Wed, 3 June 2009
Lisa Sokolov does not approach a song like most jazz singers. For her, singing is both an art of listening and making sound, of reaching deep inside a song and wringing out of it levels of meaning that she along can find. Her approach is more avant-garde than middle of the road, and her performances are often fascinating displays of vocal improvisation. When she sings, she is, as she says in this interview, searching for the mystery of what lies within and behind a song.
Arriving on the New York scene in 1977, Lisa began collaborating with bassist William Parker, a collaboration that continues to this day. She was also was heard regularly with pianists Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb in the days of Studio Henry. Over the years she has worked with many new music and jazz notables including Cecil Taylor, Rashid Ali, Gerry Hemingway, Hilton Ruiz, and Jim McNeely.
Sokolov is the originator of the method of Embodied VoiceWork, a vocal improvisation method which she teaches at The Experimental Theater Wing at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts where she is a full professor. She was also on the faculty of The Graduate Program of Music Therapy at NYU for ten years. In case all that is not enough, her work as a lay cantor has been featured in A CBS Special, "Sacred Art; Ancient Voices."
While she is not well known in best-selling jazz circles, her past albums Angel Rodeo, Lazy Afternoon and Presence have all received Best CD of the Year citations and press kudos. DownBeat magazine gave Presence a rare rating of 5 stars, along with Best New Release of 2004. Their 2005 critics poll adds Sokolov onto their “Rising Star” vocalist list.
Her latest album, A Quiet Thing, (Laughing Horse Records) was released last week, and I got a chance to speak with her about the new CD, her upcoming appearance at New York’s Vision Jazz Festival and how she picks her material, from “Ol’ Man River” to “Kol Nidre”.