The title song of Gabriele Tranchina’s CD “Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes” displays her multi-octave, comfortably reached range; it’s a soothing, pretty composition by her husband Joe. The funky “Straphangin’” paints a story of blooming love found in the city subway. Tranchina’s approach is playful and light; listeners are rewarded with its sweet ending.
“Today” takes its time building melodic lines on piano. At her entrance, Tranchina warms us up slowly and easily, then jumps effortlessly to a doubled meter that quickly converts again, into swing. Rhythmically, she’s an artist who never loses her footing as she unravels the plot of each song. Adept at vocalese too, “Voz” is a memorable Latin-infused groove in which inventive percussion reigns.
Her new CD cracks wide open the pleasure of a well-written song and beautifully executed vocals, and just like a moonrise, is bathed in a lovely light.
When did you realize you wanted to sing?
I always enjoyed music and singing. I had no prior training, but I played a little guitar and loved to accompany myself. The decision to make it a profession came when I took a year off after finishing high school. I traveled through Asia. I sat in on some jams. People encouraged me and told me I should be singing. I was far from home and all the advice friends and family would give me, and it was time to ask myself what I really enjoy most. I decided to sing.
After returning from my travels, I contacted a friend of mine who was a musician and asked her how to go about my musical path. Auditions at music colleges were too hard for the beginner I was at that time. But I did pass the audition at Frankfurt University for a teaching degree with a major in music. When that was behind me, I decided to go to New York to deepen my studies.
How do you take care of your voice?
I am certified level III in Somatic Voicework™. The founder of this technique, Jeanie LoVetri, has been my teacher for a long time. I do my exercises at least four times a week. I try to warm up before a gig as well.
This technique helped me through a very hard phase a few years back when I was diagnosed with acid reflux. Aside from a strict diet, the exercises enabled me to continue my work as a singer as well as teaching my early childhood music program.
As a vocalist, what’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
If I had to pick one I might go with one from Sheila Jordan: “Don’t sing it if you don’t feel it.”
Sometimes when you’re on stage you think you have to impress people with technique. But when your head enters the music making, the music leaves. I am trying to live by that advice.
How do your cultural roots and ability to speak English, German and French inform your music today?
Having grown up in Europe where you drive for a couple of hours and you are in another country certainly has its advantages. It’s helped me stand out as an artist.
One of the best things that happened to me was to end up in New York. I have the whole world present in one city. It is so enriching to meet people from all parts of the world. I love to listen to music from other countries as well. It broadens my horizon.
When I work on material, I don’t sit there and pick the languages I want to sing in but rather the music. If a song speaks to me and I’m very excited about it, I will go through the effort to learn it in its native language. The only time I would not do it would be if I felt my pronunciation is not up to par. Learning songs in other languages is a challenge that gets me out of my comfort zone. The good thing here in New York is, that you always find natives. I have received coaching on all the songs I recorded.
How would you describe the songs that your husband, Joe Vincent Tranchina, writes for you?
Joe’s material is extremely challenging. His songs often have a wide vocal range. The melodies are never easy to sing and his sense for harmony is very advanced. Most of his songs display beauty.
I love his versatility. I have sung everything from him, starting with Latin, Brazilian, swing, pop and songs that come from a classical background. The lyrics are often very gentle and romantic or promote peace and love for nature. A friend once said to me that when she listens to Joe’s music it feels as if she always knew it. That’s a nice compliment because it means the music goes into your ear and stays there.
Do you have a particular styling or era that you like the most?
For me the music has to be “real” and authentic.
Sometimes I hear great lyrics and they touch me deeply. Sometimes I hear a rhythm or groove that makes me want to jump up and dance. Sometimes I find music that transcends time or is of a meditative nature. I’m finding great material from various eras and all various parts of the world. I can’t deny that I love Latin and Brazilian music. I also love flamenco and gypsy music, Middle Eastern, Indian and African music.
