Jazz Monthly: Just when you thought you’ve heard the zenith of classic voice and renditions, along comes my next guest here at JazzMonthly.com. Listening to her music is an unobstructed view of greatness, like looking through Hubbell and vividly seeing the key ingredients of what makes this artist a one-of-a-kind. And let me tell ya, she has got some swagger. You’ve got to hear her great new solo debut album and it is appropriately called It’s About Time. Please give a standing ovation welcome to the incomparable Ms. LaTanya Hall. LaTanya, how are you, my friend?
LaTanya Hall (LH): I’m fantastic. How are you?
Jazz Monthly: I’m just great, thank you, and I must say I have just been marinating in this great new record. I love every tune on this record.
LH: Thank you so much.
Jazz Monthly: So when I think about—and we’ll get into a little bit of some of the great things you’ve done over the years—when I think about what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve had the joy of experiencing in your musical career, those three words resonate very loudly and have such a deep meaning: It’s About Time. Talk a little bit about what It’s About Time means to you.
LH: You know, it’s funny. My father helped me actually come up with that title because I remember when I spoke to him and I said “I’m finally gonna record the solo album that I’ve always wanted to do.” The first words out of his mouth were “Darn, it’s about time!” (Both laugh.) I’ve been in the music business for a while and I’ve sung with a lot of really amazing people and sung on other people’s records. However, it was time for me to step out and do my own thing and doing the music that I love and the music that I grew up with and was influenced by, so I feel very lucky and very blessed.
Jazz Monthly: Speaking of growing up with music, you come from a musical family. Your parents were great artists as well.
LH: Yeah, my father was a great piano player and my mother was a singer. They never achieved any level of fame beyond locally where we lived, but they certainly instilled me with a great passion and a great respect for music.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely. Do you reflect back on some of the things that you experienced watching your parents and some of the things that they said to you now?
LH: Oh yeah. I grew up listening to all the greats in the house like Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday and all that stuff, and my father used to sit with me in the living room sometimes when those records were playing and say “Now listen. Listen to how they’re telling you a story,” and that was probably the greatest thing….the greatest gift that he gave to me was not just being concerned with the notes or always hitting the right thing, but really being able to communicate a story through song. There are a lot of great artists out there, but the people that really touch me the most when I hear them are those who make me experience something.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, I feel you on that and speaking of experiencing something, you have experienced a great deal. I know you had the honor and pleasure of performing for and with some of the greats in music. I mean, when I think about you being able to perform at the All-Star Tribute to Quincy Jones, that must have been a fantastic experience that you’ll never forget.
LH: That was amazing. That was actually last year and everybody sang. I mean, Patti Austin organized the whole event and we had Gloria Estefan and James Ingram, Siedah Garrett. There were so many amazing people up on that stage and it was truly an honor to be there and to work with all of them, so again, a great gift.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely. Talk to me a little bit about it—and I’m being somewhat recent a little—but talk to me about working with Angelo (DiPippo). That’s just got to be something that is dear to your heart because what a great arranger, composer and musician.
LH: Yes, definitely all of the above, and I actually met Angelo about eight years ago. I was hired as a session singer for an artist that he was producing—he was self-producing a record—and I ended up working with Angelo in the studio for quite a few years on many, many different varied projects. I had just done a demo of some songs that I love that I put together with some musician friends, and out of my respect for him and out of my respect for his arrangements and for his great talent as a producer and arranger, I asked him if he would listen and give me his input. He came back to me several months later. I thought he had actually forgotten about it. He called me and he said “I want to do a record with you.” And honestly, it was the record I always had dreamed could be made, you know, using all organic instruments, the most spectacular arrangements, and Angelo has such a beautiful voice through arranging. They’re intricate arrangements yet they still allow me to shine through vocally. And the way he was able to take a song that has been a standard and been around for a long time and sort of make it something unique and make it individual, playing to his strengths and to my strengths, was a great accomplishment, I think.
Jazz Monthly: Yes. How often over the years did you think about doing a solo record?
LH: Oh my Gosh, since I could remember. (Both laugh.) Since I could remember, you know? And I have done records before that never made it out into the public forum, but it was always somebody else’s vision of what I was as an artist.
Jazz Monthly: Right.