The Rocks Off 100: Tianna Hall, Singer of Sweet Songs

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.

Who? You could argue that Tianna Hall is the best jazz singer in all of Houston. I mean, you could argue against it too, but it's like arguing that the moon landing was faked.

Her smoky voice is a fine mix of skill and improvised magic, and it's landed her on the Grammy nomination ballot three times. Name any high-class Houston gathering that could use a set of pipes on loan from an angel, and Hall has been there owning every inch of the stage.

By day she's a full-time mom who freelances graphic design for local recording studios, and works on providing other musicians with high-quality Web sites.

Home Base: Hall and her band don't rehearse anywhere but on the stage, unless a particularly demanding arrangement calls for some kind of special session. Since jazz is mostly based on dancing around the chord progressions, she gets all the practice she needs while performing. Hall has regular gigs at Sambuca, Solea, and the MKT bar at Phoenicia, but her absolute favorite spot is Cezanne.

Good War Story: "Hmmm, I have a recent one. I'm very, VERY pregnant and just last weekend I was booked to play an outdoor festival," begins Hall.

It was pouring. We were supposed to have a 'band tent' with refreshments, drinks, etc. It did not exist. We were supposed to play at 7 p.m. We got bumped to 8. There was supposed to be two stages, there ended up being one, so all the acts were combined and given a half-set to play.

Meanwhile, we've all been there with our gear since 5, as they requested, for artist check-in. We're all soaked, I'm grumpy, pregnant and my hair, face and clothes are a disaster.

I was nearly convinced I was going to be electrocuted by all the gear being plugged in on a drenched stage and that was going to be how I went out. Not at all the glamorous exit I intend to make some day.

Why Do You Stay in Houston? You might imagine that folks tell Hall she should go to New York and try to make it up there, and you'd be right. That being said, she doesn't feel the slightest need to work herself to death from a tiny Brooklyn apartment at $20 gigs in an oversaturated market. Instead, she enjoys Houston's low cost of living and thriving art scene.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "My biggest pet peeve would have to be the undercutting of a fellow musician on a job," says Hall. "If you want a gig that bad, go set up a job at another venue at the going rate rather than lower the pay scale/economy for the rest of us trying to make a living as musicians."

5 Desert Island Discs:

  • Jane Monheit, Home
  • Kurt Elling, Flirting With Twilight
  • Sarah Vaughan, Sarah Vaughan Sings the Ellington Songbook vol. 1 & 2
  • John Coltrane, Ballads
  • The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album

Best Show Ever: "I had a show at Cezanne in February with the Mexico City Jazz Trio to showcase all the music that we had just recorded that week. I love what we created on this project and I couldn't be more proud."

First Song You Ever Fell In Love With: "The Way You Look Tonight."

Tianna Hall performs at Sambuca Jazz Cafe 7 p.m. Monday, November 12 and at the Grove restaurant at Discovery Green 3 p.m. Saturday, November 17. Find out more about her at tiannahall.com.

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