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Monday, April 19, 2010

Claudia Schmidt at Wealthy Theatre April 22

The artistry of Claudia Schmidt goes like this: She's got a split-brain musical personality disorder--sort of. On paper, jazz and folk couldn't be further apart in most anything--audience included. However, over the course of a 35 year career Claudia has given the idea life and made it look easy. One might say her very own spot well-deserved; an 'X' on the musical stage of life. She practically invented a sub-genre of music--currently not classified by name--by infusing jazz and folk with highlights of spoken word and humor. Even with her unique talent and vision going for her, this duality is hard to grab hold of for some. Schmidt finds she must continue to carve out a space for herself.
“Those two forms--folk and jazz--as best as anything represent what I’ve been all along,” says Schmidt.
“I’ve always done a hodge-podge of different styles of music. My more easily described solo stuff tends to be more folk-ish and my band material more jazz-ish.”
The jazzy side of her sound will be the focus of her next show in Grand Rapids celebrating the release of her newest CD “Promising Sky” at the Wealthy Theatre on Thursday April 22.
Despite the boundary-straddling all is not on the downside for northern Michigan resident Schmidt. This twin approach has lead to musical appearances on the acclaimed “Prairie Home Companion” and spot in the movie “Gap-Toothed Woman.”
“Folk club owners are afraid to hire me sometimes for fear I’d sound too jazzy. Then you have jazz club owners who say ‘Oh. I didn’t know she was a folkie,’” says Schmidt from the middle of a two-week solo tour in the Pacific Northwest.
Add to that a perceived shrinking of an already-narrow mind set of some music listeners.
“It’s worse now than it has ever has been,” she says of people wanting to think of her in singular music categories
“People are less adventurous in terms of their musical palate.”
Leave it Claudia to come up with a handy answer for that.
“I’ve found I’m constantly there to rub salt in the wound of musical ignorance,” laughs Schmidt with her good-natured response.
“I’m here to say ‘Try this, it might not be as bad as you thought,’” noting that long term fans have always appreciated both sides.
“It’s still going to be me no matter what kind of music. It’s still my musical sensibilities. That is a constant,” says Schmidt.
“I’m only doing songs that I love to do. The art of performance for me is always about figuring out a fun sequence of songs. I never do the same set twice. That makes it fun for me. I always put together a set of songs that are special and particular for that night.”
Claudia Schmidt has stylishly out maneuvered musical margins—stealthy as she is—and that’s lucky for the rest of us.
On April 22 Schmidt will take the stage at the Wealthy with a quartet of jazz musicians from Traverse City plus local drummer Randy Marsh. Together onstage you get several decades worth of musical expertise.
“Promising Sky” contains several gems including the opening track, “Can’t Get Yourself Out of Love,” which reminds of Maura O’Connell courtesy of the languid pedal steel of Joe Wilson and enriching mandolin of Don Julin.
The bluesy side takes over on “Missy Ma’am,” a medium tempo propelled along by Marsh’s crisp drum work.
If putting together a long career weren’t enough, Schmidt must sometimes convince potential employers that while she might not be that much of a hot babe any longer, she remains the one who can deliver the goods.
“There are some club owners out there who when you call on them you get the impression they’re thinking, 'Oh, it’s you again. I thought you just went away…'”
At that point if Claudia has her druthers she’ll be right over with the salt shaker--no extra charge.

More info: http://www.claudiaschmidt.com/

Claudia Schmidt & her Funtet perform at the Wealthy Theatre on Thursday April 22 at 8:00pm. She also performs with the Funtet at Blissfest 2010 (Cross Village) July 9-11.

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