Jacque Tara Washington Interview

She was the featured jazz vocalist for the grand opening of the Tokyo Dome Hotel in Tokyo, Japan and performed in Tokyo for 3 months in the year 2000.

Her first visit to Japan was in Matsumoto for 3 months in 1999.

She was featured in Shanghai, China at the Portman – Ritz Carlton Hotel in the year 2000.

She’s the executive producer of two independently produced C.D’s: World of Passion and Jazz Passions.

She is the recipient of the Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award from the Syracuse Area Music Awards Association and her voice can be heard on national and regional jingles.

She – is Syracuse, New York’s own Jacque Tara Washington.

Jacque spoke to us on May 2 nd, 2000.

This is a previously unpublished interview that you’ll be reading here for the very first time.

Q – Jacque, what are you doing in Syracuse? I don’t think this town is big enough to hold you.
A – (Laughs). Oh, thank-you. That’s a good question. Well, I have a home here, so that’s why I come back and leave and come back. I sort of use it as a home base. I’m not sure how much longer I’m gonna do that.

Q – Is there pressure being put on you to move to a bigger city? Is that what’s happening?
A – Yeah. It really is.

Q – What city would that be?
A – Well, you see that’s why I haven’t gone yet ‘cause I’m not really sure. I’ve been doing a lot of research. I’ve been putting out feelers. I want to make sure that when I make the move it’s the right one. I’m even thinking about going out of the country, ‘cause I just love it when I go out of the country. So, I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do at this point.

Q - I know you perform in Syracuse, but, do you have your own band? How does that work?
A – Well, I really don’t perform that much in Syracuse anymore, as a matter of fact. Most of the things I do are really like private gigs. The way it works is, I call the people I like to work with the most when a gig comes up. Usually I end up working with the same guys. Right now I have a bass player I’m going to be working with in the future. His name is Frank Masakio. I usually call Mark Copani first as far as guitar is concerned because I really love his work, and I just like working with him. So, there’s certain people I will call first. When I get back from Japan I’m going to put together my own band so that everything is the way I want it to be. Up to this point it’s been like rehearse, go over my charts and this that and another. Rehearse is part of my career, for acting and singing. I don’t mind it, but it’s not always feasible. With my own band we can go on tour. That’s the other thing: finding the guys that will go overseas or who will go to other parts of the country for days or weeks at a time, or months.

Q – You’re going to try and recruit those guys from Syracuse?
A – Right. Frank is from Camden ( New York) and I was in a band with him a long time ago. He contacted me. His wife had picked up my first CD. He said he didn’t know I was still singing. (Laughs). We just decided we would put something together like that. I’m gonna try to recruit the guys from Syracuse. I sort of know who’s here and what their availability is. So, it doesn’t really look like it’s gonna happen that way.

Q – How are you getting these overseas bookings? You’re not going through a local booking agency are you?
A – No. Actually the very first time I went to Japan, I was seen on Jazz Discoveries, by an agent. He’s in Tokyo. I’m really not sure where he saw the show. He might’ve been in England at the time, because it’s not broadcast in Tokyo. (Laughs). But, he called me and asked me if I wanted to come to Japan. So, that was the first way I got there. I’m going back through the same agent. So, that’s how I got ‘em.

Q – “Jazz Discoveries” is seen where?
A – Its on national t.v. Black Entertainment Television. They call it BET.

Q – How did you manage to get on that show?
A – I sent them a videotape. On the videotape the players were Jimmy Johns, who is the hottest drummer. I really like his work. Darryl Pugh on bass. And Dave Filazzo on piano. We went into the studio up at Syracuse University. I put together 2 songs that were already on my CD, because I knew I could use this videotape to promote my CD. And-----I sent it in. They chose to play it. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. It just kept playing for months and months on t.v. so it was really great exposure. I got a lot of calls from all across the country from people, but the most interesting one obviously was from the agent in Tokyo. (Laughs).

Q – You’ve actually won a SAMMY haven’t you?
A – Yeah, many moons ago.

Q – What does that do for your career? Does it mean anything to anybody?
A – Well, I guess it could. I suppose it could be beneficial to people depending on where they are in their career. Quite frankly, I have a problem with competition, in the arts. Being an actress and a vocalist and a director and a playwright, and working with young people in the arts, I just have a problem with competition. Everybody has something to offer that’s coming from them. Hopefully it’s coming from inside of them. To say this person is better than that person-----I just have a problem with that.

Q – It would probably be better than to give an award to everyone who has been nominated.
A – Absolutely. Then they came up with something that said if you won the prior year you couldn’t be nominated the next year. Then, you’re not really basing this on peoples’ accomplishments. You’re saying if you win you’re going to be penalized. The whole thing is kind of strange to me. I’m really not in the cliques of Syracuse. I just want to sing and I want to perform. I don’t really like to play any of the political games that come along with it.

Q – Were you born in Syracuse?
A – No. I was born in Pennsylvania.

Q – What then brought you to Syracuse?
A – Well, it’s a long story. I guess I just decided…..I was out in California before I came here. I just decided to come here and ended up going to school here, and just stayed here.

Q – You loved it so much!!!!!
A – (Laughs).

Q – You appeared in Spike Lee’s movie “Malcolm X”. I saw that movie. What role did you play?
A – Oh, I didn’t have a speaking role. I was an extra. So, that means I was in a lot of the scenes. I really don’t like doing films too much. I love theatre much more. The film is like I would get up at 3 in the morning and drive down. I didn’t really know people in the city at the time. It’s like hurry up and wait. You get all dressed and sit around and wait ‘til they call you to the set. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but I wanted to do it to say that I did it. But, I much prefer theatre. ‘Live’ audiences.

Q – Freddy Cole (brother of Nat King Cole) is mentioned on the inside of the tape you sent me. Did he see you perform somewhere or did you send him a tape?
A – I sent him a tape. When I was asked to go to Japan the first time I asked the agent if I could bring along my own band and he said, ‘Well, no. I have some guys I want you to work with’. The guys that he wanted me to work with were from Georgia. The bass player was Phil Morrison. He’s a friend of Freddie Cole. He said, ‘You should send Freddie Cole your tape ‘cause I think he would really like it. If he likes it-----he’ll endorse it’. That’s just the kind of guy he is. So, that’s what I did. So, that’s how he heard me.

Q – Why do you have a fascination with Billie Holiday?
A – People were giving me tapes of her a long time ago. I listened to her, but, I didn’t really care for her that much. And then I had to do a theatrical piece called Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill. It had been on Broadway and then they made it a regional kind of theatre. When I was asked to do the part, I really had to study her. I had to really, really listen to her music, and that’s when I really fell in love with her style of singing. The thing that really attracts me to Billie Holiday is the fact that she would sing from her soul. She wasn’t afraid to express herself through her music. That’s what I hear when I hear Billie Holiday. After the show was over I just felt I don’t want to let this go. I want to keep doing something, but it was a professional show which meant you’d have to buy the rights. So, I started writing my own. I just wrote my own show called ‘Billie’s Diary’. So, then I would just perform that.

Q – Before you came to Syracuse, were you in bands in Pennsylvania that would play, let’s say the Holiday Inn circuit?
A – Oh, no I didn’t do Holiday Inns. Well, then I was in California, I would go around to clubs. When I think back on it, it was really kind of funny. I would go in and I was doing a lot of Roberta Flack at the time. I didn’t have any lead sheets or charts or anything. I would just go up to them and they would know the music. (Laughs). I just think that’s so phenomenal now in my career knowing what that’s all about, that people would just know Roberta Flack. When I was in York ( Pennsylvania), I left there after high school. In high school I was involved in all the music things. We had a band and we would do a lot of Aretha Franklin cover tunes and there was a guy band and they would do a lot James Brown. We would get together some times and do a whole night of just Aretha Franklin and James Brown. So, it was kind of fun that way. So, we did have groups back then, yeah. But, we didn’t do Holiday Inns ‘cause I was too young.

Q – Then in California, you’d walk into the clubs there and sing with the house band.
A – Well, just a piano player and a bass player, something like that. It wasn’t like I was hired to do the gig. I would just go and sit in. I was beginning to feel that this was beginning to feel that this was what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t like I was out there trying to make it. I was actually working in a health food store. (Laughs). Then when I came to Syracuse, that’s when I decided I wanted to do some acting and I got started with Salt City as a community actor. Then I realized I want to make this my profession. I have to go to school and get a degree in this. I don’t want to do community theatre. I want to be a professional. So, I just took all the steps I had to take to make that happen.

Q – Ultimately, what is it you would like to do? Where do you want your voice to take you?
A – Well, I want to be an international recording artist. (Laughs). I just want as many people as possible to hear my voice and hear my style and appreciate the songs I choose because I choose them all for a reason. Some are for fun, but others for the message and the lyrics. So, that’s what I want. I just want to be able to tour and deliver my songs to as many people as I can.

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