Music from the Heart
By Andy Cheng
The ancient yet timeless musical brilliance that is the jazz genre is perpetuated by lively young artists of today’s generation, and Gina Saputo embodies that exuberance. In the past few years, she has traveled the world, performing and collaborating with big wigs like Terence Blanchard, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Bill Cunliffe and others. To simplify, she’s got talent and an audacity to match.
As a jazz musician, Saputo represents an underground style of music that has declined throughout the decades. Saputo is unscathed by the misfortunes of her genre, as she finds the unknown prospects of her musicality and overall artisanship adventurous.
“I enjoy the challenge and I really like the risk you take; anything can happen, and I like not knowing what’s going to happen,” Saputo says.
While the unforeseen may be daunting to others, Saputo is not fazed by such. She began performing in jazz clubs at the astoundingly young age of 16 in her hometown of Eugene, Ore., where her affinity for music sprouted.
“I’ve been singing since I was little because my father played the guitar. Music was always there and it was always consistent. I haven’t gone for more than three weeks without performing since I was 17,” Saputo says. “I like to sing what’s beautiful. My favorite [songs] are reminiscing about when I was young . . . ‘Around Midnight’ is one of those where I was young and I had a vintage car. It would be around midnight that I would break curfew and listen to it. Every single song has its own personality.”
That thrill-seeking mentality is reflected on Saputo’s activities as well. Hitherto, she has performed in a number of exotic places: Japan, South Korea, Dubai, Orange County and more. Her desire for absorbing other cultures is a facet of her socializing and musicality. “I end up wandering alone a lot,” she says of her travels. “Sometimes, I’ll go to a little shop and end up talking to people and we end up going to lunch and karaoke. Just getting to know people and being interested in different cultures.”
Of course, these adventurous escapades aren’t merely for cultural exploration. Her second tour of Japan was with Grammy award-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe, and she toured Vietnam with Herbie Hancock and Nnenna Freelon, an occasion which she described as the “highlight of my music career.” She also performed at the Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival and the Orange County Music Awards, and has recently released her self-titled debut album, in which she collaborated with Gerald Clayton and Tierney Sutton.
Saputo’s jazz-dominated music is created through the articulation of her feelings.
“Jazz is something that’s very genuine. I’m constantly trying to give it new meaning and letting it resonate for myself. I’m more comfortable on stage and expressing myself in music than anything else, and it’s about me channeling an emotion from a song.”
As for the future, Saputo refers back to her adventurous sentiments in conveying her aspirations. “You can never tell what’s going to happen. I want to do an album with a different style . . . I’m trying to do a track that’s more mainstream. I don’t want to be limited to jazz.”
For now, she is quite bold in pursuing a musical path of indeterminable prospects. But, that’s just part of the thrill.
Gina Saputo and the Seth Greenberg Trio at The Hip Kitty, 502 W. 1st St.,
Claremont, (909) 447-6700; www.hipkittyjazz.com. Fri, July 15. 8pm.