I love jazz, blues, R&B, and some pop and the American songbook very much too. I deeply love Bach and a lot of classical music as well.
What were some of the highlights making “Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes”?
It was the first time I hired a producer to help me with a recording. This was one of the best investments I made because it enabled me to concentrate on myself when we were in the studio. I also had another set of ears listen to the band, saving us much time and helping us focus the sound.
When the band gets together to prepare for the studio recording, the love and the creative energy that generate from a recording session is very unique and special. We’re all there to give our very best.
On this recording we all pulled from the same string. All the suggestions the musicians made elevated each song to a higher level. After the recording session we added harmony parts and synth parts. It gets me out of my comfort zone to sing harmony parts as I don’t get to do it much in my regular life, but it’s also thrilling at the same time.
Working with Rick Savage and Joe on mixing and mastering the songs was great. We worked hard to have a balance of all instruments and have each one sound crystal clear. It’s fulfilling when a CD is mixed and mastered and sounds absolutely professional.
Talk about two tracks that are very different on that album.
My dear husband had the idea of adding a song called “A Song for India” to the mix after we were already done with the recording session. He laid down all the tracks and then asked me to sing and improvise over them.
I have to say the song was challenging to me. I also thought no radio station would ever play it as it exceeds 10 minutes; that it would be so very different from the rest of the CD because we didn’t have our band on this track and it might pop out too much. The song, which has no lyrics, brought me out of my comfort zone but there is just something wonderful about it. I am always imagining some dervishes twirling around to this song. In the end it turns out that many people tell us that this is their favorite. Radio stations played it more than I could ever have dreamed.
Another song that is very different is “Je Crois Entendre Encore” which is a classical song by Bizet. We had some disputes over this song when we were in pre-production. I actually thought it would be great to give it a Middle Eastern feel and instrumentation; my husband thought it would be great as a bossa nova. We tried many versions and ended up with a bolero. I love the tranquility of this song. It is the only song where I have a long “conversation” with the bass and there is no solo on it.
How are you marketing this CD?
It isn’t exactly jazz, but then it is. It isn’t exactly a Latin album, but then it is. And even though it is music of the world, it doesn’t really fit into world music category because that is associated with a very specific style. In short I am a radio programmer’s biggest nightmare.
However, we have received great radio play and our radio promoter markets it as “vocal jazz with a strong Latin influence.” I’m marketing though social media, my website, radio promotion and CD release parties and performances. I am also a NARAS voting member and have connected with many talented musicians. I’m finding those networks important.
The music I do promotes peace, well-being and healing. I am trying to connect with others who are on that same path.
I work with a wonderful photographer and we put a lot of time and effort in the look of each CD. The cover and how I present myself is a big part of my branding. I’m also finding supporting good causes that are important to me is part of my branding. I was a guest at this year’s RoundGlass awards. This organization promotes world peace and supports many necessary and good causes. I was so impressed by the awards, the music and the causes they support that I am becoming a member.
How do you know each of your band members?
Joe, our pianist, has the rare gift to play really well behind singers and he enjoys working with them. He is also very gifted as an arranger/composer and lyricist. Joe is very sincere and humble; once he puts his teeth into something, he doesn’t stop until it’s as close to perfect or totally perfect. I met him through a singer friend of mine. I started working with him as vocal coach and soon after we were a couple and a year later married.
Carlo DeRosa, our bassist, came recommended by Renato, our percussionist. It was at a time when I wanted to dive deeper into Latin music. I was looking for a bassist who is versatile and can play jazz and Latin music equally well. Carlo is that kind of a person. He’s thorough and supportive and has a calm persona.
Vince Cherico has worked with Joe off and on over many years. He has a wonderful sense of humor and his knowledge of rhythms from all over the world is tremendous.
