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Featured Musician - July 2005

Name: Barbara Lusch

Instrument: Voice

Early Years: Growing up, my grandma taught me and my two sisters how to sing, and to harmonize. I was the one who held onto it and continued to do it. I went to Parkrose High School and my vocal coach, Laroyce Findlay, was a huge influence. I then went to Oregon State where I majored in Education and minored in Music.

After a few years, I moved to Los Angeles to continue my singing. An agent from New York saw me in a "showcase" and suggested I move to New York so he can represent me, so I did. It seemed all the commercial work at that time was done in the summers in New York, so moving there for a short time wasn't that unusual. I ended up staying for four years, doing a lot of theater.

In New York, if you can sing there's regional theater, off-off-Broadway, industrial things, you can really work a lot. As a result I went back and forth between Los Angeles and New York for about 12 years.

In the early ‘90s, I decided to return to Portland; my whole family is here and there were a lot of productions happening here at that time. A friend of mine, Michael Harrison, got me in touch with Pepe Raphael and I joined Pepe and the Bottle Blonds for five years. I also got into advertising, and did commercials, voice work, etc.

What I'm doing now is very new for me ...being on my own, leading my own group. My band includes Dan Gaynor on piano, Bobby Torres, percussion, bassist John Hughes, Reinhart Melz on drums, and occasionally I'll bring in a trumpeter, Matt Carr.

I've just signed an agreement with on "on-line" radio station in Japan so my CD, "Barbara Lusch" will be getting distribution over there. I've also signed with "Play Network," which will use my music in retail outlets across the country like Starbucks.

KMHD has been great and the CD has been featured on KKAD on "The Music of Your Life" show as well as KINK's "Spotlight." My musical career has totally taken a change and it's gone in a lot of directions I wanted it to go. I do have aspirations to write and I'm currently studying piano with Bill Beach.

Musical Influences: Shirley Horn is incredible to me and I get to meet her next month! I'll be representing violinist Joe Venuti in New York at a ceremony to induct him into the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame at Lincoln Center. Shirley will also be inducted at the same time. I do a Venuti tune, "Ain't Doin' Bad Doin' Nothin'" on my CD and I've gotten to know his heirs in Seattle as a result. They can't make it, so they asked me to go instead. I also love Billie Holiday, Sara Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson, Julie London, Nancy King, and currently Madeleine Peyroux.

Most Satisfying Experience: It's so satisfying for people to really enjoy the music ... a couple heard my CD on KINK's ‘Sunday Brunch" jazz program and looked me up on the internet. They had just started dating and came out to see me at a gig. They told me they thought my music was so romantic; they just had to come and see me in person.

Now that really makes you feel satisfied about what you're doing. Another person emailed me and told me he had just lost his wife and my CD helped him get through the healing process. Now that's pretty satisfying.

Favorite Recordings: My most favorite is Shirley Horn's "Here's to Life;" I like Susannah McCorkle, "From Bessie to Brazil;" Thelonious Monk, "Monk's Dream;" Sara Vaughan, "Swing Easy" and the new one from Madeleine Peyroux.

Discography: I'm on the Pepe and the Bottle Blonds CD, "Late Night Betty," and my own CD simply entitled, "Barbara Lusch" on Blush Records, 2004 with Dan Gaynor, Reinhardt Melz, Bobby Torres, Scott Steed, Essiet Essiet, Kevin Deitz, Sean Holmes, Kirk Green and Billy Bradford.

Where Playing Currently: I'll be at the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival on Sunday, July 17, from noon to one. I'll have Sid Boss on piano, John Hughes on bass, Bobby Torres on percussion and Reinhardt Melz on drums. I'll be singing on Wednesday, July 6 at the Lunchbox Concert Series (Oregon Square Courtyard, south of Lloyd Center; Saturday, July 23 at Wilf's Restaurant and Bar, at the train station, 8pm ‘till midnight; and at the Washington County Fair, July 31 from 3pm to 5pm.

Gigs Coming Up: Wednesday, August 10 at the Lunchtime Concert Series, 200 Market Bldg. Plaza Area, from 11:30am to 1:30pm; Saturday, September 3, at the Liberty Theatre, Astoria, Oregon from 8pm. to 10pm.; Friday, September 9 at Wilf's, from 8pm to midnight; and far in the future, December 23 at Jimmy Mak's from 8pm to 1am.

Future Plans: Putting out a second CD. Bobby Torres will also produce this one but it's got to be as good as the first ...that scares me!

Other Comments: I love the "story telling" aspect of the music we do and I love to perform. I like to keep the vocal clean and let the musicians stretch-out.

Quote from pianist Dan Gaynor: "Barbara's very sincere; she "wears her heart on her sleeve."

Interviewer's note: It's hard to believe Barbara started her solo career just two years ago, working on it on the weekends. Her day job is selling air time for KGW channel 8 television.


-- Interviewed by Rita Rega

Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon