An interview article by Rosemary Phillips,
NOTE February 2012: I got a surprise phone call from Dee - she has been following her new song. She moved into a 'brown-stone' in New York City last fall and her life is certainly taking on new direction as she takes on new engagements in the city that never sleeps, continues her performances across North America and Europe, and gathers together material and musicians for her new recording project. (January 2013 - See her web site link below for her latest news from New York.)
“This year has been one of reinventing myself,” says Dee Daniels, international jazz singer. After a guest appearance on CBC’s Hot Air and a feature performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, a fundraiser for the First United Church in Vancouver, Dee was working at her home in North Vancouver, British Columbia, excitedly planning her next season. You see, besides her upcoming orchestral performances and tour of Europe, Dee is stepping into new music and new technology.
Her own song
“I’ve found my real passion,” she explains vehemently. “Creating my own music! It’s taken all these years for me to finally validate myself as a songwriter and now I’ve decided to record my music. It’s the music I write when I’m free, without having a musical agenda - the product of my entire musical experience – jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, rock and roll. I’m releasing it in a different way – two singles at a time - for electronic download only.”
Life steps in and changes things
What brought this realization about was an emotional experience this spring that forced Dee to face herself. “It was an interesting process,” she muses. “The first part was extremely painful, because I had to release any perceptions of self. Doing this required me going out of my comfort zone. I got through, then hit ground zero and was forced to think about what really brings me joy. I whittled away until I found it. I realized I had been like a ball in a pin-ball machine with someone else constantly pulling the lever. I was bouncing all over the place and had been for so long I didn’t even know I had lost focus. Some of the career choices I had been making didn’t have joy as the foundation, nor was joy the motivating factor for making them.”
Ellington’s Sacred Music
Now don’t get Dee wrong; this singer with the satin voice that has been heard around the world, still loves doing straight ahead jazz. This November was her second year for Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music concert, held in St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, to raise funds for the First United Church and their work in supporting homeless men and women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “Ellington’s wish was to have these specific Sacred Music concerts held in churches,” explains Dee. “He said it was the most important work he had done in his career. He was at a point of reflection. His last concert in 1973 was just months before he passed away.”
In a program that featured a blend of gospel music, blues, choral music, spoken word, dance and big band jazz, Dee performed Heaven, It’s Freedom, Tell Me It’s the Truth, Come Sunday, and Praise God and Dance and Ellington’s gospel version of The Lord’s Prayer.
A busy year ahead
Dee has two new pops programs coming up, one with the Rochester Philharmonic in New York, and another with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in Connecticut. For her tour in Europe (Holland, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and France) she’ll be doing concerts and special vocal workshops in music conservatories where she will demonstrate her Rose Breath and Numbered Activation techniques, guiding participants to accessing their entire vocal range, seamlessly and effortlessly.
Making a difference
Dee loves to inspire young and old alike through teaching, mentoring and by sharing her music and rich life experiences. “Sometimes it takes reaching mature years of life to acknowledge who we really are, to realize that we have something to share, to give to other people. My motivation is different now,” says Dee. “Thirty years ago I wanted to get out there and be a superstar. At this point in life I really want to share my music and make a positive difference in people’s lives. Sharing brings me so much joy.”
A thought-provoking year
Ah, you can tell Dee’s been doing some deep soul-searching. “We have the choice to be creative and productive until we take our last breath,” she adds. “There’s always the possibility to learn something new, to be re-inspired. It’s good now and then to get out of our comfort zone. If we don’t do it voluntarily, many times life presents situations that compel us to do so. It keeps the motion in our lives. Life is about movement and vibration on every single level. Sometimes we get a little stagnant. I know for myself, whenever that happens to me I go into Alfie mode; I ask myself, ‘What’s it all about?’ The answer is always, ‘There’s no movement in my life.’ The moment I take a step into something new I’m instantly out of that place. I’m inspired again. And when I’m inspired I can inspire others.”
Yes, it’s certainly been a thought-provoking year for Dee. “Sometimes when you are in the middle of it all, it doesn’t seem like you are achieving anything. I have to make myself stop sometimes to experience the NOW. But really, it’s been a pretty good year. This next year begins the manifestation of my goals and dreams created in 2010. The work I’ve done on myself this year has created a foundation that will see me through the next decade.”
A creative family
Meanwhile, as Dee undergoes her transformation she watches her daughter Dalana Fleming develop as a pastry chef, specializing in fantasy cake design, and creating her own business, The Cake and the Giraffe, serving the Greater Vancouver Region. Dee the mum says, “I’m really excited about that!”
The Daniels-Fleming household is a very artistic one where reality is created on a daily basis. While Dee occupies the computer for her keyboard, music, and organization of concerts, husband Doug steps in to work on a graphic project for his company, Sehemworks Enterprises Inc.
Dee adds. “It’s like when two-year-olds don’t know how to play together, they play next to each other. We call that parallel playing together.”
You can keep up-to-date with Dee’s recordings, concerts and tours by visiting Dee’s web site which is full of photos and videos.
This interview was just the beginning. There is so much more to Dee Daniels, jazz singer, teacher, mother, wife, and all round great lady. The following just captures the bare essence of this remarkable woman in a short item to promote her Ray Charles, Soul of Ray concert. Behind the scenes is an artist passionate about sharing her knowledge and her life learnings. Watch for more information on her endeavours, workshops and recordings. Meanwhile, take a peak at Dee a remarkably talented singer who has sung with the greatest in the field and knows that music is a powerful healing energy.
Singer Dee Daniels has a great friend. “Jane Jarvis is 90 years old,” explains Dee with warmth and love in her voice. “She’s from New York, a petite pianist who used to be the original organist for the Milwaukee Braves. We met several years ago and she is one of my best friends. I consider her one of my mentors.” (This was 2006. Jane passed away in 2010 and is very much missed by Dee.)
Jane had been trying to reach Dee on the phone while she was being interviewed, and we paused for her to respond. “If I get to live that long, that’s exactly what I want to be doing, mentoring. I think one of my responsibilities as a human on this planet is to share, and it gives me real pleasure.”
With a performing career that spans 33 years of international travel, and opportunities to sing with many of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, Dee already has a life of incredible experience to draw from. “I feel extremely blessed. When you are doing something that you really enjoy, you share that joy, share the love. That’s really what I am about.”
That something is Dee’s greatest gift - her smooth four-octave voice and her performance. “I have met hundreds of people after performances who have told me how happy and grateful they were because when they came to the concert they were down-hearted, or were dealing with some kind of illness, but felt so uplifted at the end of the concert. I know there’s power in music. Even for myself. I let everything go before I walk out on stage, and I feel lifted and healed after I have finished.”
Dee grew up with Gospel music and blues but has a love for various genres, particularly jazz. “My personal style is a compilation of all that I heard when I was growing up. I think that’s one of the reasons why I get comments from the audience that it’s so soulful and emotional.”
Over the last number of years she has performed her own Pops program Great Ladies of Swing with symphony orchestras across Canada and the US. When planning a new program she was drawn to Ray Charles and her childhood memories. “I listened to a whole lot of Ray Charles while growing up in California. In the beginning of his career he sounded a lot like Nat Cole, one of his idols. But with his recording of I Got A Woman, he incorporated his Gospel roots and that sound lead him into the big-time. The rest is history.”
For more information on her performances, CDs, classes and workshops visit Dee Daniel's web site..
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