For his upcoming show at The Jazz Gallery, vocalist Sachal Vasandani has assembled a true vocal super group. With Michael Mayo, Vuyo Sotashe, JD Walter, and Vasandani, the ensemble features vocalists with different perspectives and approaches to their shared craft.
Vasandani is a jazz singer and artist who, throughout the last decade, has released a series of critically-acclaimed albums through the Okeh label and Mack Avenue Records. This upcoming vocal showcase will also include pianist Taylor Eigsti and saxophonist Dayna Stephens, who also played on Vasandani’s latest album, Shadow Train, to be released at the end of May. We spoke with Vasandani about his expectations and anticipation for the upcoming showcase.
The Jazz Gallery: Your theme for this collaborative show is “What A Time To Be Alive”—there’s no doubt about that. How does this put the music in context?
Sachal Vasandani: With this group, we have an opportunity to comment on the state of jazz through the voice. It’s rare, at least for me, to have the opportunity to play with other singers, especially male singers. With JD, Vuyo, and Michael, we’ll have a great chance to explore different directions. The thing about improvisation, and jazz in general, is that it always feels like it’s the right time for it. It’s a celebration of the present. That’s why with the title of the show, “What A Time To Be Alive,” we’re highlighting the opportunity to celebrate the present and comment on how we see the world at this moment through improvisation.
TJG: What do you mean when you say you can comment on the state of being a jazz vocalist today? What is that state, for you?
SV: While I think that the world considers me a jazz vocalist, I consider myself an artist with a statement to make. That statement is sometimes a reflection of the past, but more and more, I’m concerned with the present and the future. I’m thankful that these three other singers, as well as Taylor and Dayna, are all thinking along these same lines. You get us all together, and there’s going to be very individualist approaches. We’re not going to adhere to any particular tradition, it’ll be more a celebration of different viewpoints. That’s exciting to me.
TJG: You’ve assembled a wonderful trio in Michael, JD, and Vuyo. Tell me about your choices. How did those singers come to mind as you put this show together?
SV: In my opinion, they are some of the leading lights. They each represent different attitudes, traditions, even age groups. We might have some free improvisation, we might have something rooted in one tradition or the other, we might have some electronics. That’s part of the collective experience. Personally, I think I will be challenged by what they bring. That’s what I live for.
TJG: Are there things that differentiate each singer approach that you’re excited to explore?
SV: I think you hit it. There’s a mix of traditions, some overlap in the jazz language, some stylistic similarities, and then some domain that might fall more into the specialties of each of the men. I think there’s enough individuality and overlap for there to be some really nice common language.