It's hard to describe how difficult it is to be a good jazz singer. Jazz is such a nuanced, sometimes overwhelming experience, that vocalizing it is, at times, akin to juggling bulldozers. And crap, man, bulldozers are heavy.
Which is why when singer Tianna Hall's music got dropped in our lap (via Houston Press Music Award winner Jennifer Grassman), she was ushered up to the front of the Artist of the Week line. She is talented, personable and entirely capable of corralling a certain amount of mystique; she even possesses that smoky stare every jazz singer should have.
So we bugged her a bit and asked her to answer all sorts of silly questions, including some about Montell Jordan, gangs, time traveling and the Karmin Covers lady.
Rocks Off: First, tell everyone everything they need to know about Tianna Hall in exactly six words.
Tianna Hall: Mommy by day, jazz nerd by night. I cheated. That's 7 words.
RO: So this Radiohead cover ("Creep," above) is pretty much the coolest thing that has ever been done. Have you done any other covers since?
TH: I do a lot of covers of songs from other genres of music and throw them into the jazz world. My next CD with the Mexico City Jazz Trio - who I also recorded my first CD with - will include that Radiohead song along with 10cc's "I'm Not In Love" and Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." Why the hell not?
RO: Could we possibly persuade you to do a version of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It"?
TH [sings]: THIIIIS IS HOWWWW WEE DEWWW IT! Why the hell not? I do a bossa nova version of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" and a swing version of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." That's the beauty of improvisation. There are no bad songs.
RO: Speaking of, how many times did you say, "I'm soooo much better than that chick" when you watched the girl from those Karmin Covers video?
TH: Ummmmm, I have no idea who the chick is from the Karmin Covers video is or even what that is. Do I lose badass points now?
[Googles Karmin Covers]
Okay, yeah... no.
RO: Singer Jennifer Grassman is the one that should be credited with helping us find your music. Do all of the talented female vocalists run around the town together, thuggin' and whatnot like rappers? Like, do you and Grassman ever head over to Greenspoint Mall and just rob people and shit?
TH: You know this. Naw, we just stick to tagging. Look out for Houston Chick Singer Crew tags all over the city.
Jennifer has been really supportive of me and it's extremely flattering. I think that's how it should be in the music community. If there's a musician you're a fan of, chances are they dig another musician and can help the quality talent get recognized. For instance, I'm totally into Tody Castillo and we've been known to share bassist Steve Brown. Too bad he took his ass to Austin. Lame.
RO: Can you talk a bit about your new music? For those who have never heard your stuff, what'd be the one song you'd point them towards were you concerned with winning them as fans?
TH: Hmmmm, that's a good question. Honestly, I'm really critical of my music but I'm hoping some of the cross-genre stuff I'm working on for the new CD will appeal to a broader group of people. I think you made a good choice in featuring the "Creep" cover that Debora Smail of Reality Photo and Alex Luster of Shoot, Edit, Sleep did for me. They're hip, creative and kind people. I think I've made lifelong friends with them both. Word.
RO: Lastly, and this is an exceptionally precise and researched question: When we listen to one of your songs - let's say "Too Marvelous For Words" - it's kind of hard to believe that you're not this sort of time-traveling phantasm. So, are you? Are you a time-traveling phantasm?
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TH: Yes. Yes I am. My secret is out. Please don't publish that statement. The black vans will be here for me soon enough.
Tianna Hall performs 10:30 a.m. at Bistro Alex in Hotel Sorella, 6:30 p.m. the same day at Tasting Room Uptown Park, and every other Monday at Sambuca Jazz Cafe downtown, next on July 25. Follow Tianna on Twitter at @TiannaHall and get her music via her Web site.