Saturday, May 7, 2011


Mother’s Day, jazz vocalist Naima Shamborguer makes available her new album "‘Round Midnight’". To celebrate, Shamborguer is throwing a big album release concert at 4:00pm at St. Matthew & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit. Shamborguer teams up with the acclaimed jazz pianist Larry Willis known for his work with Jackie McLean, Hugh Masekela, Carmen McRae and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Willis is the album’s musical director. On “’Round Midnight” Shamborguer performs some standards and some originals. Of her four albums, Shamborguer says “’Round Midnight” is her best.

Shamborguer was raised in Detroit and she graduated from Cass Technical High School. She refuses to say when, but jokingly acknowledges she’s been around a long time. Shamborguer is from a family of singers and musicians that’s heavily into classical and gospel music.

During Shamborguer girlhood, she performed in a group with her aunts Gloria, Georgia, and Evelyn. Her sisters became accomplished classical singers. And Shamborguer went the jazz route, making a name working with Donald Townes, Teddy Harris, Jr. and Marcus Belgrave. and a long list of internationally acclaimed jazz musicians.

Willis says teaming up with Shamborguer was destined to happen. They met through a mutual friend, Bob Colley, a jazz booking agent. Colley felt they would be the perfect match. For years, Colley tried to get Shamborguer and Willis to perform together. They were set to play a popular club in New Jersey, but at the last minute the show was cancelled. In 2010, they finally hooked up to record “‘Round Midnight”. Recently, I Dig Jazz had a telephone conversation with Shamborguer and Willis to discuss the making of “‘Round Midnight”.

I Dig Jazz: When did “‘Round Midnight” start to come together?

Shamborguer: The actual putting together started last year around the spring. A friend of our, Bob Colley, who passed away in November had been trying to get Larry and I together for 6 years to do a CD. We’re going to work at a club in New Jersey, but the owner of the club decided to stop featuring jazz.

IDJ: Why did Bob believe you and Larry would be good musical companions?

Shamborguer: Bob said Larry and I had a lot in common. My phrasing and Larry's voicing on the piano were alike. So, Bob felt that Larry and I would just gel. Bob and my husband were best friends. Bob used to say Naima has to play with Larry because Larry will play all the right things to suit her voice.”

IDJ: Unfortunately, Bob died before you and Larry finally hooked up.

Shamborguer: My husband and I went to visit Bob when he was very ill. After that, we decided to visit Larry. After that visit, my husband decided that we’re going to do this recording, so we asked Larry to be our musical director. We went to Larry’s home to put the project together. Then Larry came to our house. Larry was our guest for a week, and we had a ball getting the music together. Every morning Larry would play a spiritual on the piano. He’s a very spiritual person.

IDJ: Did you and Larry click as Bob expected?

Shamborguer: It was natural. When I went to Baltimore to see Larry, he sat at the piano and started playing, and I started singing. Our relationship was natural.

IDJ: How much input did Larry have selecting songs for "‘Round Midnight’"? By the way, you did a splendid version of “Here's to Life”.

Shamborguer: I gave Larry a list of songs I wanted to record. And I gave him “Here’s to Life”. He asked me to sing it. I did, and Larry broke down because Larry was close to Shirley Horn, who immortalized that song. Larry said, at Shirley’s funeral that he didn’t even stay in the church. So, We decided to the record the song.

IDJ: Larry, over the years, you've have work with some brilliant vocalists Carmen McRae, Miriam MaKeba, and Vanessa Rubin. How does Naima measure up?

Jazz pianist Larry Willis
Willis: Naima is among the top jazz vocalists as far as I am concerned, but Naima hasn’t received the recognition she's due.

IDJ: You encouraged Naima to include some of her original tunes. Why was that important?

Willis: Because it is a statement of her voice and her story. Some of the best advice I every got came from Miles Davis. He said you have to have your own sound. When you play like others you also play their mistakes. Naima is an extremely talented songwriter, and she needs to expose that.

IDJ: Naima, you sing a song by Horace Silver, Charlie Parker, and of course, Thelonious Monk, but the best songs on the album are your originals “I Will Never Walk Away,” “Everyday’s Yesterday,” and “Ms. Sarah”. Despite Larry’s encouragement, were you initially reluctant to include those songs?

Shamborguer: Larry asked me why I wasn’t including those originals on the recording. He said my originals were pretty good. So, coming from a world-renowned jazz pianist like Larry that meant something to me. You know, with originals you never know how they’re going to turn out.

IDJ: You have a unique style of singing as if you’re half-jazz singer and half-opera singer. Plus, you don’t rely on scatting.

Shamborguer: Some singers scat too much where it’s appears to be a gimmick. I would rather sing the whole song. If you are going to scat, you have to know the whole song. Some singers just start scatting. They don’t know the tune. I think a lot of singers scat because they think they’re supposed to. I’m not a scatter. Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan were scatters.

IDJ: ‘Round Midnight is your fourth album. How would you rank it?

Shamborguer: It’s my best album. I’m older and I’m into life more, and the way I feel about music. I have more of a grip on my music.
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