By: Jenna Melanson
Toronto based 1930’s era jazz artist, Alex Pangman is getting ready for her performance at the Vancouver Jazz Festival on Saturday, June 20th, where she will be accompanied by her quartet, The Alleycats. Alex will be promoting her latest album, “New” which was released in November, 2014. We had the chance to ask Alex a few questions surrounding her music, so keep reading to find out more!
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a music career?
I always knew I loved singing right from when I played Annie is the school play. I was going to UofT for an arts degree when I got sick and had to drop out. Through my recovery it came into focus that MUSIC was how I wanted to spend my life!
What inspired you to pursue Jazz as your preferred genre of music?
I was in my teens when I first discovered classic jazz: The melodies, the lyrics, they spoke to something inside of me. So joyful, cathartic, playful, hot, and sweet all at once. I fell into the arms of jazz like someone in a harlequin novel falls into the arms of her prince charming.
Your album, “New” was released in November 2014 with Justin Time Records, how has the response been?
The response to New has been good thus far! This is our first tour with the album besides our launch tour in November, so I am really excited to bring the new set list to National ears! We did record the album in New Orleans, which gives it a great feel, being recorded in the cradle of jazz, and we also made sure to include three Canadian written jazz gems, which we will certainly be playing in this tour for our home crowd!
Can you explain your writing process to us?
When I write music it is mostly when I am moved by some emotional situation, or a deadline. In the case of “it’s never enough” from New, it was both. A friend had lost his wife and with the recording session ahead I channeled my empathy into a song. It always helps my writing process to have either guitar or piano at my fingertips, and I usually write melody and lyrics simultaneously. Also, reading a lot of classic books does help my vocabulary when I write, but I always have this challenge of writing with in the 1930s idiom without sounding dated. It’s a fine line to walk, and an ever-present challenge.
Where do you tend to pull inspiration from when writing?
My giant catalogue of recorded jazz from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and from life experiences, of course!
What song on your album has the most meaning to you?
The Canadian tune, “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise” means a lot to me, it was written around the time of the first world war, and was surely intended to stir up a great sense of hope towards a new day, a new beginning/future. I had undergone a (second!) double lung transplant a little over a half year before recording this album; staying hopeful during that challenging time was key for me. So, this song really strikes a chord with me. I rarely play songs I don’t connect with, but this one has a special meaning.
You will be performing at the Vancouver Jazz Festival on June 20, accompanied by your quartet, The Alleycats, what can someone who has yet to see you perform expect?
Tough one to say objectively from within: I think they will generally find that music from a “bygone era” has legs. I find their lively and heartfelt support helps sell these great tunes. I think they realize from the lyrics, (themes of love, loss, yearning, and celebration never go out of style!) and our show that this music is relevant still. I think they will follow my lead and dance! The Alleycats I am bringing with me have been in my stable for years, Peter Hill on Piano, I call him “a singer’s best friend”, Glenn Anderson is the swingingest drummer I know, Chris Banks lays down solid bass, and our very special “rooster”, Mr. Ross Wooldridge on clarinet and tenor sax will have you thinking of both Artie Shaw and Ben Webster. Can you tell I am a proud mama?
When can fans in the rest of Canada expect to see some live shows in their area?
We are going across Canada to many provinces, Regina, Winnipeg, Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and even internationally, our first gig in New York!
What’s next for you?
Immediately? I am packing my bags and getting everything lined up for tour. I am wondering if my mosquito repellant is small enough to count as “carry on” for Winnipeg. That and I got an email from John Pizzarelli and am awaiting his phone call any day to find out what songs we’ll be playing together when I guest with him at Toronto’s Koerner Hall gig June 24.
Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, who are your current favourite Canadian bands/ artists?
Oh wow! I am very fond of so many: The Double Cuts are a Toronto based Western Swing band who I really enjoy at the moment, Barbra Lica is a great jazz vocalist who I’m sure is destined for super stardom, and I love Corb Lund (I kissed a photo of him backstage in Medicine Hat last year…. Blog confessional!)
Here at Canadian Beats, we like to include a portion of questions that may help your fans learn something new about you, so here goes:
What was the first album you ever purchased?
On the same day I purchases Patsy Cline (Live at the Grand Old Opry) and Milli Vanilli. Guess which album I still play?! (Remember I didn’t discover jazz for years to come!)
If you were able to do a duet with any other Canadian artist, who would you choose?
Ooo! Tough one. I’ve already been crossing those of the bucket list. On my album “33” I duet with both Ron Sexsmith (a not-so-closet Bing Crosby fan) and Denzal Sinclaire. I guess I would like to duet with Russell De Carle next, but I might faint.
What is your current go-to song?
Shanghai Lil. It’s our number one requested song from 2013’s Have a Little Fun album.
What is your favourite warm weather activity?
What is your favourite warm weather treat?
The smell of horses in the sunshine
What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
Ooo! I caught Whitney Rose, a country crooner on Cameron House Records, and The Matadors and discovered that the polka is a whole lotta’ fun!
What could we find you doing on a day off?
Last but not least, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?
Please consider becoming an organ donor when you pass. Become someone’s hero. I owe everything to the donors who gave me back my life though my lung transplants. To be able to laugh and sing again is a gift, a true gift. One donor can save up to 8 lives, and enhance many others! Outlive yourself and make something wonderful happen out of sadness.
I’m Jenna, and I am the founder and editor of Canadian Beats. I have had a strong love for Canadian music, which started many years ago. I have a passion for promoting these talented Canadian bands and artists, and that’s how Canadian Beats came to be. I am so proud of what it has become over the last few years, with many talented music lovers and writers coming together to spread the word of Canada’s music.