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Sounds of Buffalo: Jazzbird

Becky Davis (vocals) interviewee:

Becky Davis is a professional vocalist from the Buffalo area and has performed all over Western New York for the past 20 years. Cited as a Critic’s Choice in January 2006 Buffalo News Gusto. A student of Edith Miller, of the University of Buffalo; Marilyn Barber of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus; Maria Goodrich of Community School of Music; the late jazz musician and educator, Chu Nero; Kenny Kaufmann and international jazz vocalists: Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dianne Reeves. Also performing voiceover commercials for Entercom radio — along with a televised music gig for a New York City cable station.

Jimmy Calabrese (piano): 

Owner of Soundscape productions, a full service recording studio and music production facility, Jim Calabrese has pursued a career in music composition and arranging, audio engineering, and piano performance. Managing WNY’s only all analog multi track studio, amassing a wide variety of vintage audio processing gear, microphones, and keyboards, in addition to 2 state of the art digital audio workstations, Soundscape clients are given the best of both worlds, the superior sound of analog tape and vintage processors, along with the consummate control available with HD digital audio. His credit list includes music for movies- (“Spookies”, “The Beep”,”Because I Am”) documentaries (“Unmasking the Mystery Of Alzheimer’s”) Miniseries- (“Hemmingway”) all with NYC based composer Ken Higgins. He also collaborated with new friends and musicians, Dyan & Lemel Humes to co-write “Where You Are” for Whitney Houston on Arista Records. His commercial and industrial credits include: Master Card, Phillips Electronics, Madison Square Garden, Xerox, Jacob& Co. Fisher Price, Hasbro Toys, Kodak. He also has done piano and rhythm tracks for: Ray Charles, Thelma Houston, Mickey Howard, Johnny Gil, and the Pointer Sisters along with a Gold Parents Choice Award for producing the lullaby album “Dream A Dream” with local songstress Mary Stahl.

Soundscape | 444 Vermont | Buffalo New York | | email

Greg Piontek (bass)

Greg a pioneer of the 5 string fretted and frettless electric bass, Greg was the first student to be a member of the University of Buffalo faculty jazz ensemble under Alan Tinney, featuring Louis Marino and Sam Falzone. Greg has performed with numerous national artists such as: Ernie Kriva, George Garzone; Roswell Rudd; DoDo Green, Al Tinney and Joe Madison. He’s performed with Larry Coryell, Joe Sample, Joey DiFrancesco and others. Greg has been performing on the upright bass for the past 25 years. He has performed with numerous groups: The Buffalo New Jazz Works Orchestra; What Would Mingus Do; Gamalon (original bass player); co-founder of Dinosaur (improve trio); Multi Jazz Dimensions (John Bacon); Petr Kotik and the SEM Ensemble; and his own group A New Moon. He contributed original compositions for many of his groups. Greg has taught music courses, applied bass lessons and jazz ensemble at Buffalo State College, ECC and Villa Maria College respectively.

tom-K-Buffalo-NYTom Kasperek (drums)

Tom started playing drums at the age of 7, studying with Buffalo’s Louis Marino. He went on to tour extensively with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra led by Buddy Morrow. Tommy has played for Peggy Lee; The Four Freshmen; Cab Calloway and Kevin O’Connell. He performs regularly for the Buffalo Philharmonic’s swing and pops concerts. Tom is also part of the Buffalo jazz scene playing for the Phil Sims Quartet as well as playing all group jazz and big band stuff. Along with a 5 year stint on the Mississippi Delta Queen steamboat — Tom has worked with Becky for the past few years.

How did the name JazzBird come about?

After a life time of singing professionally, I was thrilled to be asked to gig with Emile Latimer(congas and percussion) at Nietzsche’s in the early 90‘s. Emile has recorded with Nina Simone; Ritchie Havens; Spyro Gyra and Alison Pipitone, etc. JazzBird originated with Emile. I became JazzBird.

