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SF Chronicle | Contra Costa Times | Cadence | Cabaret Scenes | Cape Times

Jazz Vocalist Opie Bellas Set to Enthrall with Her Smoky Tones

Visiting singer Opie Bellas brings her smoky jazz tones to the Winchester Mansion's regular jazz platform.

Where does she place herself in the vocal tradition?  "I'm told I have a unique interpretation. I'm steeped in traditional vocal music, but I'm influenced by people who aren't traditional at all.  I'm influenced even not by jazz singers, but ethnic music such as the fado singer Dulce Pontes, although we don't sound anything alike. I'm not into copying anyone else. That defeats the purpose."

Bellas completed her music studies at Duquesne University in the US, later teaching jazz vocal master classes at Australia's Queensland Conservatory of Music.  She is currently based in San Francisco.

She has four recordings to her credit. The latest Latin jazz outing, FACES, features musicians such as pianist David Udolf.

Her LIVE FOR LIFE release was recorded with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quartet, while her ONCE UPON A TIME is a collaboration with guitarist and composer Joe Negri of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

One exciting snippet of news for Opie is that FACES has just been listed in the top releases in 2005 in the national Jazz Review.

Do any of her albums dig deeper than the others?  "They're all very representative, but certainly the orchestral album, after having lost my brother, I realized I had better get busy and back to work.  LIVE FOR LIFE was born out of an extreme place in my life.  FACES came about after having been introduced to Arthur Hamilton who wrote, "Cry Me A River."

While in Cape Town she'll be using Wayne Bosch on guitar, Basil Moses on double bass, Maurice Gawronsky on drums, and Andre Pietersen on piano.  Will she be working her way through the Real Book? 

"It will be a mixture. I like to blend music from French Films by Francis Lai. I also love to do music from the 30's which I'm partial to, and reminisce from the 60's.  I won't be doing any originals on this trip."

Apart from her own compositions, she also considers herself an arranger.

"Since I've collaborated with Andre Pietersen, it fits together because he's so talented. He's quite impressive as a pianist and these guys are young lions.  It's a real pleasure."

To book for the Winchester Mansions brunch at R145 per person, inclusive of a glass of bubbly on arrival and a complimentary newspaper, call 021 434 2351, or email harveys@winchester.co.za

Bellas' CDs are available at www.cdbaby.com

Jane Mayne
Cape Times

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