The Cyndra Van Clief Jazz Sextet wrapped up the season at The Cardinal Café in Scottsville this past Sunday night. The sextet plays jazz music from the 1930s, and features vocals, piano, bass, guitar and flute. Van Clief says she is very excited about playing Scottsville, which is her adopted hometown, and also where her church (she sings in the choir) is located. Cardinal Café presented the band’s premiere performance, and you can look for them to play more around town. I got to ask Van Clief about the music that she and the band like to play.
Spencer Lathrop: Early music?
Cyndra Van Clief: My father was a pretty good musician, without formal training, but he had his own style. I was always encouraged by my father. My grandfather played too. As a kid I was trained in classical piano. I took up drums in elementary school, at a time when I was almost discouraged from playing the drums. I played timpani in high school as well as marimba. When I got to college I had to make some choices about what I would study. You know how it is when you are good at something for your age, and then you get older and you are not as good for your age anymore. It happens. But I had a lot of fun playing musical theater.
The music of Cole Porter. Henry Mancini, who wrote “Moon River.” The Gershwins. George Gershwin is my absolute favorite. Rhapsody in Blue and The Piano Preludes. The Preludes have the melody, the harmony and the dissonance, but the trick is using the piano as a drum set. [She plays some]. You are doing it on the piano. And, at that time, you had to live within a structure, and do great things within that structure. Gershwin lived in the structure, and he made it jazzy. He amazes me. He could capture the sound of a lazy river, which is just brilliant. In An American in Paris, there was not only the sound of the city, but he also pulled out American soul.
Other musical loves?
I like black gospel music, and I love the opportunity to go down to Scottsville and play with The Voices of Unity Choir at The New Green Mountain Baptist Church. Kelvin Reid is the director and it is a ministry of music. It is a great way to connect and celebrate through the gift of music. I would also like to get together a group that performs old American hymns, with their influence from Scotland, Ireland and Germany.