Reviews & Press

JazzTimes-May 2011

Katy Bourne’s route to jazz has been peripatetic to say the least. Back in the 1980s, when her focus was fully on acting and writing, she bounced from Oklahoma to Iowa to New Mexico to the Northeast. In 1992 she took an extended break, re-emerging a few years later as lead singer for two Seattle-based blues bands. Soon afterward she discovered teacher Greta Matassa and concurrently unleashed her inner jazz stylist.

Now, at last, Bourne has released her debut album, a shining introduction to a vocalist who can swing as elegantly as the young Nancy Wilson while invading a lyric with both the insightfulness of Anita O’Day and the smolder of Julie London. Bourne, superbly assisted by a top-drawer foursome of local players—bassist Doug Miller, drummer Steve Korn, guitarist Chris Spencer and, most impressively, pianist Randy Halberstadt—focuses primarily on time-honored standards, ranging from a purringly frolicsome “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” to a dove-soft “True Love.”

Toward the end of this 12-track set, she visits more contemporary material with even greater success. Dave Frishberg’s too-rarely heard “Our Love Rolls On” is fittingly unfurled in gentle waves of fatalistic contentment. “Our Day Will Come” is utterly refreshed atop a bouncy bossa beat. But the session’s apex is Bourne and Halberstadt’s seven-minute, dream-state meander through the shadows of Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress.”

– Christopher Loudon

Seattle Jazz Scene- October 2007

On Tuesday night I decided to defect from the happenings at the Seattle Drum School and instead head over to Katy Bourne’s gig at Tutta Bella on Stone Way in Wallingford. Katy Bourne is a fun and entertaining vocalist who performs with a top notch rhythm section—this time it was Doug Miller on bass and Randy Halberstadt at the piano (filling in for Bill Anschell, who is the regular on this gig). In addition to this monthly stand up north, Katy is a regular performer at the Columbia City Tutta Bella, as well as various other venues around town.

The last time I stopped by this gig was last fall right after the big windstorm and the place was packed with people suffering from cabin fever and lack of electricity. The timing finally worked out to go support Katy again on this monthly gig—I’d been intending to make it back over there since it is such a fun hang with great food and music. I was in the mood for some of the fabulous Neopolitan pizza that Tutta Bella is famous for and the music is an added reason to go out on a Tuesday evening.

To my ears, it sounds like Katy has been influenced by Greta Matassa, and if I’m not mistaken, she was a student of hers at one point. I heard this influence in her singing the first time I ever heard her and I really dug it. Beyond this though, Katy brings her own enthusiasm and warm personality to her phrasing and repertoire. She’s a firecracker: engaging, friendly and this all come through in her singing. She is a true and respectful student of the music and delights in new-found approaches to familiar tunes. Especially cool was a rendition of “Night and Day” with the A-sections in 6/4 and the bridge in a hard-swinging 4/4. I also enjoyed the version of “In Walked Bud/Blue Skies” since it made it clear how the Monk tune is related to the standard. The tune that stuck with me though, was “Cry Me A River” and she certainly did it justice.

Doug Miller, of course, holds down the fort with his earthy, swinging bass lines, and is thoroughly complemented by Randy Halberstadt (and vice-versa). I left with a newer appreciation of Randy’s invaluable service to the area’s vocalists, and an ever-deepening respect for Doug’s playing. Katy asked me to bring a horn and sit in on a couple of tunes so I got to experience the musical happenings up close—after I finished my gelato and espresso of course. Katy Bourne’s nights at Tutta Bella are a fun and a recommended stop for when things settle down after the October jazz blitz…and be sure to tell the management how much you appreciate restaurants who have live music (and that includes the ballads!)

-Cynthia Mullis

Interview on Ad Alta Voce, with HILARY GARDNER- July 2015

Spotlight On…Katy Bourne

For all its downsides (vitriolic political flame-wars, pseudoscience masquerading as fact, and getting tagged in embarrassing photos from high school, to name a few), Facebook can be a pretty cool place.  I’d never have funded my album without social media, and Facebook makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with people, whether they live right here in New York City or halfway across the world.

katy-background-2Katy Bourne, a Seattle-based vocalist and writer, is one such cyber-friend.  We have a number of mutual friends in Seattle’s jazz scene, but we got to know each other in the virtual realm of Facebook.  After corresponding online, Katy and I finally met in person last summer when I did a mini-tour in the Pacific NW.

