Cooking Jazz at the Santa Fe School of Cooking | Music


When acclaimed jazz singer Carmen Bradford takes the stage at Dave’s Jazz Bistro, she knows she owes much of her success to thinking like a vegetable.

“I tell my students they’re like an onion,” she says. “The real you is at the center, and above you are all these layers of musical ideas that you got from others. You keep what you need at that point, and as your musical abilities progress, you get rid of it and create your own. It’s been hard work, but I really feel like I’m now at the center of my own onion. “

For her concert in Santa Fe in a bistro reincarnation in The Santa Fe School of Cooking, she will be accompanied by the John Rangel Trio, with John Trentacosta on drums and Colin Deuble on bass, in addition to pianist Rangel.

“It’s going to be a program that the public can relate to and that I love too,” says Bradford, 61. “There will also be a lot of standards and some blues tunes.

A midlife crisis led to the founding of the Santa Fe School of Cooking 31 years ago, with the addition of a jazz bistro in homage to David Ballantyne Curtis.

Her great success came when she joined the Count Basie Band at the age of 23, although her first meeting with their legendary frontman a year earlier did not go as well as she hoped.

“I told Mr. Basie he would make a million dollars if he hired me and that there was nothing better than having a young lady on stage in a pretty dress,” said -she. “He just looked at me like I was very, very strange. I did not want [vocalist] Dennis Rowland for losing his job, I just wanted him to run away!

Basie reconnected with Bradford soon after, and she ended up touring with the group for nine years.

“It was me and 19 men on the tour bus, which was amazing, scary and weird,” she says. “One or two were my age, and it went from there to some who were as old as my great-grandfather. We had assigned seats and I sat down in front of Mr. Basie. He spoiled me rotten, especially this first year, giving me $ 100 every time we had a day off and telling me to go shopping.

Bradford is still a frequent guest singer with the band Basie, and she is a featured artist on Everything on this basis, the group’s 2019 Grammy-nominated album. (You can hear her singing an excerpt from Fats Waller’s album, “Honeysuckle Rose”, on her website,

His musical personality is defined by his powerful mezzo voice, an unusually wide vocal range, a radiant personality that shines through even in a video interview laden with technical issues and his emotionally charged renditions.

“Anyone can sing most of these songs,” she says. “You have to tell the story behind it so that everyone can understand Why you sing it.

Bradford’s jazz DNA comes from both sides of his family. His grandfather sang with Lucky Millinder and his orchestra, the Dizzy Gillespie Band and the vocal quintet The Ink Spots; his father, Bobbie Lee Bradford, was a cornet player and composer best known for his work with the Ornette Coleman Quartet and his own band, the Mo’tet.

Her mother, Melba Joyce, is a well-known jazz singer and the most important influence on her daughter’s singing. “She still has an awesome voice, and to this day I still steal her,” Bradford says. “When I was four I knew I wanted to grow up and be a singer like her, although it probably had as much to do with the beaded dresses, hair and shoes as it did with music.”

While music takes center stage at Dave’s Jazz Bistro, food plays an important role. Don’t be fooled by the bistro’s connotation of simple meals offered in a modest setting or the cooking school’s well-known classes on earthy New Mexico cuisine. Jazz evenings allow the kitchen staff to show off with a “white tablecloth” menu. The three-course meal that accompanies Carmen Bradford’s performance begins with a fall squash salad, followed by a choice of starters (either a lamb shank with polenta and asparagus, salmon with asparagus and potatoes, or a vegetarian risotto), and a Mexican New Bread pudding for dessert.

This will be Bradford’s second performance at Dave’s Jazz Bistro and, based on the meal of her first visit, she gives the food a rave review. “All I have to say is ‘Ooooh, baby, baby, this is decadent.’ The food is simply spectacular.

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