Thursday 23 April 2015

The fused soul of Joni NehRita

WATERLOO, Thursday, April 23, 2015 --- When fusion vocalist Joni NehRita plays The Jazz Room Friday one of songs is slated for her new CD that will be recorded next month.

"I am really, really excited about that," NehRita said.

NehRita was just signed to a recording label called Chanter Records in Guelph, where she lives  The recording will be produced by Rick Hutt in his Cedartree Recording Studio in Kitchener. (

"I am super-stoked about it, he is obviously a big name in our region," NehRita said.

The set lists on Friday will include That's the Truth, which is planned for the new CD.

"We will be doing a pretty eclectic mix.  I like a lot of different kinds of jazz from the classic standards Sunny Side of the Street to some crazy vocaleses by Kurt Elling, he is my favourite jazz vocalist," NehRita said.

What to expect: Contemporary interpretations of jazz standards and about 10 original pieces that fuse jazz, soul and rhythm and blues.

NehRita's quintet includes Adam Bowman on drums, Thomas Hammerton on piano, Tyler Wagler on bass. For saxophone lovers, the Friday night gig has special appeal.

"It is my quintet featuring Alison Young on tenor sax," NehRita said.

Young is well known to audiences in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto. She is a a sensation on soprano-alto-tenor-and-baritone saxes.  Young is also found in the horn section of Alysha Brilla and the Brilltones, which played a standing-room only gig at The Jazz Room last month.

Young also plays in The Heillig Manoeuvre, Red Hot Ramble, and Big Rude Jake. She also plays with some of the leading jazz acts in Toronto, including Colin Hunter & the Joe Sealy Quartet, Boom for Rent and the award-winning jazz vocalist Mary McKay.

"We're excited because she is a beast," NehRita said.

NehRita has released two CDs,. The first was a mix of R&B, soul and jazz in 2008 called A Fine Time. The second was called The Bare Truth  and came out in 2011. She has a jazz EP on iTunes called Beginnings. She released all of that work as an independent artist.

NehRita grew up in the Etobicoke area of Toronto, and attended Humber College's jazz program, graduating in 1999.  NehRita also studied small-combo arranging privately under Shelly Berger. NehRita then spent a couple of years in Montreal, and moved to Guelph about eight years ago.

"Some friends had bought some tickets for my birthday for us to come to the Hillside Festival in Guelph," NehRita said. "We stayed for a few days, and I was like: 'Ohhhhh, I like this little town.' It kind of has this Hippy vibe, and I have always been the urban-Hippy kind-of-thing. Like: 'Oh wow, that business is solar powered or wind powered, and that place is all organic and fair trade.' I was like: 'Oooh, this is just my kind of place.'"

She teaches vocals, runs a choir and gigs when she can.

"Between those three musical things I am making a good living, which is good, and I'm grateful," NeRita said.

Growing up Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and lots more Mo-Town.  In her teens NehRita loved Maria Carey, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and musical theatre repertoire.

"And then in terms of jazz, I spent a lot of time with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone," NehRita said.

She attributes her passion for music to growing up as an only child.

"As an only child, filling a lot of that time was done by reading and singing along to records, trying to learn all the little parts. Okay, the strings go like this, the bass goes like this," NehRita said.  "Just a lot of time on my hands to foster that love and appreciation."

As a girl, the songs were always in her head.

"I was just always that kid who was singing and dancing and making up a song."

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