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Singer Tia Brazda brings retro style and force


You'd better watch out for this one: by the time Tia Brazda has you wrapped around her finger, you're gonna look like a sprung spring. The singer is an all-around knockout with her pipes, her moxie, and her pin-up style. She's a study in jazzy effervescence as the fizz and tingle of her voice skates the line between campy, almost cinematic fun and seductive sophistication.

Brazda's music swings with bursts of retro energy and classic pizazz, and the cheerful Toronto-based musician is rapidly becoming a global sensation. She's now in Rochester as part of operation heartbreak -- I mean, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. You've been warned.

Brazda was gracious enough to field some questions before heading our way. Here's what we asked, and here's what she answered. An edited transcript follows.

City: What's your earliest musical memory?

Tia Brazda: I was given a recording of "This Little Light of Mine" at church, and I remember sleeping with that tape under my pillow. Singing came naturally, and I did my first onstage solo performance, also at the church, at age 5. I was very encouraged to sing from an early age, and both of my parents were singers, so they would often bring me along to rehearsals.

What are some of your obvious influences?

My favorite jazz singer has always been Ella Fitzgerald, and she was my introduction to the genre. I also really enjoy the playfulness of Peggy Lee. I grew up in a Pentecostal church, so gospel hymns probably had a big impact on me, too.

How about some of your not so obvious influences?

Aside from jazz, I grew up listening to a lot of swing revival, neo-soul, trip-hop, and grunge music. I can fall in love with a complicated song as much as a simple one. It's more about the feeling than anything technical. I love old country music, too. I'm always on the lookout for new music and going to shows. There is so much happening right now that is super exciting ... the future of jazz is looking bright.

Where do you get your song ideas?

I get many of my ideas walking -- whether on a hike in the B.C. mountains, or downtown in the city. Other times, especially when collaborating, hearing chords triggers me to imagine a visual scenario in my mind. It's like a little movie -- and then I just write the lyrics to match the scene.

Describe the ideal setting for your music.

Comfy seating surrounding a dance floor. Swing dancers tend to come out to the shows while some people would simply prefer to sip a drink and just take in the scene. Great acoustics are a must. Really though, if there is a mic, I will sing.

What is the most important aspect of your live show?

Music, of course, but I thrive on the emotional connection I have with my audience. Aesthetics are also very important to me; this is showbiz and I love getting theatrical with my outfits.

How do you balance the vintage and modern aspects of your sound?

My songs use modern production techniques, but I really appreciate a quality arrangement with an array of instruments: horns, strings, etc. I find a lot of the mainstream music of today is overloaded with plug-ins and I can't even hear the instruments -- that is definitely not for me.

What's a dream collaboration or duet you'd like to do?

Chris Isaak. Not only do I love his voice and music but I met him once, years ago, and he seemed like such a nice person.

What are you most proud of?

Not giving up on singing and songwriting in spite of the fact that it has often seemed beyond impractical.

What keeps you going?

Music, great relationships, and traveling bring me so much joy that I feel very little need for much else these days.