Jazz performer Cynthia Holiday began her career in 1990 with a band called Kiss & Tell and would go on to learn the intricacies of jazz standards and singing from the likes of Duke Anderson, Earl May, and Harry Whitaker. Her voice has been heard throughout the world from New York City’s Birdland Jazz Club all the way to Siberia. Rolling Out recently caught up with the accomplished songbird to talk about her roots and the future of jazz.
Tell me about your background and how you became interested in jazz.
I am originally from Newark, NJ., I was raised around jazz and, of course, in the church. My interest in jazz began with my father. He was a trumpet player and a band leader. Our house was where the musicians had practice. My mother played Sara V, Joe Williams, and Ella Fitzgerald; those that made the genre poplar.
What was your first meaningful gig?
The first meaningful experience was when a bass player named Earl May invited me to sit in with his group at a club called Shanghai Jazz.
How did your record deal come about?
I was working full-time for a major beverage corporation as a marketing executive, traveling, and performing with my father’s band. We were able to get the right producer and we made the CD about five years ago. It was called Cynthia Holiday … All the Way.
What other forms of music do you enjoy?
I enjoy some hip-hop, classical, blues, old school R&B, and even some country.
Do you think jazz will ever be as popular as it once was?
I do and the reason is because our young artists are forming their own record labels and gaining control over the music they create which will allow them to explore beyond the same beat and music. And it’s up to us to pick up the phone and call the radio station to request new music. It’s coming.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming jazz artists?
Stay focused. Decide what you want to do. Learn who you are as an artist and know that it doesn’t happen overnight. Understand the social media marketing and hang in there.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently shopping the CD and we will see what happens. I’m also looking forward to some international travel. Last year I did a six-city tour in Siberia. I have some things coming up in Japan. I feel blessed. So far, so good. It’s all good.