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An Evening with Paula Atherton- A Powerful Female Figure in the Jazz Genre

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Travelers making their way from Jamaica to JFK airport were mesmerized by the talent of Paula Atherton and her band, comprised of Ron Monroe on bass, Bill Heller on keyboard, Lou Gimenez on guitar, and Tony Lewis on Drums. Paula Atherton has been busy touring the country, stopping everywhere from the West coast in California to the East in South Carolina and many more destinations. Nothing could exhaust her so much that she’d miss playing the Air Train Jazz Festival for her third year. Her strength translates through her performance, leading the group with powerful vocals, saxophone and flute. She is a versatile, self-made artist—boasting four albums with a fifth on the way—and is an example for women especially, and men alike. Our World on Sutphin was lucky to get an interview with this inspiring musician.

At the very beginning, in grade school, Paula Atherton aspired to play drums, however her superiors warned that “little girls don’t play drums, they like to play flute.” So she went with the flow, learning to play flute and working on her vocals. As a teenager she found her niche in jazz. Growing up, her peers were mostly interested in playing rock music. Though she liked rock, she couldn’t find a place in that genre for her voice and talent for wind instruments. When she started studying jazz, she realized that it was a genre her talents could fit into. However, she felt the need for an instrument that had more colors than the flute if she wanted to play jazz. That’s when she picked up the saxophone. It was an obvious choice, as the saxophone and flute are in the same family and have similar fingerings. In jazz music, improvisation is a huge factor. Since Paula took interest in singing early on, she studied with a proper vocal teacher for a long time and learned the art of improvisation. She would sing along with Billy Holiday and study the solos performed by Johnny Parker, Lester Young, and Roy Eldridge. Practicing the styles of these artists really helped get the art of improvisation ingrained into her brain. Listening to these sounds showed her the pattern of where a solo can go. She also sees an importance in learning the technical side of music—knowing the notes in a chord, and comparing what one note might sound like against another chord. When watching a professional musician improvise it may seem like an act of pure passion, but it’s easy to forget that there is theory behind that impromptu creation. Paula puts it best when she describes improvisation as “the marriage of the creative and the technical.” Though many talented artists have learned to play by ear, Paula’s understanding of music is that it can be better to know exactly what it is that you’re doing. It’s especially important to have that knowledge when you’re a woman. Too often, she’s noticed how people will pre-judge female musicians, assuming they won’t perform as well. “That [knowledge] is your confidence,” Paula explains, “Knowledge is power.” An artist can have a lot more sway in their profession when they have the technical theory to back up their creative expression.

Paula has faced her fair share of hardships in life, like having to leave home and start working for herself at the age of 17 and dealing with her mother’s passing due to breast cancer. She has risen above it all and now has her music playing on the radio across the nation, and is even featured on the album “Girl Talk” by Holly Cole which climbed to the number two spot on Billboard. She has a degree in music therapy because she truly believes that music can heal. “Music is the key to world peace,” Paula declares, “people don’t have anything to live for, and if there was greater access to the arts and music, they might not be so focused on blowing people up.” It provides the outlet that people need to help distance themselves from their negative energies. Paula uses her music for therapy with Alzheimer’s patients and plays charities to raise money for good causes like cancer fundraising. She finds it very rewarding to see the impact her music can make, hearing fans express the way they can relate to her lyrics. It’s very important to Paula that she gives back to society, and she does so through her music.

If anyone is looking for advice on self-starting as a music artist, she is the perfect person to turn to. Her first two albums were self-made with a good distribution deal that got her music onto the shelves of popular retailers at the time like Tower and Best Buy. Finally she was getting noticed, and had her following albums signed on record labels with the assistance of her producer, guitar player, and husband Lou Gimenez, whom she met during one of her many gigs. Paula notes that sometimes it feels like you’re working so hard to put your music out there and nobody hears it or cares, but it’s important to have patience. When looking to sign her fourth album Ear Candy, an album drawing inspiration from Philly soul tunes from the 70’s, Lou reached out to Kalimba records. The next morning Lou received a call from the label asking him to send the album over right away; it turns out they had heard Paula’s preceding albums and were absolutely in love with her sound. It goes to show that sometimes the fourth, fifth, or even tenth time may be the charm. What’s important is to keep producing your best work. In order to do that, it’s crucial to find your own voice as an artist. Paula Atherton wrote her album Enjoy the Ride after going through a period that taught her to live in the moment and not be so focused on what tomorrow will bring. “All you got is right now,” she says, “Enjoy the process. The process is the whole thing.” Finding your voice as a musician isn’t done overnight; it can be a long process that takes years. In the end, the sound that an artist develops is as individual as the human fingerprint. Many musicians make their money by forming tribute bands. It’s certainly a craft to perfect another musician’s style, but Paula stresses the importance of establishing your fingerprint as an artist—especially if you want to make money producing original music.

