Miller is set to unveil a new set of songs by Sharp on March 21 at Yoshi’s in Oakland, the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier jazz club. The performance will be recorded for a live album.
"I’ve done three studio records," Miller said. "I like them, but my performance is so different live than it is in the studio. I feel it’s better. It’s more real and true to the music."
Miller’s last CD, "I Had A Feelin’" was a collection of songs written by Sharp, who had a hit decades ago when he wrote the Ray Charles classic "Unchain My Heart." Many of his songs, however, went unheard in the years since, and it was only by chance that he found Miller.
He heard the singer being interviewed on KCSM, a San Francisco jazz radio station, about two years ago. Sharp, 80, doesn’t listen to the radio all that much, and Miller, 34, was on the air at a different time than originally scheduled.
That their paths crossed turned out to be "the most amazing event," said Miller.
Sharp learned that the singer lived in the same East Bay community that he did. He got Miller’s number, gave her a call and then sent over several of his songs. When Miller heard the music, she knew she found something special. It would soon take on even greater meaning.
Miller was in the late stages of pregnancy when she became ill and lost her son, Aidan. She didn’t feel like singing during this emotional time, but she was determined to get Sharp’s songs heard. That motivation helped her get back to work.
Sharp has also endured his share of problems. He battled drugs, and the story goes that he sold "Unchain My Heart" for $50 for a quick score. He eventually kicked his habit and moved from New York to California, where he worked as a drug counselor. Music was part of his past until he met Miller.
"Obviously, there’s that musical connection, but the connection that grew us together isn’t necessarily that," Miller said. "Bobby had a diverse and tough background. He poured those experiences into his songs. I, as well, did not have the easiest upbringing and adulthood up until about five years ago we may relate to our troubles in a similar way."
She’s been with her boyfriend for five years, but she calls Sharp her "soul mate."
Dedicated to Aidan, "I Had A Feelin’" featured 11 songs, mostly ballads, written by Sharp.
Now, Miller, who also plays violin, is busy preparing the material for her Yoshi’s performance and live CD. She has selected a number of new songs by Sharp and has enlisted the help of several different arrangers, including Frank Martin, Larry Dunlap and Bill Bell to give the set added variety. Miller has also been rehearsing with a large ensemble, featuring strings and horns.
The latest Sharp songs are "as good or better than the first batch," Miller said. They were written 30 or 40 years ago, but are new because no one has heard them recorded or performed before.
Miller didn’t even know these songs existed when making the last CD. "Bobby just kinda gives them to me when he feels like it or finds them because they are packed away," she said. "It’s beautiful work."
The audience can also expect to hear some more familiar tunes rounding out the set. Miller said the CD will be released in late summer.
"This one is more realized," she said. "It will have a more mature sound."
For more information about Natasha Miller and the upcoming live performance, visit Yoshi’s Web site is www.yoshis.com and her website listed below.