Patti Wicks is a natural, as evidenced by her exceptional talent as early as age three. But time and fortune have a way of waiting for the right moment. That moment is now as Wicks captures the listener with a closeness and emotional connection that is immediately captivating. With sidemates Keter Betts and Joe LaBarbera, Wicks takes the listener on a breathtaking exploration into uncommon, yet beautiful ballads from some of the foremost composers of our time.
It is with pleasure that I introduce Patti Wicks-artist, arranger, classically trained educator and a most personable lady with the rare gift of reaching into your heart.
JazzReview: Reading from your press kit, I noticed that when you were just 3-years old, you sat down at the piano and played note-for-note the Christmas carol you had just heard your mother play on the piano. Was that just some incredible event or a particular gift that was lying wait inside you?
Patti Wicks: I guess so. My mother always loved classical music and her grandfather was a classical pianist. They used to go to Carnegie Hall or the Metropolitan Opera. That was in the years you could stand in the back. They couldn’t afford tickets back then. We’re talking way back before the depression. Anyway, my mother always had music playing on the radio at home, but I never went near the piano before that day. I couldn’t see it. That was why my mother was so shocked.
My mother had gone down the cellar stairs to check the furnace. We had an old coal furnace back then. When she came back up the inside cellar stairs and went into the kitchen, she heard the piano being played. She thought, "What the heck is that?" She didn’t have the radio on and both my sisters where at school. There I was sitting at the piano playing what she had just played on the piano before going down in the basement. Isn’t that something?
JazzReview: Do you remember that? I mean 3-years old is pretty young.
Patti Wicks: I don’t remember that particular event, but what I do remember a few months after that is . . .remember when the doctor used to have his practice at his home? Our family doctor was a dear man and used to make my appointment for the last patient of the day. He used to have a shiny upright Steinway piano and after my appointment, he would bring me into his house to the piano and let me play while he and his daughter, Harriet, stood there smiling. So I don’t remember playing the Christmas carol, but I do remember playing the Steinway at the doctor’s house.
JazzReview: "Love Locked Out" is your first CD with MAXJAZZ, but lets talk a little first about your previous release in 1998.
Patti Wicks: It was an independent release. The bass player, Don Payne, also lives down here [Florida]. I used to come down here for the winter when I lived in Maine. A friend of mine introduced me to Susan Merritt. Susan had a jazz club in West Palm Beach called the Jazz Showcase. She booked me to play and hired Don [Payne] to play with me because I didn’t really know many jazz players down here. That was in the mid-90’s. Don liked my music so much and he ask if I had a CD out. I said, "no." He said, "Well, I think we should do a CD." He wanted to start his own label. So he got a drummer, John Yarling, and we did the recording in the spring of ’97 at a studio here in West Palm Beach. "Room at the Top; The Patti Wicks Trio" is the name of the CD.
Don worked a lot in New York and that’s where I first met him, at a party many years ago. He’s played with a lot of famous people; Jobim, Joao Gilberto and Jackie and Roy among others. In fact, Don’s bass was one that Jobim used on his first recording he did over here. Don’s done a lot of studio work on all kinds of records.
JazzReview: And that was the CD that was featured on the Southern Arts Federation radio?
Patti Wicks: Yes. Susan Merritt who has a wonderful jazz society down here had that jazz club, but she closed because it was so hard to keep jazz going with the club. You know how it is, "Oh we just love it! We’ve been looking for a place like this." Then they never come back again. The way they support jazz in this country is really dismal for the most part.
Anyway, Susan had gotten something in the mail about the Atlanta-based Southern Arts Federation started by Bill Anschell. They had a radio show called Jazz South with Fred Story hosting the show. The Southern Arts Federation was put together for independent recording artists who don’t have major distribution and don’t get played on major radio stations, giving them a chance to be heard. The criteria for being chosen was you had to have a CD out that was not recorded on a major label, and the CD could not be more than 2-years old. So I filled out the application and sent along a copy of my CD. They had a panel that listened to all the CDs submitted. They would choose a few artists to feature on the show. So they called me and said I had been selected.
I did a telephone interview with Fred Story and he broadcast a tape of our conversation on the show, playing cuts from my CD. They made a "not for sale" compilation CD of three artists they featured on the show. It was me, Astral Project and Jason Marsalis, a half-hour of each of us. They fronted the CD out to all the public radio stations across the country.
JazzReview: That’s a wonderful opportunity for artists deserving wider recognition.
Patti Wicks: Oh yes it is, and it’s still going on. They contacted me a few months before I signed with MAXJAZZ to see if I had any original material that I might like to send them for their new Jazz South Internet radio show.
JazzReview: Is your experience with Jazz South how you received national exposure on NPR’s "Jazz Riffs?"
Patti Wicks: Oh no, that’s a completely different story [laughs]. Mort Fega wanted to help me with the first CD in getting people to hear it. He suggested some jazz stations to write to, like Nick Martin with KPLU in Seattle and Chuck Niles in Los Angeles [KJAZ, formerly KLON].
There is a young man, Nich Anderson, who belongs to Songbirds. He’s a teacher and loves the songs of the Great American Songbook. A colleague of his had heard my CD on KPLU and had told him about it. He tried to find out where to buy it, but of course he couldn’t buy it in the stores or online. He was a real Internet cowboy and researched and researched until he found Don Payne’s address and 800 number. He called Don at home and ordered the CD. He listened to it, loved it, and then posted something about it on Songbirds. He sent a copy to his friend in Buffalo who also posted something about it. Now Rebecca Parris’ daughter, Marla, is also a member of Songbirds and a good friend of mine. She forwarded [the young man’s comments] in an email saying, "Look what people are posting about your CD." I wrote a thank you to Nich and he suggested that I join Songbirds.
JazzReview: What is Songbirds?
Patti Wicks: It is an Internet discussion group on Yahoo. The young man who started, David Torresen, is from Washington D.C. He loves the music of Peggy Lee and female singers of classic jazz and pop. That’s how his discussion group got started. He was looking for other people who shared his love of songs from the Great American Songbook and the women who recorded them. He is very knowledgeable. He has been on the Internet for about 5 years now. He started out with just a few people, but it’s grown to about 600 members, among them people like Joel E. Siegel, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Pinky Winters, Lew Spence and Carol Sloane. It’s wonderful.
JazzReview: Are the members all performers and people in the industry?
Patti Wicks: Oh no, there are people from all walks of life. There are people on there who have regular day jobs, but are enthralled with the music from this period. They talk about this song and that song, what song was introduced on this show, what song was substituted with a second set of lyrics, who sang it, how many recordings were made of it, where the reissue is, is it a Japanese import, can you still get it. . . blah, blah, blah. It’s incredible.
JazzReview: You must have made a lot of contacts joining the Songbirds group.
Oh yes. Mort Fega had a killer jazz radio show out of New York during the time of Symphony Sid. If you own the Miles Carnegie Hall collection with My Funny Valentine on it, Mort Fega was the one who introduced the entities. Mort was friends with Lenny Bruce and he knew all the jazz people. And what a great writer! He’s retired now and lives down here. He produced Carmen McRae’s album Bittersweet on his Focus label. He heard my first CD through a friend of his and he called me and said, "I love your music," and we got to be friends. He knows where I live musically. Mort was responsible for some of the tunes I’ve done on my new CD. Would You Believe? and On Second Thought were some of them. David Torresen [Songbirds originator] gave me An Empty Glass.
JazzReview: With the exception of Body and Soul,