It wasn’t until singer Tamar Korn inherited her grandmother’s Ella Fitzgerald record at sixteen that she listened to very much jazz. “I was excited at the idea of being able to change the melody and rhythm of the written music,” says Korn. “I was so trained in strict forms where you play just what is written that improvisation came as an epiphany through her.”
Shadowed by the white noise of a crowd, the 29-year-old singer generally assumes a humble stance in the corner while instruments build the mood. Suddenly, and seemingly from thin air, Korn’s soprano sound flutters through the room, slipping from one note to the next and drawing in the listener with a gentle, romantic air. Everybody in earshot hushes as their senses center around her classic sound.
Raised by musically inclined parents – her father is a violinist – Korn was classically trained on piano, and as fascinated as she was by the sound of jazz, she still felt a bit intimidated of scatting and diving head first into the chaotic feel of the sound.
“I started to not be scared of dissonance; if I repeated a shape melodically and rhythmically and built upon it, I started to see a trajectory, a musical idea, and that’s what a solo was,” says Korn.
Korn continued her exploration through her college years, during which she studied experimental theater and started to learn the bounds of her voice. “That was a time of great expansion in my vocal imagination,” remarks Korn.
The California native has found herself in New York for the last 11 years, due in large part to collaborators guitarist Jake Sanders and clarinet player Michael Magro. While hearing them play, Korn started to learn about the many veins of jazz, specifically New Orleans’ Orchestral, and began to see the strong ties between jazz and her classical roots.
“It seems clear that so called ‘old’ time American music is resonant today, and really need not be addressed as antiquity or attempts to ‘replicate’ the past,” says Korn. “I think American roots music had been neglected to a good extent overall in recent consciousness and digging back into the annals of songs and relating honestly to their poetry and character only brings clarity and vision about life present and future.”
Korn has performed professionally for The Cangelosi Cards for the last five years. The group pays melodic homage to jazz and country tunes from the ’20s and ’30s. She also dabbles in Lichtman’s Braincloud, a more Western Swing-based troop, and most recently Gaucho, a gypsy jazz ensemble with whom she’s written her first original materials.
Between all her endeavors, Korn has gone through periods of playing up to six gigs per week, and her music has taken her to all edges of the map – Canada, France, Lithuania and most recently China.
Returning home just in time for the Fortnight Journal Benefit at Southpaw, Korn will open the line up of emerging and established talent, and finds inspiration in Patti Smith, the luminary of the night.
“I hear her voice communicating words with an elemental nature, as she seems to embody her understanding and experience of the words in that moment,” says Korn. “My affinity and aim are to be exploring the resonance of words and discovering new and expanding experiences of their meaning, I suppose this is a similarity I may have with Patti Smith.”
Photo by Ananda Lima