January 24, 2019

Let’s Fall In Love With June Bisantz

June Bisantz
What genre of music do you perform?
I’ve spent most of my musical career in jazz.  Although and I love singing all different kinds of music including country and pop, jazz is at the top of my list for being smart, spirited and sophisticated. It’s the kind of music that is eternally young and yet can grow old with you.
When did you start performing?
As a child, I played the violin and experienced the usual terrifying recitals and junior orchestra performances. I started singing professionally right after graduate school.  My creative life has always been divided between music and visual art, and after college, I majored in painting at Claremont Graduate University in Los Angeles. Studying art at the graduate level had been a dream of mine and I really loved it, but found myself struggling with the isolation of the studio and longing for  a more collaborative creative experience.  So when I got the opportunity to sing at a little nightclub in Santa Barbara I took it without hesitation – and that  turned out to be the start of my singing career.
What city and state are you based out of?
I was born in Connecticut and still live here – in Willimantic.  Over the years I’ve lived in  NYC – where I pursued my music career and worked as a graphic designer; Los Angeles – where I went to graduate school;  Santa Barbara – where I began performing; and Boston – where I studied painting at the Art Institute.  I’ve also lived in Vermont, Maine, Buffalo and briefly in Las Vegas.  But Connecticut is home to me.
What about playing music makes you happy?  
Playing music makes me happy, especially when the sound is beautiful. Then I feel excited and calm all at once – happy and transported.  There’s nothing else like it.  The magical thing about playing music is the emotional quality of sound – the way it reaches people, creates an instant community of performers and listeners – momentarily united and held by that beautiful sound.  Being part of that makes me happy – more than happy.
Enjoy Ct Live Interviews June Bisantz
What are your hopes for your future in live music?
Because my creative career has been a bit unconventional, I hardly know what to hope for – or expect – in the future.  After many years of thinking of myself as a visual artist, music became my entire life.  I made sacrifices for it and pinned a lot of dreams on it. Then, like the cartoon character who walks off a cliff, I looked down, saw that there was no firm ground underneath me and reinvented my life.  I restarted my career as a visual artist, became a university professor and concentrated on integrating visual art and music into a cohesive whole.  My visual art now has a performative aspect and my music has a stylistic visual aspect, and together they create a bridge.  So I would say my future is happening right now –  as an integrated, somewhat unpredictable mix of performance, music and art.
What other acts/musicians do you regularly play with?
Recently I have been very fortunate to perform and record with Alex Nakhimovsky – an extremely versatile, internationally recognized pianist who I met years ago; Norman Johnson – an unparalleled guitar player  who I’ve known and admired for many years and whose recently released CD “Get It While You Can” (Pacific Coast Jazz) is rapidly climbing the charts; and Matt Dwonsyk – a brilliant young bass player.  I also had the opportunity to perform with the legendary bass player Paul Brown in Japan last year – and to perform and record with Gabor Viragh a marvelous trumpet player and music professor at the Hartt School/UofH, who interprets Chet Baker on “Let’s Fall in Love:  June Bisantz sings Chet Baker”, with beautiful grace and fidelity.
Alex, Norman, Matt, Gabor and I will be performing at the Litchfield Jazz Festival on August 11 – which we’re very excited about –  and we’re also looking forward to performing at Japanalia in Hartford on November 9.

Here in Eastern Connecticut I work with a wonderful group of musicians that includes Joe Tomanelli, saxophone; Vin Rogers, trumpet; Phil Palonen, guitar and Roger Glidden, bass – all terrific jazz musicians and true gentlemen.
I also play fiddle with a large group of fiddlers who meet once a week to play traditional music and have fun. The group is led by two of my favorite people, Chuck and Noreen Morgan who make beautiful music together and create a supportive atmosphere of laughter and love that has motivated me to play and enjoy my fiddle again.
Enjoy Ct Live Interviews June Bisantz

Are you currently working on any projects? If so, what are they?
Yes!!  I’m so excited about my new project-in-progress!  It’s a continuation of the Chet Baker Project, begun over six years ago with “Let’s Fall in Love”.  The new CD is called “It’s Always You:  June Bisantz sings Chet Baker, Volume 2”,  and will include some of Baker’s less well-known vocal tunes like “The Night We Called it a Day”, “You’re Mine You” and a beautiful latin tune Baker sang with Astrud Gilberto called “Far Away”.
We’re in the studio this summer at Manor Recording in Middletown, CT – owned by Norman Johnson who is not only a stellar musician, but a first-rate recording engineer as well.  “It’s Always You” will be ready for release in fall 2013.
I’m designing the CD packaging –  using photos taken by my husband, photographer Harrison Judd – which brings visual art into the project and makes it a complete creative event for me.

What has been your favorite performance so far?

My favorite performances are whenever the music sounds beautiful and everyone is happy and having fun.  It doesn’t matter if there are five or five hundred people – at a night club, private party, back yard or concert stage.

Alex, Norman, Paul and I  had the opportunity to go to Japan last year with the Chet Baker Project and those were some pretty wonderful performances.  Everything came together to create a wonderful experience – the music, the venues and the audiences.  And we also performed at Japanalia in Hartford last fall – again, great audience, wonderful musicians and perfect venue – a beautiful little gem of a jazz club – as only Japanalia’s extraordinary owner/designer/impresario Dan Blow can create!

Enjoy Ct Live Interviews June Bisantz

Who are some of your favorite musicians?

I have a long list of people I love to listen too  (in addition to Chet Baker!)  To mention just a few-  Stevie Wonder, Blossom Dearie, Fred Astaire, Dean Martin, Smokey Robinson, Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Stephane Grappelli, Rosemary Cluny, June Christie, Allison Krauss, Peggy Lee, Erykah Badu, Ella Fitzgerald, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Louis Armstrong, Lyle Lovett, Patsy Cline, Bonnie Raitt, Patty Loveless, Doris Day – the list goes on and on.

What is your favorite instrument to play? Why?

My favorite instrument is my voice because it’s the one I know best.  And it’s so wonderfully portable – no matter where you are, you can always sing and calm yourself down or cheer yourself up – or celebrate a great case of the blues.

And I do love to play the fiddle – especially old-timey hoe-down stuff – even though I’m not very good.  I’d definitely like to learn more and get better.
I guess that’s really my hope for the future – to learn more and get better.