Amanda Morazain joins voices with Kinga Heming and the Neville Bowman Band at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday

Amanda Morazain joins voices with Kinga Heming and the Neville Bowman Band at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday

Jazz vocalists reunite in the Okanagan

Friends since high school, Amanda Morazain and Kinga Heming perform at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday, March 5.

We’re used to seeing her name, right above this sentence, in the byline for the Vernon Jazz Society concert articles.

But today, Amanda Morazain is one of the subjects of this story.

A jazz vocalist in her own right, Morazain is taking centre stage at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday, March 5 and will be joined by her longtime friend and fellow singer Kinga Heming, along with the Neville Bowman Band.

Together, Morazain and Heming will perform Irving Berlin’s Sisters, best known from the film White Christmas A Guy That Takes His Time (Ralph Rainger); Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, which was made popular by the Andrews Sisters (Don Raye and Hughie Prince), and Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides, Now.

Bowman will also be harmonizing on a handful of songs.

Friends since they were teens, Heming and Morazain both majored in voice at one of Canada’s top performing arts schools, Canterbury High School in Ottawa.

After graduating, they both headed to Toronto to attend the vocal jazz program at Humber College.

“Who would have known that eventually we both would have made our way out west to Kelowna?” said Morazain, who moved to the Okanagan with her husband, Mathew, nine years ago, while Heming moved out a couple of years ago.

Morazain credits her grandfather for introducing her to the smooth vocal stylings of Ella Fitzgerald, which sparked her love of jazz.

“It was the song Bewitched, to be exact, which I’ll also be singing on Saturday,” she said. “I’ve been singing my whole life. My father has a beautiful voice and would sing songs to me in Samoan while he played the guitar. My grandmother directed local musical theatre performances and my debut in that world was in Cinderella, directed by her. I was a mouse at the age of three.”

Since moving to Lake Country, Morazain has performed with a who’s who of the Okanagan jazz scene.

She released her debut album, Pathway, which featured alto sax player Michael Garding and guitarist Loni Moger as well as members of the Neville Bowman Band, including the pianist himself as well as saxophonist Craig Thomson, bassist Bernie Addington, and drummer Scott Gamble.

Nominated for a B.C. Interior Music Award for Best Jazz Album in 2009, the album was also suggested as a great gift for the holidays by CBC Radio’s jazz program Tonic.

Also an instructor and adjudicator, Morazain has performed alongside her voice students to sold out shows at the Kelowna Community Theatre and at Prospera Place for the B.C. Summer Games.

“Our next show was on the weekend, a tribute to the ‘90s,” she said, adding, “On a personal level, I’ve gone back to school full time to finish my BA in psychology in the hopes of eventually counselling and melding the two passions together.”

Born in Poland, Heming was destined to get vocal when at four months old, while getting baptized, she screamed out her first note. The priest said she was going to be a singer. Three years later, Heming’s parents entered her in a children’s singing competition, and she won first place.

After moving from Poland and living in the Netherlands as a child, Heming eventually immigrated to Ottawa and continued to pursue  music.

In the mid-2000s, she placed in the top 100 two years in a row for the now defunct televised singing competition Canadian Idol, and also performed with the late, legendary Jeff Healey at his bar in Toronto.

Heming has also sang the U.S. and Canadian (English and French) national anthems at sporting events, including at Toronto Blues Jays, Maple Leafs and Raptors’ games, which have been nationally televised.

“I love the feeling before and after performing on stage. The butterflies and the churning stomach and the adrenaline. I love singing in front of a crowds. It makes me really nervous at first, until I get on stage, then it all goes away and I know I am in my element,” she said.

Heming was introduced to jazz through her mother, who constantly played songs by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, The Platters and other jazz greats.

“I’ve always loved jazz and feel a connection with each song I sing based on their lyrics and melody, especially ballads,” she said, citing Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Michael Bublé, and the family of musicians she works with as her inspirations.

After her Vernon Jazz Club performance, Heming will perform with a quartet in Revelstoke March 18 and as a quintet at a private party at Kelowna’s Delta Grand Hotel.

Joining the women in Vernon will be Thomson, a well-respected teacher and clinician who runs the band program at Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna and also organizes the B.C. Interior Jazz Festival and the Thursday night Jazz Jams, which take place on a weekly basis at the Kelowna Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Well known throughout the Interior as an accompanist, composer and arranger for other artists, as well as for his work in theatre, Bowman has performed at numerous venues in the Okanagan as a solo artist as well as with the Jazz Café Band and Groove Engine. He also wrote the music for two original stage productions in 2014 and the original commissioned work for Ballet Kelowna, Redux Continuum.

Addington studied bass with Rick Kilburn at the Vancouver Community College School of Music and has since  enjoyed a successful career as a freelance musician and private instructor. He has played extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Australia and has recorded with numerous artists as a session musician. Since moving to the Okanagan, he has continued to play and record throughout the B.C. Interior as a first-call musician and band leader.

Drummer Gamble is in high demand for both live and studio work and plays many genres in multiple bands. He was named musician of the year at the 2006 B.C. Interior Music Awards and is also a successful graphic artist. Gamble has played with Dee Daniels, Bill King, and Carol Welsman as well as pop artists Daniel Powter and Greg Sczebel. He has been on the Vernon Jazz Club stage numerous times with Groove Engine, Rann Berry and the Random Act and Julie Masi.

Opening Saturday’s concert is vocalist Katia Wells-Green and pianist Lora Wentworth.

“An interesting note on Katia is that she is my student,” said Morazain. “I have been teaching her vocals for the past eight-and-a-half years, my longest student ever.  She will be leaving for England later on in March.”

Wells-Green’s musical influences stretch out over a length of different genres, mainly rock, R&B and jazz. Her main focus is to bring back the soul to music that seems to have been lost in modern day music.

Wentworth has shared stages with such artists as Shari Ulrich, Paul Janz, Darby Mills and the band Prism and has performed piano as a solo artist as well as in duets and with bands. She has been teaching piano and saxophone for the last 20 years at her family’s business, Wentworth Music, and is a graduate of the Selkirk College music program in Nelson.

Willis-Green and Wentworth open their set at the Vernon Jazz Club at 7:15 p.m. with Morazain and Heming and the Neville Bowman Band taking the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 available at Expressions of Time or at www.vernonjazz.ca. Vernon Jazz Society members receive a $5 rebate at the door. Cash only bar.