When Lezlie Harrison sings, she captures the attention of the whole room. We've had the pleasure of listening in on one of the nights she was performing and we fell head over heels with her sound and bubbly personality. Hailing from New York, she has returned to our beloved city and graced us with her original take on jazz, blues and soul music at The Living Room. Guru chats to her as she lets us in on her favourite artists, what she thinks about the jazz bars in Bangkok and a few of the non-touristy must-do's if we ever find ourselves in the Big Apple.
Have you checked out any jazz bars in Bangkok? If so, which ones do you like?
Because I perform Tuesday through Saturday nights at the Living Room, I don't get the chance to visit other venues as much as I would like. Bangkok is unlike New York, where you can hear jazz until 4am. I have asked my musician friends here in Bangkok and have been given some suggestions of places to visit. I had a few days off recently and ventured out on the town to hear what's happening.
I visited the landmarked Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where I heard vocalist Nikki Kidd and her band. I found the club's atmosphere to be very cosy and elegant. I also visited Apotheka to hear Steve Cannon and his band, ICU, and met some of the young musicians making the scene here in Bangkok. I was invited to sit in (this is an honour to be asked to join the band) where I sang two songs and had a wonderful time! I loved the open doors. It reminded me of New Orleans -- where live music fills the streets.
What's the best part about hosting a radio show?
I am currently a radio host on the premiere 24 hour jazz station in the US, from Newark, NJ, WBGO -- that can be streamed here in Thailand (www.wbgo.org). What I love most about being on the air is sharing THE MUSIC! People turn the radio on to get through the day, their hours at the office, the traffic and the night! But it is also where they hear new music, the classics, the legends and young giants as well as where they hear interviews with their favourite or upcoming artists.
Which artists inspired you?
This is always a hard question to answer as I have been influenced by so many great artists. But I'll try. Let's start with Aretha Franklin. From gospel to jazz to classical, her soul reigns supreme. I am also a big fan of the vocalist Phyllis Hyman and of course Billie Holiday. I love singers who have lived the stories they are singing about and are not afraid to share it with others.
How would you describe your sound?
Soulful and swinging!
Whose voice can you listen to over and over again?
Little Jimmy Scott and Marvin Gaye
What song do you find the most difficult to sing and why?
For All We Know. The music was written by J Fred Coots and the lyrics by Sam M Lewis. It is a reminder of how short our time on earth is. The person sitting with you today may be taken away from you or you from them in the blink of an eye. Each moment we live in should be cherished. I almost always cry when I sing this song.
What do you like most about performing at The Living Room?
Randy Cannon, TW and Willard Dyson -- The Band! As we say in New York -- they are KILLIN'! This is a great thing. We have fun onstage making the music happen! We have something in the repertoire for everyone. I also love the room itself -- it's very gorgeous with a grand picture window looking out on a slice of the city and the staff are amazing. We have an international audience that loves the music and sometimes they even request songs that we may include in the evening.
Must visit jazz bars in NYC?
THE must-visit jazz venue is The Jazz Gallery -- I am a founder along with world renowned trumpet player Roy Hargrove -- of this NYC institution. This is where you will hear the future of jazz, with some pretty outstanding acoustics. This is a listening room. It is not a bar but there is great wine served! One of my favourite places to perform, hang out in and drink, is Smalls Jazz Club and a must-visit for all jazz lovers-- the famed Village Vanguard.
Name three non-touristy things to do in The Big Apple.
1. Visit the Brooklyn Museum and have a bite of Caribbean food on Flatbush Avenue. 2. Go vintage/thrift shopping around town. 3. Have clam chowder in the Oyster Bar at Grand Central.
Lezlie Harrison will be performing at The Living Room (Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel, www.thelivingroomatbangkok.com) on Tue - Thu from 9:15pm onward and Fri - Sat from 8:45pm onward. Her last night here is Jan 28; make sure you catch at least one of her performances before she heads back to New York.