AAP staff report
Nashville, TN (Dec. 28, 2009) – Karen Lyu, possibly the first Korean-American jazz vocalist, and her new ensemble, Fresh Jazz, have released their first CD together, a fresh blend of soulfully savored versions of jazz standards, international songs and more, all with Lyu’s trademark groove, swing, scat and improvised explorations.
Lyu, a longtime Minneapolis resident now based in Nashville, Tennessee, said this was the project of her dreams, at a Music Row studio beyond her dreams, and was made possible in collaboration with top jazz musicians.
Lyu’s keyboardist, Anthony Belfiglio, has performed with the renowned saxophonist Branford Marsalis of the Tonight Show. Guitarist Geary Moore performed with 10-time Grammy award-winning guitarist George Benson. While bassist Jerry Navarro has recorded for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic.
The drummer, Ron Krasinski, has toured and recorded with multiple music legends, from Drifters to Sheena Easton, from Dr. Dre to Barry Manilow. Percussionist Billy Ramirez of MuzikMafia and Kacique plays congas. Leon Alejandro Berrios Areas of Kacique plays the Brazilian pandero drum.
Justin Francis of Sound Stage Studios engineered the project.
Karen Lyu describes the experience: “I was touched and blown away to feel how much love was in the room for me and for the music! It was miraculous how we all came together at one of the top studios in the US. I had so much fun, I sang for 13 and 1/2 hours straight – and wanted to keep going!”
The songs on Karen Lyu & Fresh Jazz include original material, “Meadow With No Dew”, and “Elephant Perspectives (The Blind Men And The Elephant).” Lyu composed the music for “Elephant Perspectives” with Geary Moore, and the lyrics with Persian vocalist Maryam Yusefzadeh.
Lyu and Yusefzadeh received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant for their multimedia theater collaboration, Memories and Media Myths of Iran and North Korea, in 2007.
Some of the jazz standards on Karen Lyu & Fresh Jazz include the George Gershwin (1898-1937) tune “Summertime”, and the Miles Davis (1926-1991) classic, “All Blues.”
“These classics have been performed in thousands of ways, and I’m thankful that I was inspired to create unique arrangements – a fun funk/waltz take for “All Blues”, and feeling the soul groove from “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” as the bass line for “Summertime”, adds Lyu.
Fans of the 2007 feature film “La Vie En Rose” (Legende Films) will recall the Edith Piaf (1915-1963) song of the same name, which translates from French as “My Life In Pink”. Lyu gives her own stirring rendition of the romantic chanson made popular by the famous French vocalist.
Lyu sings Portuguese and English lyrics for the Brazilian bossa nova standard, “Agua de Beber” (Water to Drink). It was first released in 1963 by Antonio Carlos Jobim (1925-1994) with Portuguese lyrics written by Vincius de Moraes (1913-1980).
Lyu notes that a Portuguese radio station will soon play her entire CD as a focus of a jazz program. She adds that the radio show host, Ivo Martins, is director of a Portuguese jazz festival.
Lyu also adds “Lazy Afternoon,” a song made popular by Kaye Ballard for an episode of a 1963 Doris Day television show. It was written for the Broadway show “Golden Apple” by stage and screen composer Jerome Moross (1913-1983).
Lyu closes out the CD with “All The Pretty Little Horses”, a lullaby written by an unknown African American slave mammy.
The band would be open to touring, reports Lyu, and have upcoming performances in Nashville area, including their CD release party at Bicyclette Cafe 2/5/10.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Lyu was raised in California, Texas, and Minnesota after her family immigrated. From the first time she heard Manhattan Transfer at the tender age of 16, she has been hooked on jazz ever since.
Lyu said her family was concerned about her wanting to choose music as a career during college and so made her own way through her final year, earning a degree in Jazz Studies from Cornell College, Iowa. She then performed with the Eddie Piccard Trio and Jazz Transit in Iowa.
For the next 14 years Lyu would build her career out of Minneapolis, as a solo vocalist and also forming Global Jazz, and as a member of Karen Lyu Quartet, Via Brasil, Bomba and Robert Robinson’s Minneapolis Community College Gospel Choir. She has sung in South Korea, Central America, Europe and Brazil.During this time she has learned to sing in several languages.
Her venues have included restaurants, clubs, festivals, theaters, schools, churches, conferences, parks, benefits, cultural events, house concerts and more. Her voice has been featured on National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Democracy Now, documentary film, television and radio programs.
Some of Lyu’s favorite collaborations and performances have been with Robert Robinson (Roberta Flack), Curly Martin (Etta James), Soli Hughes (Sounds of Blackness), and Devon Evans (Bob Marley).
Lyu is a member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, and has helped people improve their voices since 1997. More recently, she has embraced online technology to offer voice training lessons for not only singing, but to professionals, immigrants and others that want to improve their oratory, presentation and eloquence skills. This skill has produced consulting opportunities as a voice expert for eHow.com, EzineArticles.com, and TRCB.com.
Some of her side jobs have included serving as Executive Director of the West Bank School of Music, where her two year effort led to successful fundraisers and collaborations to help save the school from closing.