Jazz Monthly: We here at JazzMonthly.com are truly honored to be chatting with a multi – talented lady who is taking time out of her very busy schedule to spend some time with us today. Paula Atherton is a great singer, alto and soprano saxophonist, flutist, composer, and bandleader, and it all started for Paula in New York City.
She was born and raised in New York and Ms. Atherton began singing and studying the flute at the tender age of nine. Just a few years later, she began playing the alto sax… and so began her musical journey. Paula has performed in Monte Carlo, Portugal, throughout Japan and of course all over the United States. In 2004, Paula played the Blue Note in New York City with jazz pianist Hank Jones, a wonderful jazz pianist who played with Charlie Parker. In 2004 her first CD “Let Me Inside Your Love" debuted on the National Contemporary Jazz Charts. In 2006, a cut from that CD “I Long For Your Love” was released on Warner Europe on a CD called “Ladies Of Jazz.” She was joined on that CD by Natalie Cole, Candy Dulfer, Eliana Elias and other female jazz artists. Paula has performed with Michael Bolton on The Today Show, Rachael Ray, and Good Morning America. We have long waited for her new CD “Groove With Me” to be released, and we are very excited to say that it is out and ready for everyone to enjoy. Welcome Paula!
Paula Atherton (PA): Thank you for having me!
Jazz Monthly It’s our delight! Now I said that it all started for you in New York at the tender age of nine. Now you were a mere child at that age. Was it just the matter of a natural talent, you know, singing around the house… that kind of thing, Paula?
PA: I always loved music. I wanted to have a piano. I think I asked for a piano when I was five. My family didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t wind up buying one and there were no musicians in the family; so they just thought I was crazy! (Both laughing)
Jazz Monthly I’m laughing because most young kids at that age are asking for a pony or a bicycle, and here’s Paula Atherton, and she wants a piano!
PA: Yeah, I always loved music. My mother used to play a lot of music in the house. She liked Nat King Cole. There was always something about music that attracted me. I wanted the piano and that didn’t happen, so when I started school I sang in the chorus. When they started band, I had the opportunity to get an instrument… I ended up with the flute. Being in the same family as the saxophone, I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the logical place to go.
Jazz Monthly Absolutely. I see that you are very well influenced by many artists… everyone from “Bird” (Charlie Parker), to “Prez” (Lester Young) to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Did it all come out of your mom’s love for Nat King Cole and playing a lot of music at home? Was it just a natural extension of that?
PA: I can’t really tell you. It’s just when I started to hear Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and I heard Charlie Parker and Bill Evans playing the piano, it just struck something in me… it just really spoke to me!
Jazz Monthly Well, the thing that I find in your music, and I absolutely love… love your new CD, but it’s hard to put a label on Paula Atherton. I know that you’re, of course, in the Smooth Jazz or Groove Jazz category. But really, you’re music is Groove, Funk and Urban, Fusion and even some Latin in there. If you had to categorize your own music, Paula, what would you say? Or is it difficult to do that?
PA: I try to just write things that I feel, and not so much to try to fit in a category. I feel that the music on “Groove With Me” is somewhat eclectic. I feel that it kind of all fits together. I don’t feel that it’s disjointed, and I hope people feel the same way when they hear it. And I hope the fact that “eclectic” makes it interesting and not boring for the listener.
Jazz Monthly That’s a very good point! The other thing that I find about your CD is that it pops out on just how generous you are on this production. It’s really more of a “musical team”, a “musical family,” with your fellow musicians who are surrounding you here. I mean you let a lot of them “shine” as far as soloing. It’s real playing… it’s not homogenized in any way. So even the most diehard “jazz purist” in the traditional sense will enjoy it, and yet people from all genres of jazz I think will absolutely love this CD!
Tell us about your “supporting cast.” I guess that’s the best way to describe them.
PA: Well there are quite a few people on this CD, as you know, because you have a copy of it right?
Jazz Monthly Yes, and I absolutely love it!
PA: And you’ve seen all the pictures (laughing) on the back cover there and everybody’s name on it. Wow… it was really wonderful recording the CD. It was such a great experience. It took over four years, and I got quite a wonderful group of people in here. I’ve got: Greg Adams playing on two of the cuts…
Jazz Monthly Yeah, from Tower Of Power.
PA: Yeah… founding member and lead trumpet player from Tower Of Power. So he’s on “JB” and “You’re All I Need To Get By.” Chris Anderson’s also playing trumpet on there. He’s another wonderful trumpet player. He plays with “Southside Johnny.”
The great Stanley Banks, who has been playing with George Benson since the “Breezin” recording. I mean I don’t know if you have time for me to go through everybody. (both laughing) that’s on the CD! I don’t want to leave anybody out! (laughing) There are quite a few players on here.