sherie julianneEvery person on the planet has the ability to connect with music, but the depth of those connections defines the true role of music in our lives.  While it’s possible to play any rhythm on a superficial level, those percussive figures become much more meaningful once we internalize them through movement.  We can hear different harmonies and melodies, but we can’t really appreciate the beauty of each note until we investigate each one with our ears. Most people will pick up an instrument at one point or another in their lives, but you need to spend ample time with a true master to honestly push your artistry higher.  Anyone can listen to performances in their local community, but standing on stage alongside the area’s musicians builds a true appreciation for that scene. Everyone carries music with them on a daily basis, but arranging a piece of music around your own identity connects it with your soul on an intimate basis.  When we take the extra effort to make a higher level connection with music, it becomes somethings much more powerful that simply needs to be expressed.

Vocalist Sherie Julianne has spent the majority of her life making rich connections with music, leading her towards a deep love of Brazilian Jazz.  Raised in Miami among a musical family, she heard jazz and Latin music on a regular basis.  While she steered artistically towards dance, she started noticing the power of rhythm as she moved alongside musicians.  After a move to the San Francisco Bay Area, she altered her course towards music and began studying with local jazz vocalist Daria.  As she got deeper into her studies of jazz vocals, she found herself at The Jazz School (now the California Jazz Conservatory) where she met Brazilian pianist Marcos Silva.  Through her work with Silva, Julianne became deeply immersed in the music of Brazil, and soon found herself performing around the Bay Area with Silva’s group Sol do Brasil.  After years of experience, Julianne developed her own repertoire, which became the basis for her debut recording, 10 Degrees South.  It’s a strong release that showcases Julianne’s thorough understanding of Brazilian music, based upon her years of deep musical connections.

With the release of 10 Degrees South, Julianne stands out as an exciting new voice in the active Brazilian music scene of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Filled with Brazilian classics from the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim to João Donato to modern compositions from artists like Silva, Chico Pinheiro, and Sergio Mendes, there’s plenty of inspiring material. The core strength of the album lies in Julianne’s masterful vocal performances, as she navigates each musical setting with style and ease.  On the verge of the 10 Degrees South release, Julianne took a few minutes to share some information with us about her past, present, and future.

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sherie julianne 2LATIN JAZZ CORNER: You grew up in Miami around your family’s love for music – tell us a little bit about the music that you were exposed to and how that informed your later path.

SHERIE JULIANNE: My father was raised in New York City and went to all the jazz clubs like the Palladium and the Village Vanguard. He moved to Miami after college and brought his intense love of jazz with him. Our home was filled with music like Stan Getz, Tito Puente, and Frank Sinatra. My parents also took me to see great artists such as Cleo Lane. I just visited Miami recently and my Dad took my husband and I to see Tito Puente Jr. – of course I got out on the dance floor and danced with Dad!

I also remember my parents taking me to Guzman Hall in Miami to see Yehudi Menuhin; that was what inspired me to try my hand at the violin. I love classical music, and I think that may be where my love of Jobim originates. If you listen to Jobim compositions like “Estrada Branca” or “Imagina,” you will hear the connection. Pieces from modern Brazilian composers like Weber Iago or the collaboration between Brazilian singer Tatianna Parra and Andres Beeuwsaert also have an ethereal, classical feel.

LJC: While attending college in Florida, your emphasis was modern dance – what were your plans at this point and did dance influence your later musical studies?

SJ: I started out thinking I would end up as a performing modern dancer/teacher, but it turned out not to be the right path. I had ongoing injuries and such. Without a doubt, all the time I spent in the studio taking classes with live musicians and the hours being at the barre in ballet strengthened my sense of time. I have a deep, physical connection to music.

dariaLJC: You eventually moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, decided to focus on music, and began studies with jazz vocalist Daria – what inspired you to emphasize music and how did working with Daria help your development?

SJ: I was helping my niece with jazz phrasing and I realized I wanted to sing. Growing up, I had sung in chorus, but I never actually studied voice. I tried a few voice teachers before I found Daria. Her emphasis on intonation and building strength in the voice was essential. What Daria reinforced is having a very structured practice routine. When I work on a new piece, I usually spend long sessions repeating phrases and working out the vocal details. For me, Daria’s vocal method has been enormously effective. Brazilian music is sung with little to no vibrato, so the emphasis on clear tone and good pitch are essential.

LJC: You found your way to the California Jazz Conservatory, where you started working with Marcos Silva – how has he helped you delve deeper into your love of Brazilian music?

