Q&A with Jo Fabro – 2005 NJA Finalist

Miriam Zolin: When did you start singing and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when singing came to you as a calling or vocation?

Jo Fabro: I started singing in high school, and my first teacher was a jazz singer, so I guess thats how I got started, but it wasn’t until the end of school that I decided that I wanted to do this professionally.

MZ: Which musicians (singers or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?

JF: My favourite singer would have to be Ella Fitzgerald; I listen to alot of different types of artists, and different styles of music, but I just can’t go past her for her range, her phrasing, her improvising. It’s always exciting and always interesting. After her it would probably have to be Stevie Wonder. But in life I guess my biggest influences musically have been my mentors Joy Yates and Dave MacRae, who have just taught me so much through the years, about music and myself.

MZ: What do you look for in a rhythm section?

JF: I look for confidence, people who can handle me throwing a new chart at them without too much fuss. But mostly I want a rhythm section who listens to each other and communicates. I like musicians who are not afraid to put everything they have into their playing, and also musicians who are not afraid to express themselves just because there is a singer up the front.

Alot of musicians have this opinion that they can only take a two chorus solo when they are playing with a singer, which I think in the end restricts their playing. Music and improvisation are forms of expression and i don’t like to feel that I am hindering someone’s expressiveness just because I am a singer.

MZ: What are your favourite lyrics, and why?

JF: There are heaps of lyrics that I love, sometimes it can be one line of lyrics that makes me fall in love with a song. I suppose at the moment my favourite lyrics are for the tune ‘Thats all’ by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes. The lyrics are based on a simple idea, but they are so effective.

MZ: What are you listening to now?

JF: At the moment I am listening to lots of singers, live albums in particular, like Ella live in Berlin, Play with Chick Corea and Bobby McFarren, some Carmen McRae and Lambert Hendricks and Ross. But my tastes change on an almost daily basis.

MZ: What do you hope to get out of the Wangaratta competition?

JF: I just think it will be a great experience, to hear other singers and what they are doing, and to sing with some great musicians who I have never worked with before. I think no matter what stage you are at in you life or career, there is always time to learn new things from other people, and a festival like Wang provides a great opportunity to do that.

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