There really is no substitute for actual face time (not FaceTime), but since Katy’s in Seattle and we’re all scattered hither and yon, we’ll convene here on this blog for a little conversation.  Thank you, Katy!

Who or what inspired you to pursue a life in music?
I grew up playing alto saxophone, but beyond the school marching band, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for a fledgling young sax player in my hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma.  And nobody was spinning jazz for me, at least not when I was a kid.  As a teenager, I spent a fair amount of time with older kids—friends of my big sister’s.  They turned me on to many artists from a wide range of genres.  We listened to everything and went to a ton of shows (Some of my fondest memories are of sneaking into Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK with a fake I.D.).  It was during this time that I got hip to Pat Metheny, Tom Scott, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and other contemporary jazzers.  I didn’t discover many of the early greats, such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald, until college.

Vocationally-speaking, my focus has predominately been on writing over the years.  Although music was always a big part of my life, I had no inkling that I would end up singing jazz.  I got into singing a little by accident when I was asked to join a blues band here in Seattle.  I ended up singing with that group and a few others around town.  After one of those bands died a particularly nasty death, I decided to lick my musical wounds by studying jazz with the great vocalist Greta Matassa.  I was hooked instantly. It’s been a long road and, God knows, Greta deserves some kind of sainthood status for her patience with me.  I like to say that going from blues to jazz, for me, was like going from playing hockey to figure skating.  Finesse and refinement do not come naturally for a goober like me.  I’ve had to work hard.  I will always have to work hard.

In the course of your musical development, what has come most naturally to you? What has been the most challenging?
I think I assimilate rhythm pretty well and enjoy horsing around with different grooves and odd meters.  Being a writer helps my rhythmic sensibility.  Writing is rhythm.

The most challenging thing for me…and the thing I love the most…is scat singing.  Improvisation is a big, crazy adventure.  So many layers to navigate.  You not only have to have intelligent ideas but also the chops to execute.  I am a lifelong student.

If you were to choose another profession, what would it be, and why?
Dance and choreography.  I love to dance, both within the structure of a class or out on the dance floor.  For me, nothing is more blissful or liberating than the almighty get down.  I am happiest when I’m moving.  It’s visceral for me.  And it’s the ultimate tool for assimilating rhythm.  When I’m in my car, I listen to music and make up choreography in my head. (And frequently try out the choreography later, often in the kitchen.)  I’m completely infatuated withLes Twins.  To move like those guys….well, that would be the ultimate.

Another very desirable profession for me would be sports journalism.  I’m insane for football and I love to write.  Seems like a damn perfect marriage to me.  I actually haven’t ruled this out as potential pursuit in the future.  Stay tuned.

Imagine that you can hire any musicians (from the past or present) for the gig of a lifetime. Who is in your “dream band?”
OK, that’s an impossible question, and the answer would be different on any given day.  I can tell you this much: I’d love to sing tricked-out standards in a duo gig with Hiromi in a cocktail lounge in outer space; I’d love to mainline the wild spirit of Gene Krupa and unleash across the cosmos on the two and four; I’d love to float in the Zen-like elegance of Eddie Gomez, perhaps channeling Bill Evans along the way.  Closer to home, if I ever had the chance to work with Randy Porter, I would die a happy woman.

bourne_fates_cdWhat’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, on or off the bandstand?
To always turn back to the music.  No matter what is going on during a gig—weirdness with the room or the crowd, sound problems, conflict with someone on the bandstand, whatever—ALWAYS turn back to the music.  In essence, get yourself (and your ears) back to the present moment.  That’s where everything is happening.  Listen.

What are your current musical obsessions? Who/what is in steady rotation when you listen to music lately?
Industrial Revelation has been dominating the iPod this summer.  Those guys are on another level.  I’ve also been revisiting many of the artists that I grew up with such as The Who (as well as Pete Townshend’s solo recordings), Hall & Oates, and Todd Rundgren.  I just saw Todd at the Crocodile in June, and the cat still completely has it.

Fun Fact…
I have a tattoo of a guy shoving a fork into a toaster.