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Vocalist Laurel Massé Performs at New Paltz

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03/11/2002

NEW PALTZ --

"Laurel Massé...should be heard by anyone who loves and values the sheer joy of musical creativity. To put it simply: Don't miss this one."
--Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

"She has a marvelous sense of style...dazzling."
--John S. Wilson, New York Times

On Tuesday, April 9, 2002, Laurel Massé, a founding member of the influential vocal ensemble the Manhattan Transfer, will perform with members of the SUNY New Paltz Jazz Studies program in McKenna Theatre. The concert begins at 8:00 PM. Tickets are available at the door beginning one hour prior to the concert. Prices are $10 adults; $8 seniors, faculty and staff; and $3 students.

Though her recent recording, Feather & Bone, is a compilation of solo works performed without instrumental accompaniment, here, Massé takes to the stage with a jazz quartet consisting of Vinnie Martucci, piano; Mark Dziuba, guitar; Steve Rust, bass; and T. Xiques, drums. The evening's program features works that utilize Massé's remarkable vocal abilities.

Born in Holland, Michigan, Massé inherited her voluminous talent from her mother and her grandfather, another gifted musician with an extraordinary vocal range. (When he worked in Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, his range extended from baritone to tenor.) Shortly after moving to New York in the early 1970s, the young singer got into a taxi driven by a struggling performer named Tim Hauser, who had the idea of forming a vocal quartet to sing the old jazz and pop tunes he collected. By early 1972, Hauser and Massé had assembled the rest of the Manhattan Transfer, and soon relocated to Los Angeles.

Despite their success as one of the most successful vocal groups of the last 25 years, Massé grew restless within the Transfer. Her decision to leave the group gained momentum when she plowed her car into a lamppost just before Christmas of 1978-her broken jaw didn't heal properly, requiring a bone graft and eventually a metal plate. She didn't sing for more than a year.

In 1988, Massé married and moved to the hamlet of North Creek in upstate New York-her "wilderness retreat" in the Adirondak Mountains. While she continued to tour occasionally, the relative isolation of her surroundings pushed her in other directions. Eventually she began performing on her own. "And gradually, it started to become clear," she explains. "In the act of presenting these concerts, what had begun as a program of set-pieces became an exercise in trust - in my own abilities, in my voice I never even pick a first number anymore; I just go out on stage and trust that whatever comes is going to be good. I improvise."

"And from singing alone, I finally sensed how good I am; I never knew that before, no matter who told me. But this way, if it worked, I was the only one who could be responsible. And that I could stand on stage with nothing but my voice, and people would listen for two hours - that was pretty revealing to me. I realized I'd been given a gift; and when that same freedom and confidence traveled with me when I again sang in a group, with other musicians - that's when I knew something had changed."

At the beginning of 1999 she journeyed to Troy, New York. It was there that Massé knew she had found the right path. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is an acoustically remarkable space. Massé invited a couple of friends, turned on the recorders, and then did what she does best: she stood on a stage and sang, all by herself.

"When I'm singing," she says, "I feel the most fully myself, the most powerful of any time in my life. It's the best of the best of the best."

Massé is currently working on a voice-and-piano collaboration with accompanist Vinnie Martucci (founder of The Dolphins and Jazz Studies teacher at SUNY New Paltz), titled Ballads, a collection of standards, not-so-standards, and in-the-studio improvisations.

Additional information on upcoming arts events at SUNY New Paltz is available on the Web at www.newpaltz.edu/artsnews, or by calling 845-257-3872. Laurel Massé's Web site includes more biographical information and can be found at www.laurelmasse.com.

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