Alameda jazz singer Natasha Miller finds success putting a modern twist on old standards.
When Irving Berlin wrote “Blue Skies” in 1926, he probably didn’t envision a hip-hop rhyme leaping through silky melodies and sultry vocals. But, Natasha Miller’s 21st century mash-up (with East Bay rapper Dublin) combines rap with piano and sax so sweetly, there’s no need for Berlin to spin in his grave.
The cover of “Blue Skies” offers an insight into the Alameda jazz singer’s aesthetic—and provides a clue as to why Miller’s devoted following packs her concert runs at Yoshi’s twice a year. Miller admires the legends of jazz, as she told Diablo while flipping through stacks of rare LPs in Oakland’s Groove Yard records, but she does her best not to emulate them. Her goal is to add her own mark on the genre.
“I’m not interested in doing standard arrangements of these traditional songs,” Miller says. “They have already been done by the best vocalists and musicians in history. So, I’m interested in bringing a new wrinkle, whether it’s in the arrangement or the vocal, without damaging the beauty of the original piece.”
“Blue Skies” is the most experimental track on SpinVintage, Miller’s outstanding sixth album, which was released in September. When Miller’s not in the recording studio, she books a wide range of talent through her self-started talent agency, Entire Productions. The agency, an “accidental day job,” allows Miller to limit her performances to premium venues. Natashamillerweb.com.
For the past eight years, Miller has collaborated with legendary songwriter (and Alameda resident) Bobby Sharp, whose “Unchain My Heart” scored a number-one hit for Ray Charles in 1962.
live on stage
Miller will perform a free show at noon on October 6 at Oakland City Center as part of the Masters in Jazz series. oaklandcitycenter.com/happenings.
“At Last,” “Blue Skies,” and “Cry Me a River,” are available on iTunes and Amazon. The SpinVintage CD is available at Oakland’s Groove Yard records, 5555 Claremont Ave., (510) 655-8400.
Miller’s band includes a dozen or so members of the acclaimed San Francisco collaborative the Jazz Mafia.