point in which I realised that I identified with this music more than any other. It was also at this age that I watched Bette Midler in “The Rose”. 

Years went by and nobody knew I harboured the dream of singing professionally some day…I did sing as a hobby with a few groups here and there, but nothing serious. Until one day in 1993 when I met an Italian guy called Piero (a professional singer), he asked me to come to his house and record one of his songs, a rock ballad. I don’t think he had any idea I could sing it like I did; and that was my first professional recording. A friend of mine working in the 40 Principales radio station set up an interview for me after hearing the song, she was so impressed…and on the day of the interview they were so impressed that they played the song over and over again! 

This got me thinking that maybe my dream actually had some kind of basis, and when I immigrated to Israel in 1995 I decided to pursue my professional career. I took voice lessons with a fantastic teacher called Edith Mesh; she taught me technique which I was lacking. She was also very impressed with me and told me I had a special gift, which encouraged me to carry on in my quest.

A few months later, after trying and failing to get a jazz band together (they kept telling me that “jazz didn’t work in Israel”) I formed a Latin group in which I sang salsa, bossanova, Latin pop, flamenco pop and a little bit of jazz. The group actually didn’t do badly, but I wanted to sing jazz. Fortunately during quite a while at the end of my seven years of living in Israel I was able to sing with three of the best jazz and blues musicians in Israel, all three teachers at the Rimon School of Jazz (affiliated to Berklee Music College in Boston).

Please introduce yourself and say a bit about your background in music. How did you get started as a singer?

My name is Anna Rodriguez, and I’m a jazz singer. I started singing before I could speak (so I’m told); according to my mother I used to sing all the nursery rhymes to her and her friends banging away in time on a toy drum. My first “real” singing experience was when I was five or six; I was asked to sing a lullaby in a school play. This was the key moment in my life, when I realised that I wanted to sing, I (obviously) didn’t know how or what, but I knew that that is what I wanted to do.

Years of singing in school plays and the school choir followed, but never again as a soloist…so I kept my dream to myself, and assumed that as nobody was wanting me to sing I didn’t have talent.

I had a huge curiosity with regards to different musical styles. My mother is a huge music fan and introduced me to a huge selection of music ranging from the 1920s onwards, including jazz (Peggy Lee, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald etc). Classic jazz. There was a cassette which I actually bought for her of Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall; she was singing jazz standards in her style and I remember sitting in the car singing along and wishing I could sing these songs one day, dreaming that I’d be able to sing with such passion. 

As a teenager I listened to everything that came my way, ranging from heavy metal to jazz fusion and everything in between. I listened to a lot of the 80s pop, as did everyone else, but was introduced to a lot of different styles by different friends I met along the way.

I remember when I was 18 or 19 I started listening to Radio 3 and heard Al Jarreau singing “Since I fell for you” with David Sanborne. This, plus listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Live in Berlin” album, was probably the key point in which I realised that I identified with this music more than any other. It was also at this age that I watched Bette Midler in “The Rose”. 

Years went by and nobody knew I harboured the dream of singing professionally some day…I did sing as a hobby with a few groups here and there, but nothing serious. Until one day in 1993 when I met an Italian guy called Piero (a professional singer), he asked me to come to his house and record one of his songs, a rock ballad. I don’t think he had any idea I could sing it like I did; and that was my first professional recording. A friend of mine working in the 40 Principales radio station set up an interview for me after hearing the song, she was so impressed…and on the day of the interview they were so impressed that they played the song over and over again! 

This got me thinking that maybe my dream actually had some kind of basis, and when I immigrated to Israel in 1995 I decided to pursue my professional career. I took voice lessons with a fantastic teacher called Edith Mesh; she taught me technique which I was lacking. She was also very impressed with me and told me I had a special gift, which encouraged me to carry on in my quest.

A few months later, after trying and failing to get a jazz band together (they kept telling me that “jazz didn’t work in Israel”) I formed a Latin group in which I sang salsa, bossanova, Latin pop, flamenco pop and a little bit of jazz. The group actually didn’t do badly, but I wanted to sing jazz. Fortunately during quite a while at the end of my seven years of living in Israel I was able to sing with three of the best jazz and blues musicians in Israel, all three teachers at the Rimon School of Jazz (affiliated to Berklee Music College in Boston).

Anna Rodriguez and The Three (May 2009)

Anna and The Three on stage May 2009
Credit: Photo courtesy of Anna Rodriguez

Anna Rodriguez returns to Tenerife

Back to the Canary Islands

I returned to Tenerife in 2002 and decided to look for a jazz pianist and form a band; and I found one quite quickly, and before two weeks were out we already had landed our first gig. This group lasted for five years, with a couple of turnovers in the musicians, and eventually went from being a quintet to a quartet (guitar, bass guitar and drums with me). This was an unusual format for jazz but actually worked out quite well and when I left the group in 2007 I decided to keep the same format.

However, this time I aimed for the best musicians and started singing with Eliseo Lloreda (guitar), Felu Morales (bass) and J.M. Church (drums). 