Where are you from originally?

Buffalo NY.

What is it like to perform in front of a crowd? Give me three words?

Soul expressing itself.

When and why did you start singing?

Both my parents played the organ. My Dad also played banjo; saxophone and the clarinet. As young as child of three, he would set me up on the table top and have me sing for his business associates. Dad would say: “she has perfect pitch”– something only a father would say!

Although I sang along with my folks at home, my fondest memories are of sitting with my grandfather, listening to his records on his phonograph. As I sang along, he’d get a twinkle in his eye and a special smile on his face. I was delighted. Even though I played various instruments throughout my life, I always came back to my love of singing. It’s how I express myself best.

What was the first tune you remember really singing well?

“You’ve Changed”, performed with Emile. I was pleasantly surprised by the response.

Describe your voice?

Intimate, innocent and honest. A handful of Buffalo players have told me that I remind them of Blossom Dearie — Jackie Jocko says I sound like Peggy Lee. (blush) Pianist John Hasselback tells me I don’t mimic other singers, that I have my own voice.

How would you describe your music style?

An fresh interpreter — cabaret. Bass player Mark Harris says: “ Sultry with an excellent delivery”. People come to hear the standards, and that’s what they get, straight ahead.

Did music come naturally to you?

Yes. It’s a big part of my brain! I hear lyrics and sounds everywhere!

Which famous musicians do you admire?

Ella; Shirley Horn; Patricia Barber; Ahmad Jamal; Oscar Peterson; Miles Davis; Chet Baker; Jim Hall; Joey DiFrancesco; Coltrane; Keith Jarrett; Bill Evans; Clifford Brown;

— so many others.

What was the best show you ever caught?

It’s hard to pick one. — Tops choices would be: Mark Murphy or Curtis Stigers, Eldar and Jane Monheit.

Do you sing originals/covers?

Covers. I love the standards. I think, using your gift, your soul and some imagination, they’ll sound fresh and beautiful. The standards have a life of their own, I just sift them through my Becky experience.

If you could sing with one famous person, who would that be?

Burt Bacharach and his orchestra. With all those strings and his piano — just knock my socks off! In former days – it would have been Count Basie.

What are your strengths?

Honesty and believability.. I sing tunes with melodies and lyrics that ring true with me. My voice reflects my essence.

What are your weaknesses?

Technical anything! –And, my piano player tells me I need to blow my horn more, he’s right about that.

Do I have a label? A recorded CD?

No. Not that I haven’t wanted to –but it’s definitely on my B-list. In fact, Jimmy and Greg and I just discussed doing something together in his studio.

Becky-Peggy-Buffalo-NYWhere and when is your next gig in this city?

Wednesday September 18th 6-8 at the Pan American Grill and Brewery in the Hotel at the Lafayette – part of the Jazz, Rhythm and Blue series. This gig will be a tribute to my friend and mentor in this business, Peggy Farrell. Janice Mitchell, Kathy Carr , Peggy and I will be performing tunes from Peg’s song book. It should be lovely.

(Contact: mobil 716-903-6083.

If you play in a group/band (or solo) here in Buffalo, and have an upcoming gig at a venue(s) in the city, consider sending buffalo rising an email requesting to be emailed a Q&A interview that we can then post, along with concert dates. It’s a fun and easy way to get your name in front of another audience that is interested in learning about the local music scene. The requirements are:
-You must be living in the Greater Buffalo region… or you must be plotting your return
-You must have a public show coming up in the city of Buffalo, as our focus is the urban landscape
-You must have a photo of the band
-Solo acts are also welcome
-Video is a plus
-CD/Album/poster art is welcome
-Links to Social Media sites are a bonus
-Ability to take accept both praise and/or criticism is a must
It is up to the discretion of Buffalo Rising whether or not to publish the interviews depending on nature of content submitted, or lack thereof. 
Please send requests here. Include “Sounds of Buffalo” in the subject box of the email.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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