“Vocalist Amber Epp has made a name for herself singing with Papa Mambo and Trio Bembe.
Her effortless singing in Spanish, grooving to a Latin beat is memorable.
Now she’s about to release her first solo jazz cd. It’s called Inside Outsideand it features 12 wide-ranging songs, including five that she wrote herself.
SCENE asked Epp to explain how a Mennonite girl from Steinbach landed up singing jazz and Latin music.
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I grew up with a very strong choral tradition (Mennonites are hearty singers!), and I seized every singing opportunity that came my way. I discovered jazz as I finished high school, when my choir teacher, KristelPeters, played It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing for us in class. I went home and looked up the song, and was introduced to jazz giants like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I was hooked!
For my 18th birthday, my parents took me to the Hang, a weekly jazz jam session put on by the University of Manitoba jazz faculty, and that was it – I knew what I wanted to do. It took a few months to build up the courage to sit in and sing a tune. I finally did it – and fell flat on my face! But I got up the next week and tried again.
Six months later, I was in the Jazz Program at the University of Manitoba, having the time of my life. I loved all the cool chords, new rhythms, and the excitement of improvisation – things that I hadn’t experienced while growing up performing mostly classical music.
Once I moved to Winnipeg, I met more of the city’s musicians, particularly those who play Latin music. I loved it right away. I would follow Rodrigo Muñoz (Papa Mambo) around, asking him to show me how to play the claves and ask what they were singing. I even faked my way through Spanish for quite a while, and I tried to keep up with the dance moves too. Mennonite rebellion!.
Eventually, I became part of Papa Mambo, formed my own Latin group (Trio Bembe), and even went to Cuba for three months to study music there.
Though I perform a lot of Latin music these days, I felt that this was the year to do a jazz album – almost like returning to my first love. I enjoy performing both musics equally, and mixing the two works out really well.Inside Outside has some bossa novas and Cuban grooves, but you’ll also hear some traditional swing, and even a Joni Mitchell tune.”
From: By Sandra Thacker, CBC News Posted: Nov 30, 2013 3:28 PM CT