Natasha Miller: Press
Natasha Miller is one of those people. You know – the kind that always seems to have one thousand balls in the air yet manages to somehow keep the juggling act going in a seemingly effortless manner while smiling through all of it. Even if meeting her in her environment you’d hardly know that for all practical purposes she’s really at work. When watching her entertain as a vocalist, most would never know that while off stage she very often is the person who’s organized the entire event at which she’s performing, perhaps a good reason for the name of her entertainment booking company - Entire Productions. It’s an apt description of Natasha in general as she is also mom to a teenager, a music producer, a record label owner, a trained classical violinist, and a songwriter – who plays guitar and piano. In addition, she administers a publishing catalog and is in the process of adding artists and songs…
…She knew from a very young age that she’d be a musician and she particularly wanted to be a singer. As an elementary school student, she and all other public school students in Des Moines were enrolled in music classes and taught to read music as a requirement. She started by taking group violin lessons in fourth grade; she went on to become the youngest member of the Des Moines Youth Symphony in sixth grade. The first piece she performed with them was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Miller was placed in the back of the second violins section and says she was terrified. In addition to violin, she briefly studied piano, but mostly learned to play by ear...
…Miller revels in the opportunity to work for herself. She explained “For me, not working for someone else – being able to create my own life, get up when I want to, schedule meetings when I want to, etc. – is a big motivator for me. I’m really proud of my achievements and creating them on my own makes me feel even better. When I wake up in the morning, there’s always something interesting on my agenda. If there isn’t, I make something happen. I’m an idea person and a ‘do-er’”. She has worked for other people in the fields of advertising and retail, but never as a musician. She describes herself as “a pretty independent and strong-willed person. As soon as I learn something, I want to do it on my own, for my own good or profit. I never saw making other people a lot of money as very appealing. I always performed while working and was getting booked often, once actually doing four gigs in a day (it nearly killed me!). I decided to go out on my own. I began sending out other string quartets and other jazz ensembles because I was over-booked. I find juggling and balancing all that I do now a lot easier than reporting to a nine-to-five for someone else. I work from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. I love it. I know I’m lucky to be doing what I love to do.”…
VOCALIST-VIOLINIST Natasha Miller is hooked on the songs of Bobby Sharp, and who can blame her? This is Miller's second recording devoted to tunes composed by Sharp, best known for penning the Ray Charles hit "Unchain My Heart," and it's full of charming treats and discoveries.
Not least among them is Sharp's welcome cameo, in which the octogenarian briefly teams up with Miller for an unabashedly sentimental performance of "As the Years Come and Go." Sharp's hazy tenor has aged well, but not as well as his songbook, which, for all its strong ties to vintage pop and jazz, appears timeless. It's hard to categorize his legacy. The selections here are as diverse as the torchy "Prisoner of the Blues," the whimsical "Doin' the Impossible," the swinging "Don't Move" and the country-loping "Stolen Love (On Highway 99)". "Don't Set Me Free" rings a vintage R&B bell, but most of the tunes are as obscure as they are worthy of unearthing.
Miller isn't interested in merely playing the role of archivist. Her interpretations are heartfelt and occasionally moving. With help from a few arrangers, she also places Sharp's words (and delightful wordplay) in flattering settings that feature a rhythm section led by pianist Josh Nelson, plus, now and then, horns and strings.
Appearing Wednesday at Blues Alley.
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Found treasure: Best known for writing the Ray Charles (and Joe Cocker) hits "Don't Set Me Free" and "Unchain My Heart," songwriter Bobby Sharp returns from the missing via two terrific albums.
Charming San Francisco Bay area jazz singer Natasha Miller elevates a set of vintage but previously unheard Sharp tunes to instant classic status on her beautifully performed and arranged set, "Don't Move" (Poignant, A). (Think simple, sublime songs of a Johnny Mercer or Harold Arlen caliber.)
The raspy voiced, 80-years-young Sharp also performs on his own, almost as fine debut (!) set, "The Fantasy Sessions" ( Poignant, B+).