Natasha Miller: Press
Catching Up With Natasha (Alameda Sun)
Trying to keep up with Natasha Miller is like trying to put a genie in a bottle on a windy day. She’s here, there and everywhere, volunteering her music in the community, jetting to Los Angeles to meet with Hollywood muckymucks and crashing back at home to share cozy dinners with her daughter.
But whether she’s onstage – playing violin in her string quartet, singing jazz or pop, playing guitar or piano – or behind the scenes, producing events and concerts, Miller always has her feet on the ground. She speaks with calm confidence, and gives just a hint at what’s ahead for the 30-something Alameda singer.
A full slate of performances is set through the next few months, including a gig at Kelley’s of Alameda, the Alameda Education Foundation’s Brandenburg concert and the live recording of her fourth CD at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. She calls that event “very exciting.” At Yoshi’s, Miller will record a new set of Alameda songwriter Bobby Sharp’s previously unrecorded songs. “They are just as elegant and wonderful, if not more so,” than the first CD’s songs, she said.
Sharp started writing music more than half a century ago, attending the Greenwich School of Music in 1946, transferring to Manhattan School of Music in 1948. Influenced by his life in Harlem, the sounds he enjoyed at the Savoy Ballroom and the Apollo Theatre, and artists like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Charlie Barnett, he began writing pop ballads. Those songs lay untouched and unrecorded for several decades until Sharp met Miller.
“These are songs no one has heard yet,” Miller said. Whereas the first CD songs were performed in an improvisational jazz style, the set for the second CD is being professionally arranged by notable arrangers, according to Miller. “It’s a much more mature sound, more structured,” she said. The CD will be released on Miller’s independent label, Poignant Records, this fall.
Since meeting Sharp about two years ago, Miller and Sharp have collaborated on numerous projects, focusing on getting Sharp’s music out into the world. Sharp penned what was to become the smash Ray Charles hit “Unchain My Heart” while sitting in his parents’ living room, headphones plugged into their electric Wurlitzer. With Charles’ death and the recent release of the bio-pic “Ray,” new media attention has come to Sharp, and to Miller as Sharp’s avatar. Miller’s first CD of Sharp’s songs, “I Had a Feelin’,” is being played all over the world on jazz radio and hit No. 58 on the JazzWeek jazz chart.
Miller recently went to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the taping of the Ray Charles tribute with Mary J. Blige and Usher; following a successful engagement at the Vic for Jazz in Santa Monica, she was photographed and interviewed by jazz critic Don Heckman for the Los Angeles Times. Since that article, film producers in Los Angeles have been courting Miller and Sharp in hopes of a feature film about their lives and partnership. “They were beating down the door, which was thrilling,” Miller said. The pair recently signed a nine-month option for the rights to their story.
Although Miller is amused at the possibility of who might portray her in a movie about their lives, she is philosophical about the end result. “We’re just happy to be asked. However, the promotional vehicle that the show would be would be phenomenal. So we’re hoping it goes, so the music would go out to all these people.”
In the meantime, Miller continues to run her Alameda company, Entire Productions, fulltime, performing and setting up events and shows for private industry and for such clients as the Port of Oakland and City Center in Oakland. She’s also cataloguing Sharp’s music in spreadsheets and files, sorting out the various songs and deciding who might be suitable to record them.
“It’s so thrilling and exciting, working with producers and promoters who work with larger (name) artists,” Miller said. “For right now, I get to sing all of (Sharp’s songs) but we’re interested in having other artists perform them as well.” Thus far, Mary J. Blige and Norah Jones have received songs, and Diana Krall is on the short list.
“We hope that they’ll record (the songs) and then the royalties will help fund more recording,” she said.
It’s hard to determine who gets more out of the relationship, Miller or Sharp. They are both delighted with each other’s acumen, talent and friendship, and are at ease with their plans to take the world by storm. Although Miller wrote a lot of songs in the past, at present she has set her pop career aside. “I’ve written a little bit here and there, but since meeting Bobby, his music has taken precedence,” she said. “I’ll always be more a singer than a writer.”
Of all her many jobs, Miller readily acknowledges that her most important is the most basic. “I’m the mama of Bennett,” her 9-year-old daughter. “That’s my best job.”
As for the “Evening of Brandenburg Concertos,” featuring Frederica von Stade, conductor Michael Morgan, cellist Emil Miland, Josh Cohen and Miller, she said, “People will get to see me in a whole other way.”
The March recording gig will feature accompanying musicians Josh Nelson, piano; Jon Evans, bass; Jason Lewis, drums; Rob Roth, sax; Jeff Lewis, trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam Theis, trombone; Jessica Ivry, cello; and Liz Prior Runnicles, viola. Grammy-nominated producer Bud Spangler will be recording the CD. Sharp and Miller are slated to perform a duet entitled, “As the Years Come and Go” featuring Miller on violin.
Natasha sings at Kelly’s of Alameda, 1313 Park St., Monday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m.; plays violin in the Bach Brandenburg Concerto Saturday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m. at Auctions by the Bay; sings Monday, Feb. 14 at noon, Oakland City Center (free); and sings with orchestra for live CD recording Monday, March 21, at Yoshi’s of Jack London Square at 8 and 10 p.m. Visit www.natashamillerweb.com for more information.
Miller’s CDs are available at local merchants Vines, Whales and Friends, Wolf & Hare, Three Wishes and Art & Soul.
Contact Julia Park at firstname.lastname@example.org