SJ: Thank you for asking about Marcos Silva – he is my primary mentor and arranger. Marcos is a very exacting teacher, and I thrive under that method. Marcos’ immense knowledge of Brazilian music is a treasure. I took two Friday classes back to back for five years; we worked on four compositions in each class. The class work was essential in my Brazilian music education. We studied Dori Caymmi, Edu Lobo, Ivan Lins, Milton Nasciemento, and more, along with many of Marcos’s original compositions. I had the chance to sing with a world class band, which often included Marcos on piano. Marcos has endless energy and he always makes me feel that it is possible to learn anything. With that in mind, I go for it; this drives my practice. Marcos helps me focus on all the little details that make the music beautiful.

marcos silvaMarcos brings me new songs, and we decide together if they are right for me. If we think they are a good match, he will arrange them for me. We always have 2-3 new songs in the development stage. The music is complex and it takes time to get it up to performance level.

LJC: You began working with Silva in Sol do Brasil, what is your impression of Brazilian music and jazz in the San Francisco Bay Area?

SJ: I think we are so lucky to live and perform in the Bay Area. There are so many incredible jazz, Latin Jazz, and Brazilian musicians here. With the California Jazz Conservatory, Yoshis, SF Jazz, The Sound Room, Fenix Live, and all the other venues, there are great places for musicians to perform. I think technology has made the jazz world smaller and more connected, which also helps to build a sense of community. It allows you to hear and meet other artists, which helps to expand your musical education. I have been lucky to perform with Marcos, Jeff Buenz, Scott Thompson, Phil Thompson, Mary Fettig, Zach Pitt-Smith, Harvey Wainapel, and other extraordinary musicians. Right here in our midst, we have the likes of Claudia Villela, Wayne Wallace, and Ricardo Peixoto both performing and teaching – the Bay Area is a treasure trove of talent.

Dennis Broughton’s Brazil Camp at the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp brings luminaries like Guinga and Chico Pinheiro to the Bay Area. I rented a cabin across from Brazil Camp a few years ago; little did I know that Guinga also had a cabin a few doors down. I woke up to the scent of coffee, cinnamon buns, and the heavenly sounds of Guinga playing guitar. Soon Harvey Wainapel showed up and the two of them started playing. This was my very first exposure to Guinga. Sitting under the redwood trees in front of The Bakery in Cazadero listening to Guinga and Harvey is as good as it gets as far as I am concerned.

LJC: How did you move into the role of a leader and eventually decide to record 10 Degrees South?

SJ: This project evolved out of my desire to record and share some of the music I have worked on with Marcos. After 10 years of working together, we have a pretty extensive repertoire, so we’ve talked about recording an album for quite some time. I wanted to create a project that was both dynamic and authentic to what Marcos has taught me, but also relatable to a non Brazilian audience.

LJC: You’ve drawn upon some classic composers like João Donato and Antonio Carlos Jobim, but chosen pieces beyond the well-known standards – when you’re digging through the wealth of Brazilian classics, what draws you to songs like these?

SJ: I love Brazilian music so much; it’s wonderful to share how I pick songs to sing. Usually the song has a feeling or an intensity about it that moves me. I love complex rhythms and I enjoy the challenge of learning them. Marcos and I also have a rule that we must both love the song. There are so many composers to choose from; I love to listen to many, many songs from a composer and learn about their style. Marcos brought me “Brasil Nativo.” We listened together – the song is so beautifully crafted and has this soaring, almost spiritual quality. Right now I am working on “Onde Estiver” from Chico Pinheiro. Sometimes musician friends bring me music to hear. My drummer Phil Thompson gave me the complete set of guitarist/composer Joyce’s CDs for my birthday a few years ago. I ended up learning several of her pieces like “Fora de Hora” and “Diz Que Tambeng Fui Por Ai.”

sherie julianne 3LJC: You’ve also chosen songs from modern Brazilian music figures including Chico Pinheiro and Silva – how closely does modern Brazilian music influence you and when does it make it into your repertoire?

SJ: I love modern Brazilian music; we have so many composers on the scene now. Chico Pinheiro is someone I greatly admire. I recorded “Encontro” and plan on performing “Boca de Siri” in my next concert. The generosity of Brazilian musicians always impresses me. I can’t tell you how many times I have messaged a Brazilian musician on Facebook telling them I love one of their compositions and they will send me the chart and lyrics. Swami Jr just sent me the chart for “Dois.”

LJC: Now that you’ve released 10 Degrees South, what are your plans for the future?

SJ: My plans for the future are to perform more often, continue developing my music with Marcos, and to prepare a concert next year where we take a deep dive into the music of one composer. I would also like to work on a project with a softer touch using guitar and voice.

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Check Out These Related Posts:
The Last Mambo: Documenting Latin Jazz And Salsa In The San Francisco Bay Area
Life Notes: An Interview With Pianist & Trumpet Player Marco Diaz
Taking Bay Area Latin Jazz Into The Future: Brian Andres And The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel
Latin Jazz Conversations: Ami Molinelli (Part 2)

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