July 2018 - Let Us Entertain You: Tracey Whitney
When we heard local venue, Hotel Andaluz, opened a jazz club, we were thrilled. When we heard that the talented, Tracey Whitney would be performing there, the excitement grew. We sat down with Tracey to learn more about her new residency.
Congratulations on your residency at Hotel Andaluz. How did it happen?
I looked at the Casablanca Room three years ago and contacted management to see if I could promote it. The manager, at the time, wouldn’t even return my calls. A year later I was hired to sing in the lobby. I performed there for a year-and-a-half. One day the new manager, Chris Jacoby, came up to me and said, “I want to show you something.” He took me in the Casablanca Room, and said, “We’re planning on opening this as a jazz club again, and we want to build it around you.” You could have knocked me over with a feather.
What is it about the genre of jazz that moves you?
I bought my first record when I was eleven years old - Booker T and The M.G’s Green Onions. I was already a professional musician performing with my family, The Whitney Family, a singing group consisting of my mom, seven brothers, and sisters. We performed R&B and Pop. I'm not sure where the jazz leanings came from, but I guess it’s always been a part of me. When I was 19, my family was performing at The Playboy Club in Los Angeles. Jazz legend Miss Nancy Wilson was at our show. She said, “Tracey, your voice was made for ballads.” When I went solo, I gravitated to Jazz.
I toured with Ray Charles in 1991 as a “Raelette.” We were in concert at Lincoln Center, and I performed a verse of Nancy Wilson’s, “Guess Who I Saw Today,” and I received a standing ovation. That kind of sealed the deal.
Who are your musical inspirations?
As far as jazz goes, Miss Nancy, of course. I love Johnny Hartman, Tony Bennett, and Billie Holiday. I’ve always been drawn to instrumentalists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker. My Soul inspirations were Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Otis Redding. There were so many great musicians when I was growing up, and they’ve all inspired me in some form or fashion.
When was the moment you realized that music was destined?
I didn’t actually get to make that decision. My mother was a professional singer. In addition to singing solo, she toured with Soul greats Johnny Otis and Solomon Burke. One day she heard me and my brother rehearsing. At the time The Jackson 5 had just come out and every kid in the world wanted to be in a singing group. She was like “Are those my children singing?” Next thing you know, we were on stage at the world famous Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and I haven’t stopped singing since.
What days will you be performing at the club?
I perform my show, The Art of Jazz, in the Hotel Andaluz’s Casablanca Room, New Mexico’s one, and only Jazz club, with Sid Fendley on the baby grand, Rodney Bowe on upright bass and Wayne Johnson on drums every Friday and Saturday from 9pm-Midnight.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I just performed in concert last night at St John’s College Music on the Hill series. That was amazing – 2,000 of my closest friends. I’m a featured vocalist for “The Drop That Contained The Sea” in August at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, and I’ll be performing at the State Fair in September. I’m really happy now just concentrating on the Casablanca Room and getting the word out that New Mexico FINALLY has a jazz club.