Instrument: voice; songwriter and lyricist.
Early Years/Education: Grew up in Portland for the most part. I was actually born in Los Angeles, where my parents were living there on a Hindu Ashram. Both my parents are musicians. My mom is Rachel Faro, an RCA recording artist and record producer, and my dad is Nick Gefroh, a Latin jazz drummer.
When I was growing up, my mom, who was a singer-songwriter, toured a lot, so I was raised by my dad. When I was two, I ended up in Portland, where dad’s from. When he went to Brazil for a year, I went back with my mom, who was living in New York City. I lived there from the age of ten to thirteen, and returned to Portland for middle school. During those years in New York with my mom, I got to sing back-up for her. Growing up around the music industry, I knew at a very young age what a mic was, what a gig was, I knew all the lingo. I’d also hang with my dad listening to his extensive record collection. He would often bring me to rehearsals. I have a fond memory of when Bobby Torres was in my dad’s band, and me and Reinhart (Bobby’s son) were hanging out. I was over here and Reinhardt was over there. We were like bored kids, but we dug the music.
After high school, I studied music for two years at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. There were great teachers there. Most of the faculty were Americans who had studied at Eastman. Then I came back home and went to Mt. Hood Community College for one year. I was also in a jazz choral group at PSU at the end of high school, as well as in groups led by Thara Memory. Also in high school, I’d go to the jazz jams with my dad at The Hobbit when Leroy Vinegar ran them, and to Parchman Farm when Ron Steen ran those. I’ve also had voice lessons from my maternal grandmother, who is a vocal coach and professional singer. She also had a minor in languages, so she helps me with singing in French and Italian, which I like to do. It’s great studying with her, fun to bond with her.
East Coast: When I was around 21, I left Portland to live in a Buddhist meditation community in Vermont for two and a half years, and then moved to Boston to become a singersongwriter. In Boston, I felt like a singer without a song. I played guitar and wrote songs on the guitar ... folk, pop, rock, blues, everything. I was always too jazzy. I was trying to write a hit. After four or five years performing around Boston with my band, I decided to go to New York. There I entered into a strong community of singer-songwriters. Artists like Suzanne Vega would show up to jam. After another four or five years there, I decided to return to Portland. Actually, 9/11 had something to do with it. I had watched the whole thing from the roof of my building. It was pretty traumatic for me, and with my allergies I couldn’t deal with the gunk in the air, so I left.
Portland: On my return home, I continued to be a singersongwriter and kind of got bored with it. At that time I was just releasing “Forever Days,” which was my last original music CD. I felt like it was a good recording, but I was not getting any traction in Portland. Then I got a job at Produce Row and met pianist Vince Frates. We started working together, and eventually I decided to make the CD, “The Song Is You,” with Vince on piano, Dave Captein on bass and David Evans on saxophones. Then the big thing that happened for me was Jim Templeton, the owner of Ivories, gave me a gig and insisted I work with pianist Randy Porter. We did the gig and it was like magic. Right after that I made my next CD, “True to Love.” The title track is the music of Kerry Politzer with my lyrics. I heard one of her songs on the radio and fell in love with it. I asked her if I could put lyrics to her tune “Saida,” which means exit in Portuguese. That tune turned into “True To Love.” This was the first time I took other people’s music and wrote lyrics for it. After I made that CD, the gigs started rolling in.
Musical Influences: Sara Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Dakota Staton, Dina Washington, Carmen McRae, (in my youth) Diane Schuur, Diane Reeves; and I love Brazilian vocalist Elise Regina, Lambert, Hendrix and Ross (listened to their “greatest hits” album constantly when I was ten), Mark Murphy, Nancy King, Thara Memory, Gordon Lee and of course, my parents.
Most Satisfying Experience: My CD release party for “True to Love” at Ivories with Randy Porter. Another high point was, before I left New York, I did a gig at The Bitter End in the Village. (Ironically, my parents re-met in front of The Bitter End.) I had a band in New York of guitar, bass, and drums, with me on guitar. We did my original material, lots of fun, and we played there several times. It’s kind of funny singing at The Bitter End near Kenny’s Castaways, which is where my mom used to sing.
Favorite Recordings: Wayne Shorter/Milton Nascimento - “Native Dancer”; Chick Corea - “Light As a Feather”; Gordon Lee/Mel Brown - “Gordon Bleu”; Tania Maria - “Piquant”; Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley - Self titled; Sarah Vaughan - “After Hours”; Kenny Garrett - “Happy People”; Esperanza Spalding - “Esperanza”; Tierney Sutton - “I’m With the Band”; Denzal Sinclaire - Self titled.
Discography: Three original music CDs: “Melody of Question” (1998), “The Mirror” (2001) and “Forever Days” (2003). Two jazz CDs: “The Song Is You” (2010) and “True to Love” (2013).
Gigs: May 12, Bar Thalia @ Symphony Space/Singers Space , New York City, w/David Pearl, piano; May 24, Orenco Station Grille, with Weber Iago, piano; June 7, Wilf’s at Union Station, with Weber Iago, piano, Jon Shaw, bass and Todd Strait drums.
Future Plans: I’d love to tour Europe, continue to record and gig.
Other: My grandmother lives on the Upper West side of New York City. These days, when I visit her, my mom comes up from Miami and we celebrate Mother’s Day together. Two years ago, my mom suggested we go to a Singer’s Jam she knew of at Bar Thalia inside of Symphony Space. We went and both sang (separately, not together) and had a great time. I kept the pianist’s card and then reached him recently to see if I could get a feature spot, and he remembered me mostly because I had gone to the jam with my mom. Apparently, this doesn’t happen everyday!
-- by Rita Rega