Meet The Jazzy Cynthia Holiday: She's Going 'All The Way'

By Sandra Trim da Costa,, Thursday 20, November 2008

A jazz vocalist can connect with an audience in a unique and emotional way, and with style, delivery, phrasing and natural appeal.

'This is between you and me,' a vocalist may say, 'let me tell you what's on my mind.'

Communication. Style. Personality. And, of course, talent. All a part of the package that Ms. Cynthia Holiday brings to her live performances and to her brand new CD, CYNTHIA HOLIDAY: ALL THE WAY.

Her journey has been one of determination and perseverance, fuelled by a love of music and a desire to perform. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Cynthia Holiday has been involved with the arts since childhood. Her first experience on stage came through modern dance. She studied as a young girl, and dance was a part of her life throughout her college days. Through this early experience, Cynthia felt the allure of performing and connecting with an audience.

Music, however, was the foundation of her household. Cynthia's stepfather, Calvin Hughes, a trumpet player of considerable renown, was one of the most popular and talented musicians in New Jersey and the Tri-State area. Hughes had a magnetic personality and a tireless work ethic. He played or toured with jazz greats such as Clark Terry and Count Basie and blues woman Big Maybelle. He led his own band, Calvin Hughes and the Swingin' Jets, and young Cynthia was immersed in his jazz world. Musicians were always coming by the house to play, and she was particularly impressed with her father's work ethic, daily practice schedule how it all came together when he performed on stage.

Holiday's mother helped provide the vocal inspiration in her life. "My mother and aunt were singers; they were members of The Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark. I grew up listening to Dakota Staton, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, all the greats. Her musical exposure also included listening to blues singers like B.B. King, Bobby Bluebland and Etta James. "My grandfather used to play blues records and teach me songs." My style is heavily influenced by the blues, because I love it so much."

Cynthia goes from the board room during the day, to jazz gigs after five. She graduated from Montclair State University in New Jersey, and became a successful marketing executive, a position she holds today. But one day it hit her: she had not fulfilled her goal, her passion. She wanted to sing. She HAD to sing.

So she approached the one person who would understand this passion - her stepfather and presented him with a tape she'd recorded a cappella. Calvin Hughes offered his full support, and Cynthia began the next phase in her journey in earnest - jazz vocal studies with Rita DaCosta Turrentine; classical training with Jim Carson in New York; sitting in on gigs with her stepfather; performing with the New York-based Swing band, The Bob Harris Orchestra; singing at Trudi Mann's open mic sessions at Cleopatra's Needle in uptown Manhattan. She was working hard, determined to hone her craft.

Eventually Hughes introduced her to jazz educator and pianist Radam Schwartz, with whom she began to study intensively to cultivate her sound and approach as a jazz singer. And, it has all come together - her lifelong immersion in jazz, and blues, her training and her performing experience have resulted in a seasoned entertainer who sings well and knows how to captivate her audience.

There is no better example of that style than her new recording CYNTHIA HOLIDAY: ALL THE WAY. It's bluesy, sassy, yet tender and introspective, with a healthy dose of swing. Cynthia showcases her versatility and confidence with a program that includes familiar standards, contemporary classics and entertaining originals. "Never Make Your Move Too Soon," written by Stix Hooper of Crusaders fame, opens the recording, and tells the listener they're in for a lively good time. Ms. Holiday covers a wide spectrum of selections with ease. There's a wonderful brisk interpretation of "I Thought about You," the groove of "More Today than Yesterday," and a warm emotional reading of the title track, "All the Way."

Cynthia surrounds herself with talented musicians on this cd. Radam Schwartz has been Cynthia's musical director for five years and their comfort level and artistic communication is evident here. Together they wrote two of the recordings most playful selections, "I Like What I See," and "You've Got a Job to Do." The great pianist Cedar Walton and his trio (bassist David Williams and drummer Joe Farnsworth) are predictably tasteful and swinging ("I Like What I See"), and soulfully supportive ("My Little Rainbow"). Bassist Bob Cunningham's melodic, propulsive "Samba De Amor" and the Eddie Floyd classic "Knock On Wood" add to the eclectic nature of this cd, highlighting Ms. Holiday's unique abilities.

The journey continues for Cynthia Holiday; it becomes more exciting day by day. If you have a sense of discovery, a desire to experience a talent that's fresh and new, a talent who honours tradition, join Cynthia Holiday as she goes ... ALL THE WAY.