Anna & Three @ Realejos Fusión 2009

Anna Rodriguez interview continued

Who and what are your influences and sources of inspiration? 

My influences are so many I will probably forget a few…as a teen I listened to everything and anything that I could possibly listen to. I loved Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Kool & the Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, The Carpenters, Prince, The Police, The Specials, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Deep Purple, Bette Midler, Fleetwood Mac, Rose Royce…I could go on and on. I also love salsa music, and flamenco.

However nowadays I would say that the singers that inspire me are Rachelle Ferrell, Dee Dee Bridgewater (I saw her live when she came to the Auditorio de Tenerife, she was amazing. Wonderful stage presence and amazing musicianship), Rosa Passos, Elis Regina, Karin Allyson, Mark Murphy…I also listen to a lot of other music apart from jazz, but these are my absolute favourites in that department.

When it comes to composing I would say that Brazilian music has influenced me, funk and R&B. You could say my compositions are what they call “nu jazz”.

Please share some highlights of your career as singer. 

The past two years are the best musically speaking…I’ve found the perfect musicians who understand and respect my style, plus they are three of the best musicians around, with years of experience and a huge love for music. So every show with them in the past two years has been a pleasure and a great experience.

What were the most memorable gigs you have performed at? 

I would say the Puerto Jazz Festival in July 2008 with Three, the Velada de Jazz y Castañas with Eliseo Lloreda in November 2008 and the Realejos Fusion concert with Three in June 2009 are probably the best concerts I’ve had…oh, and my concert with Eliseo at Pub La Gruta in May 2009, the atmosphere was incredible, you could hear a pin drop, and the place was jam packed…they were with us 100%, it was just wonderful.

These are probably the most special concerts, but we’ve had many other wonderful experiences in the past two years…

Please talk about any musicians you have been working with whom you feel deserve credit. 

The three musicians I currently work with first and foremost: Eliseo Lloreda (guitar), Felu Morales (electric bass) and J.M. Churchi (drums). All three are absolutely amazing musicians. And even better people. They’ve all been playing for over three decades, and are very good friends and colleagues, so the vibe between the three is fantastic; they completely understand each other musically speaking (and personally too).

All three love playing and have a passion for music, music is their life and they are always looking for new ways to create and express themselves. In fact, they are a formation in their own right, called “Three”; they’re just finishing their first disc now, having been given a grant by the Canaries Government last year.

I feel privileged to play with them, as they have accompanied many first line Spanish jazz musicians, like Jorge Pardo, Perico Sambeat and Jordi Bonell. This is something that I don’t take at all for granted…

Above all I know that they respect me as a musician and personally, as I do them, I love them all dearly. And of course if I had to choose, I would say that my “brother in arms” is Eliseo Lloreda, with whom I perform as a duet very often…there is a very beautiful musical connection when we play together as he totally understands what I’m going to do before I’ve even started. He’s also the person that writes and arranges my songs, he has taught me a lot in the past two years and he’s a true friend as well as an excellent colleague.

One other musician I’d like to include is Ivan Rojas. He is another amazing person and guitarist and he believed in me and my potential a few years back and gave me a lot of practical ideas and support.

He lives in Barcelona and curiously enough ended up making a disc with Eliseo last year, and now they’re planning on yet another next year! So when Ivan comes to Tenerife the chances are he’ll gig with Eliseo and not me anymore, and of course now my duet is established with Eliseo too…but it was a great experience to play with Ivan.

What are you currently working on? 

Promotion! Promotion and promotion! 

Your hopes and dreams as a singer? 

My hope is to be able to make a decent living by just singing. I’ve got two music projects coming up, my CD with Three called “Breaking the Silence” and another disc with Eliseo. Please God we’ll be able to start recording them this year and get them out by 2010.

Once we’ve got an album our next step will be getting it out there and hopefully getting gigs at jazz clubs and festivals all over Europe, Japan, and the U.S…all over the world. We want to go to places like Japan where we know that our music will be very much appreciated.

Right now I’m working on getting us gigs in mainland Spain, we’ve got one mini tour in Galicia already booked for 2010, and hopefully I’ll soon be able to say the same about Madrid and Barcelona. I’ve got lots of fans out there actually just waiting for us to come their way!

I am a dreamer and of course I dream big, but I’m also practical and realise that to get to the big stuff you need to work on the small stuff.

If you ask me, the sky is the limit…I’d love to have a huge fan base all over the world and sing at the best venues and festivals, be contracted by Verve record label or the like…but of course right now I’m singing in small music circles here in Tenerife…and you know what? I love every minute of these concerts and give them the best of me…the same as I would if I was in Montreaux Jazz Festival on the main stage!!

These are my hopes and dreams for the future…but my plans for NOW are getting these recordings made, getting the projects known within Tenerife and the Canary Islands, mainland Spain…and then we’ll take it from there. 

Anna Rodriguez and Eliseo Lloreda

Anna and Eliseo performing
Credit: Photo courtesy of Anna Rodriguez
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