“Lots of my opera-singing friends and musical acquaintances were a little envious of the fact that I could find a kind of freedom in jazz,” says Adi Braun. Moving away from the family business of classical music (father Victor and brother Russell are both internationally famous operatic baritones) she took the plunge into what she calls “cabarazz” a few years ago and now feels thoroughly at home in the world of improvisation.
Toronto resident and (as she jokingly points out) Kathleen Turner look-alike, Braun is currently celebrating the release of her second CD The Rules Of The Game. The game in question centres on matters of love and intimacy. As with most games, there are explicit and hidden rules. Some of the strictest sets of rules are those that govern the world of opera and classical music and she trained for many years to respond to them.
“Perhaps I will always creatively struggle with a structure that says there is a ‘correct’ way of producing sound or interpreting a lyric.”
She feels better about her singing now. “It took a while to get my mind to relax into exploring different sounds. The judge inside me had kept me from those further explorations.”
She is careful to point out that her basic method respects composers by not straying too far from their original melodies. “If you change them so much that they become virtually unrecognizable… does that process of change become the only point of doing the songs?”
In fact, the more she is moved by a particular song the harder she tries to stick to its authentic melody, more inclined to concentrate instead on the colour of the words and the meaning of the text.
She admits, however, that the ability to make interesting changes in melody, whether overt or subtle, is one of the most delicious freedoms that jazz music allows its artists. That freedom is what enables her (and jazz singers in general) to make instant decisions that can result in musically happy consequences. “Just leaving things to chance is a wonderful opportunity that one is given by jazz.”
Save for a few superstars, the life of a typical jazz vocalist is a patchwork of jobs and commitments. Braun will soon embark on a season packed with club gigs and concert performances in Toronto, New York, Vancouver and Ottawa. But in the meantime, with the support and love of her longtime partner, lawyer and classical pianist Linda Ippolito, Braun has had to pull away from the creative world of choosing material, singing and recording, and step into the marketing business on behalf of her new self-produced album.
She thinks that her critically celebrated first album, Delishious, was an opening advertisement, saying in effect, “Here I am, here is what I can do musically and vocally.” But in the new release, she says she is far more concerned with, “telling a particular story that my heart wanted to tell. In order to do that successfully, I wanted to wait until everything was properly aligned both musically and vocally. As a result I feel that I have exposed a lot more of my true self in this album.”
Her beautiful voice and the superlative musicianship of her band are equal to the task of revealing herself. She has chosen well her material, mixing great standards by such giants as Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and Fats Waller with a number of outstanding compositions by Canadian composers. Certainly, any album featuring Kurt Weill, Gordon Lightfoot, Edith Piaf and Shirley Eikhard songs deserves an enthusiastic audience.