Article by Hannah Frank
Photos by Thomas Mohr
Ty Cooper, jazz stylist and artist, is performing Sunday October 22, 2017, 7:00pm, at the Skokie Theater for her new album release “I’m All For You.” The album shows off her full range of singing and interpreting jazz tunes, developed over a lifetime of experience performing for audiences ranging from her home base here in Chicago to Las Vegas, Reno, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Spain, Mexico, the Middle East and beyond.
Says Ty, “The audience is everything to me. They are my thrill– my energy source, my inspiration to perform and entertain. I love the people who have come to listen and be a part of the music!”
Singing comes down to more than just chops — a singer must have soul. Ty has soul in abundance as she moves effortlessly between jazz and blues. Her recent show “Shades of Blue” at the Oak Park Theater, with her friend, Chicago blues vocalist Jimmy Burns, was a magical melding of musical forces. The artists’ loose improvisation, their humor and the free and easy way in which Ty directs a show allowed both artists to sing their hearts out, and the crowd loved it. Ty’s ability to pull you into each tune is palpable, both at her live shows and on the new album.
“I love the honesty of the blues, the stories it tells of love, sex, low-down life, high times, heartbreak, joy and misery,” says Ty.
“Music connects people in a spiritual and magical way. I’m always happy to be a conduit for that. Blues has a certain freedom in storytelling that puts it out there just the way it is,” says Ty, while “jazz lyrics and improvisation tell a completely different musical story.” She is inspired by great vocal artists she calls by first name, “Ella, Billie, Betty, Carmen, Alberta, Sarah, Bessie, Ida, Julie, Peggy, Judy, Frank and “so many more.”
“I’m All For You” on Sunday October 22 at 7:00pm is an album release show celebrating Ty’s first time in the studio in several years. The title came from her pondering “What is it I love about music, and why have I persisted with my passion to be a part of it, all these years?” Her answer was — and always will be — YOU.
For Ty, it all comes back to the audience. She enjoys looking someone in the eye while singing, and seeing them respond, whether it’s for a smile or a tear (both may be bound to happen!). She says, “I’ve always been a perfomer who truly enjoys my interaction with the audience. It is the most wonderful feeling to be the vehicle that cycles the energy of the band to the audience. Always spontaneous! Always a joy!”
To help her communicate her extraordinary gift to the audience, she relies on her team. On any bandstand where you find Ty singing, you will find talented musicians. “I am always surrounded by the best,” says Ty. Although “sidemen” is a common term to describe a band, Ty laughs when the word is mentioned and exclaims that isn’t how she sees it at all. “They are brilliant, each in their own right. We are collaborators and team members. They are my support system. Jazz is music that is made in the moment by individuals working together to share what they think and feel about a song. Each person is important and has a creative voice in the final product.” This explains Ty’s ability to create synnergy in any and every musical performance.
Her bandmates on “All For You” include John Rangel (piano), who also mixed and mastered the CD; Steve Duke (sax); Scott Rosenthal (bass); David Post (drums); and Tony Cesarano (guitar). The album was recorded in Santa Fe, NM at jindojazz studios with Rangel, a music producer and award-winning composer.
Ty counts herself lucky to have had a few years of classical vocal training with Jacquelin De Lusignan of the Belle Arts Opera Company when she was in her early 20s. She was encouraged to pursue opera and was told she could be one of the greats. Perhaps youth led her away from the discipline of opera, but the strength of her delivery, her profound sense of storytelling and her theatrical edge surround her in any performance.
Despite her deep love of music and experience with it, she was not formally trained in reading music, so she memorizes each song. By intertwining her own deep experience with the lyrics and the melody, she says, “I simply become the song [more and more], as life goes by.”
The story of Ty’s journey to Chicago is as multi-layered as her music. After a 12-year career on Nevada’s casino/hotel circuit, her life took a different turn; and she left the music business completely and moved to Germany. She lived there for eight years, and her new career was in the world of health and fitness. Returning to Chicago in 2001, she chose to remain in fitness (which might be why she still is energetic today), but after the loss of her husband in 2012, she made the decision to return to following her passion for music. Since then, she has attracted some of Chicago’s finest musicians into her world and is excited to be making an impact in the jazz community. There are challenges that come with stepping away from the business for many years. Club scenes and marketing aspects have changed a great deal over the past decade. But none of that gets her down. She finds these challenges motivating and interesting.
For Ty, returning to music in the action-filled Chicago jazz scene and making a new CD add up to what she calls “an adventure.” When asked “What’s next?”, she replies, “I dream about what looks interesting or what looks impossible to do, and then I figure out ways to accomplish it. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. Doesn’t matter: it’s all part of the journey. Each experience I have adds another layer to the stories I tell with a song. I sing them for you. You help me decide what comes next. I’m sure it will be a gift. I’m all for you…”
Her bandmates on Sunday Oct 22nd, with a different line-up than on the album, include Tommy Muellner (piano), Eric Schneider (sax), Peter Lerner (guitar), Jim Cox (bass) and Justin Kramer (drums).
To see and hear Ty and her team, live, in an excellent venue, and receive a complimentary CD, purchase tickets for “All For You” at Skokie Theater.