Total tonal fluency is attained through hard work and love for the craft, something vocalist Sharón Clark knows a lot about. Her recent collab with Mattias Nilsson had their small but mighty ensemble fill the room with sonic pleasure. On “Sometimes I’m Happy” the way she bends a note is so sublime that you can cloak yourself in its glow. Her scatting is pure expert improv as she explores the edges of a key and pushes beyond to unexpected vistas. On “My Kind of Love” her pacing is elegant and her tone is pure silk. A modern-day Maxine Sullivan with amazing range and repertoire, Ms. Clark embodies what there is to love about jazz: everything.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Mattias Nilsson and how does his sound match your vision for the music?
Mattias and I met in NY in 2012 at various jam sessions. At each session I noticed his playing was very laid back and tasteful, not just a bunch of notes played as fast as he could. I thought he was perfect for my style of jazz.
Where do you go in your head when you sing?
Each song I choose comes from a life experience. I truly believe that there is nothing new under the sun. Love, hate, anger, happiness all come in some form to each individual. I just make sure that the songs I choose are ones that resonant with me.
Why do you think some consider you Washington, DC’s Queen of Jazz?
LOL!!! Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the scene for over 40 years now. In all sincerity, it’s an honor to be considered so. The pressure for me to live up to the title comes mainly from me. I hold myself accountable to keep improving and growing.
Talk about the big lessons learned from your early days with the Bottle Caps to today and beyond.
My biggest lesson came in my early years. It was to keep my eyes on my money and to have a contract. Read the fine print. If you’re not sure, ask. I’ve learned to keep a very small circle of people who tell the truth and are capable of being frank. “Fans” are just that and I appreciate them 100%. Your inner circle will tell you about the intonation slip or if you have spinach on your teeth.
What kinds of collaborations do you enjoy the most?
Less is more in my book. I love duo work be it voice and piano, or voice, guitar and very interesting horns.
What’s up for the rest of 2020-21 with venues severely curtailing live performances?
This has been a real wake-up call. I’ve been out of the traditional work format for eight months now. In order to make myself more marketable, I’m taking medical coding and billing to have something to fall back on. The is a career that can be done almost any place in the world and remotely. Now, I rely on unemployment and good friends and family. I’ve done some live streaming and the good thing is, I’m getting exposure in places that wouldn’t notice me otherwise. Captive audience??
What are jazz audiences like abroad?
Where would I be without my international support? Probably scratching for work in NYC. The world has a much better grasp of what the idea of jazz is. They study the greats and understand and appreciate the real jazz tradition – “The Roots of Jazz”. They completely expect and respect it coming from me and from someone that looks like me.
Your hopes for this new CD with Mattias?
Mattias and I will offer that classic, soulful, elegant sincerity of the last century. Both in sound and appearance.
For more information visit https://sharonclarkjazz.com/.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
(c) 2020 Debbie Burke