Monika Heidemann joins Julie
Hardy and Brenda Earle as part of the new wave of really good contemporary
Jazz singer/composers coming out of New York City. One couldn't hope for
a more resounding endorsement than the one she received from highly respected
Dominique Eade, "Monika always had her ear pointed in a different direction;
she wasn't going for the beaten path and she stayed true to the sound she
was after. She's smart, hip and has a great sense of humor, all of which
show up in her stylish, heartfelt and intriguing music." Like her good
friend Julie Hardy, Heidemann sought out Eade's expertise as a vocal coach.
With her debut album Bright
Heidemann has indeed embarked on a different path than most Jazz artists
venture down. She describes the CD as, "a palette of everything that I
like. When I listen to the album I think a lot of the songs are quite different.
It is personal and has a mysterious quality to it. It is melancholic, dreamy
and ethereal (all at the same time)." She said that some of the songs bear
a stronger element to them that originates within, "my upbringing in the
rock (music) of the eighties."
Before embarking on a solo
career Heidemann had performed in a variety of genres with different ensembles.
In some settings she was a side person playing her saxophone. It is Heidemann's
diverse background singing in an a cappella ensemble, performing for a
rock band, singing in a reggae group and directing a choral group in Vermont
that have contributed to the many colors of Bright.
The opening track "Organs"
is a composite of a cappella vocals introducing what is best described
as surrealistic soft rock meets Jazz instrumentals. The lyrics to "Organ"
are not only off the beaten path you won't even find them near the path!
Here's a bit of a preview, "I've got some friends/who are living inside
me/Organs and flesh, Bones bones!/ I saw the serpent/We have more hair
than she we are/better off, I think/
In the year 2000 the singer/composer
added another element to her musical repertoire. She left the American
music scene for Brazil. "I wanted to get away but keep it musical," she
says and then continues, "I wanted to experience another culture and live
in a place that I didn't know anything about. I rented an apartment in
Salvador, learned the music and learned the language." She said most often
her teachers for both were the street musicians she encountered.
In speaking about the wide
array of music that she is drawn to Heidemann said, "I think in this day
and age most musicians are like that. We explore because we have access
to so much. The world is getting smaller. It is not uncommon for every
musician to know about almost everything that is going on in the world
of music (in terms of) style and what it all sounds like." When it comes
to her own compositions she said, "It is not something that I really think
about. (For instance I don't) say, 'Oh I will do a rock section here or
I will do a Brazilian section there. It is more of an internal thing. I
think I have soaked up a lot of different styles and different sounds."
"I really like the idea
of having the musicians tell the story of the song rather than just the
singer tell the story. I like to have that completeness to it. It's not
that I don't like what other singers do; it has just been my approach.
I like that sound," Heidemann commented concerning the way she has approached
her music in the past.
One of the more prominent
musicians who appears on this album is the talented vibraphonist Matt Moran.
"I believe that only Matt Moran could really be playing my music in the
way that I was envisioning it at the time. I saw him for the first time
a few years ago when I first moved to New York City. (He was performing)
with The Claudia Quintet. He has a great sound and is creative. Nobody
plays the vibraphone like him. The dreaminess and tone quality of the vibraphone
I think compliments my music a lot."
The other instrument that
comes to the forefront on the CD Bright is the bass. "I really love the
bass. It is one of my favorite instruments in Jazz. I think it (adds) to
the darkness on some of the songs. I think a lot of the songs on Bright
are pretty dark," said Heidemann.
Heidemann demonstrates her
prowess in Jazz with "The Race" as the tune opens with a liberal dose of
scat before descending into a more subtle Jazz tune supported by Moran's
Heidemann confessed to being
partial to creating more of a complete band feeling with her music and
although only drums, guitar, bass and vibraphone appear on the recording
she has been successful in accomplishing a much fuller sound. This is particularly
evident during the instrumental portions of the title track "Bright" that
reach for a more orchestral sound.
Heidemann's music is infused
with ethereal instrumentals and her lyrics with whimsical imagery. The
poetry of "Keep On" should be a must read on the syllabus of any English
major. The instrumentals are weaved seamlessly with the lyrics and provide
beautiful textures that you can peel back endlessly.
Heidemann admited she has
been taking a new approach to her compositions recently, "I always have
these lyrics in my head and I am continually writing them down. I am actually
starting from that standpoint more than I ever have been." She said this
was the approach she took with her title track. "I am finding that when
I write the lyrics there is a very natural rhythm to them. If you take
any kind of lyric whether it is poetry or music there is always some kind
of rhythm that naturally flows through it. It is about being sensitive
to that. You play with that rhythmically in your head and then find a nice
phrasing for it," she said.
Continuing to discuss the
composing of "Bright" she said, "With Bright it was the melody and the
harmony coming out at the same time. I worked with the bass line first
along with the melody," she said. Heidemann said her usual approach is
to begin working, "With the melody and working the bass line out in my
"Lately when I sit down
to write something there will be a mood to those lyrics when I sit down
to write or I will put myself in that mood to bring out whatever the mood
to the lyrics are," said Heidemann.
Keep your ears open for
Monika Heidemann because you are going to be hearing a lot of good music
from her in the days ahead.
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.