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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Dec 7, 2022

We heard from promising young jazz singer Samara Joy in Podcast 943 last week, and today it’s Tawanda’s turn.

When she tied for first place with Gabrielle Cavassa in the 9th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, the feat was all the more impressive given that Tawanda had performed her first full show just a year before. Raised in the deep south of New Mexico on the border with Texas, she is proudly a first generation American with a mother from Germany and a father from Mozambique. This unique background has served her well, giving her access to a world of music styles that few can access. Under the tutelage of singer/educator Mirabai Daniels, she was recommended to Resonance Records founder George Klabin who pushed her to perform live and enter the Sarah Vaughan competition.

Her first album, Smile, was produced by Klabin, who brought veteran pianists Tamir Hendelman and Josh Nelson to accompany the young singer. The end result neatly mixes jazz standards like  “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Lucky to Be Me” with interpretations of pop numbers like Sting’s “Sister Moon”and Donny Hathaway’s “Sack Full of Dreams.” She only cuts loose a few times, most notably on a scatting “Out of This World,” but it’s clear there is not only a singer with the necessary pipes here, but one with the ability to inhabit and interpret a song.

Podcast 944 is my conversation with Tawanda, as we discuss her sudden rise to touring performer and recording artist, what she looks for in a song to add to her repertoire, and what projects she hopes to tackle in the near future. Musical selections from Smile include “Out of This World,” and “Sack Full of Dreams.”