Keep watch next January for Paula Atherton’s fifth album, Shake It, if you’re looking for some up-tempo, funky dance tunes. All of her music can be found on amazon, I-tunes, and Spotify. Also, check out her website http://paulaatherton.com to see her upcoming shows. Be sure you don’t miss the Air Train Jazz festival next Thursday from 5-7 to hear more jazz music from talented artists like Paula Atherton.

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DAMIAN MARLEY FOR GROOVIN’ IN THE PARK

Reggae’s most sought after superstar Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley will bring the curtain down on the highly anticipated Groovin In The Park festival that takes place on Sunday, June 24 inside Roy Wilkins Park in New York. The tremendously popular decision to add Marley to the lineup was confirmed earlier.

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Damian Marley
Reggae’s most sought after superstar Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley will bring the curtain down on the highly anticipated Groovin In The Park festival that takes place on Sunday, June 24 inside Roy Wilkins Park in New York. The tremendously popular decision to add Marley to the lineup was confirmed earlier.
 
The son of two celebrities- reggae icon Bob Marley and former Miss World 1976 Cindy Brakespeare – cemented his own place in the annals of music history when he became the first reggae artist to win a GRAMMY outside of the “reggae” category, taking home an award for ‘Best Urban/Alternative’ performance for his single, “Welcome To Jamrock.”

The acclaimed international reggae/dancehall superstar is a fixture on Billboard’s Reggae Digital Singles chart. ‘Welcome to Jamrock,’ from his Grammy winning album of the same name was certified gold in the United States. The single was listed as one of the ‘Top 100 Songs Of The Decade’ by Rolling Stone Magazine. Popular track from the disc include ‘Pimpa’s Paradise,’ ‘Confrontation’ and ‘Hey Girl.’

The success of ‘Road To Zion,’ the 2nd US single from the ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ album inspired his 2010 Distant Relatives project, a collaborative album with Nas. The album’s title reflected not only the bond between the artists, but the connection to their African ancestry.
 
He partnered with Skrillex on the groundbreaking track ‘Make It Bun Dem.’ The song sold over 350,000 downloads and enjoyed success in Austria, Belgium, Sweden and New Zealand. The song was one of four tracks with Marley that graced the Billboard chart in 2005 including ‘Road to Zion’,  ‘Patience’ (with Nas) and ‘Welcome to Jamrock.’
 
Marley was in the news a few days ago when R&B icon Babyface declared in an interview that Marley was the reggae artist he would most like to collaborate with.
Other headliners booked for Groovin In The Park 2018 are Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Busy Signal, Capleton, Romain Virgo, JC Lodge, Marcia Aitken and Pam Hall.

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THE 2018 AMERICAN BLACK FILM FESTIVAL HONORS WAS A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

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LOS ANGELES, February 26, 2018 — Last night, ABFF Ventures hosted its annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Honors at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The ceremony, hosted by actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer, honored director Ava DuVernay with the Industry Visionary Award, legendary actor Billy Dee Williams with the Hollywood Legacy Award, comedian Tiffany Haddish with the Rising Star Award, actor Omari Hardwick with the Distinguished ABFF Alumni Award and the writer and cast of “Martin” (Martin Lawrence, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Carl Payne II, Bentley Kyle Evans) received the Classic Television Award.

Regina Hall, Lena Waithe, Armie Hammer and Snoop Dogg made special presentations to the honorees and Harrison Ford made a surprise video tribute to Billy Dee Williams.

Black-ish (ABC) and Insecure (HBO) were announced as winners of the Television Show of the Year (Comedy) category, presented by actor and comedian Lil Rel Howery. Tracee Ellis Ross, Deon Cole, Issa Rae, Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji accepted their awards on behalf of their show, cast and crew.

For the second year in a row, Queen Sugar (OWN) took home the coveted Television Show of the Year (Drama) award. Ava DuVernay, along with the cast (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Dondre Whitfield, Tina Lifford, Bianca Lawson, Timon Kyle Durrett) accepted their award.

Additional winners of the night included Get Out (Universal Pictures), for Movie of the Year. Jordan Peele, Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson accepted the award.

“Some of you know that I did not enter this industry as an artist. I came into this business as an advertiser with a profound love for art, and the ABFF became my canvas, says Jeff Friday, ABFF Ventures CEO. “It has allowed me to show my love of “all things Black,” by curating experiences that promote our culture and support young creative people who are now changing the world,” Jeff continues.

“It is a privilege and honor to be granted a seat at the table to watch my collegiate friends’ stellar organization (The American Black Film Festival) grow and consistently groom, honor and recognize creative black genius,”
said Dawn Kelly, Howard University graduate, co-owner of Metropolis Group/Global Connect and CEO of The Nourish Spot, located in Jamaica , Queens, NYC.

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Ronnie Devoe’s 50th – Bell Biv DeVoe and Friends performance

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Ronnie Devoe's 50th - Bell Biv Devoe
Photo By: Joseph Swift

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