Vancouver
3 min

Smooth as good jazz

Martina Griffiths is a ray of moonshine

OCTANE SPECIAL: Martina Griffiths sings the classics and audience requests-and her camp song. Credit: TJ Ngan

Michael Venus: So tell me what you have been up to and about your weekly gig at Octane.



Martina Griffiths: Every Saturday, my band (Johnny B on piano, Steph Fournier on bass, Ilona Weiss on alto/soprano saxophone) and I whoop it up at Octane on Davie Street. It’s great being in the hub of all the party action in the West End, and my band and I love showing up ready for our weekly party. The Octane owners (Darin and David), staff, customers and atmosphere are all fabulous and friendly.



The music we play has quite an eclectic flair. We jazzify, country swing, funk, blues, improvise our way through standards, originals and not-so-standard tunes. Every week, we bring new tunes to play and experiment with, but some songs are requested weekly. Some audience favourites: jazzy Prince tunes “When Doves Cry,” and “Kiss”; animated and sexy “Cruella De Ville” and “Spiderman”; funky and smooth “Summertime” and “Wayfaring Stranger.” Every evening, the staff brings up a hand-written request for the “Camp Song.” Let me explain. One evening, as we were sitting around after a gig, I sang them a little song my 10-year-old friends and I used to sing together at camp, and they have been requesting it ever since. We’ve jazzed it up and at the end of the evening, we usually have the whole audience singing along. It goes like this:



I love you, you love me,



Homosexuality.



People think we’re just friends.



But we’re really lesbians.



MV: Describe your sound and some of your musical influences.



MG: I have been described as a vocally dynamic performer, playfully seductive, a natural storyteller with a good sense of humour, and having an awesome vocal range. I draw from a number of musical styles including jazz, blues, musical theatre, Latin and vocal improvisation. I have performed in a variety of musical venues and festivals across Canada including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in a performance called Vivo y Festivo! at the Orpheum Theatre, at The Vancouver Sacred Music Festival and at The Women’s Voices Festival in Ottawa.



I have even had some original music featured in a few independent films. My biggest influences are people I actually know and get to work with, more so than people I just listen to and whose music I enjoy.



These include my band, Rhiannon, Dee Daniels, Miles Black, Sal Ferreras, Bibiane Hellsten and too many other amazing teachers, instrumentalists and vocalists to mention.



However, having said that, I am discovering how much all the songs I have heard and loved over the years are creeping up and getting into my set lists. Overall, I sincerely believe that music is a healing art. It’s our first voice and our connection with Spirit. I’ve really fallen in love with jazz, but this is just one musical genre. It’s lovely, but there are other genres to explore. I want to get really wild with music and cross boundaries.



MV: How long have you been singing?



MG: I have been singing my whole life, but for some reason music got put on the backburner. About 10 years ago, I started singing casually around town and it was only a few years ago that I decided to go back to school and study music full-time. After graduating from the Jazz Program at Vancouver Community College nearly three years ago, I have definitely been making up for lost time.



MV: So are you from Vancouver? Gimme a lil’ herstory lesson on Martina Griffiths.



MG: No. I was born in Montreal, and mostly raised in Ottawa. I travelled all around Canada when I was 19 and ended up on the West Coast. I have been living here ever since.



MV: When you finish a show and come off stage and into the audience do you ever have star-struck ladies who want you to croon them?



MG: So far, I’ve had no requests for private crooning, although I have had a few drinks bought for me on occasion, smiles and CD sales. Oh, there was this one time when a woman came up while my band was playing, grabbed me and started leading me in a dance.



MV: I’ve heard that a lot of vocalists have a huge sex drive and like to fuck for hours. Is this true, and if so, will you tell me what your secrets are?



MG: Who has the time? The prep and business aspect of this industry keep me very occupied. My sax player (Ilona), however, has some extra time on her hands and is actively looking for an “Action” babe. I think I have been living vicariously through the band’s after-gig sharing and reminiscing about “getting some” stories. Sometimes, they can get pretty hot and steamy. Next question.



MV: What can we anticipate in the future from you?



MG: I am still celebrating the release of my contemporary jazz CD, Powerful Baby, that can be picked up at Little Sister’s or from me Saturday nights at Octane. Soon, I hope to make a new demo CD with my current band swinging our new tunes, and then shop it around. I have a couple of collaborative improv show concepts which involve dance and vocals stirring in the creative pot. Basically, just expect to hear and see a lot more of me-creatively that is! You’ll be able to check out what I am up to at: www.MartinaGriffiths.com.