I met our percussionist Renato Thoms at LaGuardia Community College. He performed along with my husband. I loved the way he played and asked for his card. I have worked with him for many years. Whenever I possibly can, I have him with me. Renato has the gift to play exactly the right thing at the right time. He’s a tasteful player and a good friend.
As we don’t live in NYC anymore, we have met a lot of great players who relocated to the Hudson Valley. At the Inkwell I worked in a trio with Joe on piano and Carol Sudhalter on sax/flute. When the opportunity arises, she’s certainly a person I enjoy working with.
What does Rainchant bring to the table and why do you enjoy working with them?
Joe and I formed Rainchant Eclectic records in 2017, as we are interested in producing not just jazz but a variety of genres. We couldn’t find labels that were giving us a versatile platform and more freedom. Even though most people are no longer on a label, I still feel that being on a label has value. Radio stations are more likely to play your songs, which is important to me as I would like my music to be heard by as large an audience as possible.
What did you like about the Hudson Valley Jazz Fest?
I love that I was there when it all started. Steve Rubin, the founder, is a dear friend of mine. When we moved out of NYC I thought I’d never make a friend. However, there was one restaurant in Warwick that started having jazz regularly and Steve put a band together. When we performed he was very inviting to all musicians and because of that, the gig became a hang.
I was astounded how many talented musicians live in the Hudson Valley. Steve started this festival to give the local musicians a platform to perform.
The festival started out as the Warwick Valley Jazz Festival but expanded to a much wider area. It is tremendous how many great artists have performed over the years at this festival and how much love and effort Steve has put into his little baby.
What are some of your favorite places in the Tri-State area?
Since we moved to the Hudson Valley, I have to say that I fell in love with Upstate New York. It is so utterly beautiful here. Sometimes we pinch ourselves to see if this is real. We love Warwick, Sugar Loaf, Rhinebeck, New Paltz and Woodstock. I love going to the beaches on Long Island especially Montauk. I’m finding Princeton to be a very beautiful quaint little town and I love Montclair. We also like the countryside of Connecticut.
What is your biggest challenge?
I have not yet found the courage to make the transition to being a full-time performer. I know that eventually I’ll get there. I’m currently running two businesses, my singing and an early childhood music program. I often find myself two steps behind catching up with life. To eliminate this kind of drain would be great.
How would you like to improve and grow?
I’d love to travel to places like Rio, Cuba, Morocco and maybe some other parts of Africa to study singing and music of those cultures. I’d also try to catch another week at the Omega with Bobby McFerrin. I did two of them and learned at lot. His circle singing is really uplifting. I’d also like to take lessons with Ismael Miranda, if I ever get the chance.
Is there a genre yet to be explored?
There are many genres I’m interested in but it takes a lot of time to dive into them. I’m planning on producing some children’s music and maybe some new age music. But I will mainly continue to stick with jazz and the many jazz-influenced genres.
What do audiences most want to know about you?
They often ask me how I learned the all languages I sing in, and if I understand the lyrics. I also am often asked why I have an accent when I speak English, but not when I sing. That has to do with the length of the vowels and the rhythm of the melody.
Why the name “Inkwell” for your trio?
Carol, Joe and I once tried to coordinate gigging together in Europe. We put a trio together. We had worked at a venue called the Inkwell and the name stuck with us.
Gigs for this year?
This year is dedicated to CD release-related events. We are still working on lining some up. We’re looking forward to playing for the first time at the Falcon in April and hope to be part of the Newburgh Jazz Festival and the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival again this year.
Where do you most want to play that you have not yet?
Generally I would love to get into the festival circuit in Europe during summer, so I can spend a little more time with my family in Germany. I love Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in NYC. I think it’s one of the most beautiful clubs. I’d also love to play the Montreal Jazz Festival and sing at Carnegie Hall or any other great concert hall or space with wonderful acoustics and atmosphere.
Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed. It was a real pleasure to meditate over your questions.
For more information, visit www.sonicbids.com/band/gabrieletranchina.