Narcissus (official music video)
GABRIELA MARTINA – “NO WHITE SHOES” (coming 2014)
Great art often arises out of transition and displacement. For the extraordinary Swiss-born, Boston/New York-based vocalist GABRIELA MARTINA creating a body of original music in her new setting has meant grappling with big questions and forging a singular sound out of a disparate array of influences, from jazz, funk and pop to gospel and Alpine roots music. Slated for release in spring 2015, Martina’s arresting and utterly personal debut album No White Shoes introduces a rapidly evolving artist steeped in jazz but unfettered by the music’s prevailing conventions.
Having performed with Meshell Ndegeocello, Jack DeJohnette, and Angelique Kidjo, recorded with veteran drummer J.R. Robinson and performed at 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival with guitarist Lee Ritenour’s band as a semi-finalist in the Shure Voice Competition, Martina has cultivated a powerfully evocative sound with her crystalline voice. Though No White Shoes includes a couple of brilliantly interpreted jazz standards, Martina focuses on improvisation-laced originals that combine singer/songwriter introspection with sophisticated harmonies. Informed and inspired by the quietly tumultuous process of acculturation, she uses music as a vehicle to wrestle with her protean identity.
The album opens with “Narcissus,” a song which elaborates on the symbolism of the album’s striking cover art, with Martina’s face obscured by a mirror. More than a source of expression, Martina’s music is a vehicle for hard-won self-knowledge.
Sassy, mesmerizing, and tinged with funk, the celebratory “No White Shoes” speaks to Martina’s eagerness to break free from mainstream conventions. As it builds to an ecstatic climax, it’s easy to see why this plea and declaration became the album’s centerpiece. Conceived as a rejection of Switzerland’s cozy cultural cocoon, the song speaks to Martina’s insistence on hewing to her own path, wherever she happens to reside.
“In Switzerland everything is so comfortable and so beautiful on the surface,” Martina says. “It’s a song about breaking boundaries and questioning traditions and musical conventions. It’s a positive message. It stands for new ways, for something other than the mainstream, for being your own self, and walking your own way, which for me is barefoot.”
More than a singer/songwriter, Martina is also a savvy bandleader who has attracted a core band featuring some of Boston’s finest players. A working ensemble for about four years, her band is built upon the supple rhythmic support of drummer Alex Bailey, a player with the chops to join heavyweights like Oscar Peterson and David “Fuze" Fiuczynski. He forms a potent rhythm section tandem with another rising young Boston star and recent Berklee grad Kyle Miles on acoustic and electric bass, a highly versatile player who has accompanied Angelique Kidjo, Patrice Rushen, Greg Osby, and Roy Hargrove, among many others.
The brilliant Czech-born pianist Jiri Nedoma, a prolific accompanist who has collaborated with the Grammy Award-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and vocalist Gabrielle Goodman, brings a probing harmonic sensibility and canny use of space into the ensemble. And internationally raised Finnish guitarist Jussi Reijonen, whose credits include work with drum star Jack DeJohnette, flamenco legend Pepe de Lucia, Palestinian oud/violin master Simon Shaheen, and fretless guitar pioneer David Fiuczynski, reaches effortlessly across genre conventions.
Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, Martina was no stranger to urban settings before moving to Boston. But she spent her childhood in a bucolic idyll, amidst a family dairy farm surrounded by orchards. The third of four children in a tight-knit working class family, she grew up in a highly musical environment. At the age of five, she discovered her passion for singing while yodeling with her family’s traditional Swiss group.
Realizing her calling to perform, she studied music in high school, and spent one year in London at the Vocaltech Music School. Drawn to African-American music, she spent several years studying at the Jazzschool in Lucerne, all the while saving money to come study in the United States. In the meantime she became a ubiquitous presence on the Swiss scene, performing with an array of bands (including Talking Loud, Soulvirus, and the pop-rock group PinkBliss), the electro/urban trio Aromat, an a cappella duo Not2help, and her own jazz duo with pianist Luzia von Wyl. She never gave up on her ambition to study jazz at its source.
Thriving during her two years at Berklee College of Music, she had the opportunity to perform and collaborate with heavyweights like Meshell Ndegeocello, Jack DeJohnette, and Angelique Kidjo. She recorded with veteran drummer J.R. Robinson and performed at 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival with guitarist Lee Ritenour’s band as a semi-finalist in the Shure Voice Competition.
Martina released a critically hailed EP in 2010, Curiosity, which included her original song “Ain’t Nobody”, a finalist in the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards 2012. Performing around US East Coast and beyond, she honed her original repertoire with her band at clubs around the region, particularly The Beehive in Boston, MA.
Her upcoming album No White Shoes, due out in 2014, represents a major step in the singer’s sojourn as a 21st century musician exploring an array of influences, styles and issues, a journey that’s intoxicating and utterly unpredictable.
"... I had the pleasure of performing with Gabriela Martina at the 7th Shure Jazz Voice Competition, hosted by the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2009. Gabriela is an outstanding arranger and vocalist. Her talent and skills have exposed her to many respected and wellknown musicians..." -Patrice Rushen Composer/Producer/International Recording Artist/Pianist/ Educator"It is with great pleasure to be assured that Gabriela is continuing her quest of intense determination to create original music of taste and uniqueness. Her recent recordings confirms her relentless work!" -Joe SampleComposer/Pianist (The Crusaders, Tina Turner, B.B. King, Eric Clapton)“...when I say Gabriela Martina is in an elite class I say it because she has achieved it by playing hundreds of gigs where the real playing is taking place and she has lived the “Music Life”, performing and composing around the world, playing Jazz with a unique blend of world influences...” -Jamey Haddad Percussionist (Paul Simon, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman) “Gabriela Martina’s participation in a musical project challenges everyone to reach for the next level, she is constantly inspiring the musicians she performs with to do their best work.” -Joe Mulholland Pianist, recording artist, composer, teacher & Chair of the Harmony Department of Berklee College of Music“It takes a strong person, and a unique artist, to work their way through it. From my experience in the industry, and with Gabriela personally [...] I believe she has what it takes.“ -David Greenberg Director of Marketing – Ted Kurland Associates