Q&A: Lori Carsillo definitely hits all the right notes, no matter how intimate the setting

Image courtesy of israbox.com

Image courtesy of israbox.com

For the last several years, Bay Area vocalist Lori Carsillo has covered the many standards of smooth and classic jazz–from Cole Porter to Sergio Mendes and many others in between.

And yes, she had even time to do a few Brazilian tunes.

I recently got a chance to email Lori inbetween some performances in the first half of November, and I asked her about some songs on her newest album pictured above and some other questions about her past work on Project Pimento:

1. Please trace back for me how it all began. Did you gain a true appreciation for the jazz standards while as a young girl, or did it all really blossom for you while in college?

Jazz standards are definitely something I was exposed to early on. My mom sang jazz standards in high school and college and she taught them to me (she also plays piano).  My dad played jazz records (actual records) in the house, and later, when I could work the record player, I would spend a lot of time listening to those records myself.  I was singing at an early age but joined the jazz big band in high school as their first official singer and that was when I got the first-hand experience and started listening to more and more jazz music , especially played live.

2. I noticed in a few of the albums that you have featured more than a few Brazilian hit songs (chief among them, “Agua de Beber” on Project Pimento: Magical Moods of the Theremin and “The Look of Love” on your recent album, “Sugar and Smoke.”

Image courtesy of verdalet.com

Image courtesy of verdalet.com

What feelings and/or emotions do you get when you perform those types of bossa novas or slow, sensual sambas compared to doing American jazz standards like “Moon River” or “Cinnamon and Clove”?

There’s such a cool, easiness to the Brazilian tunes, even the fast, driving ones when played well seem so effortless. It all takes energy but I suppose it takes a different kind of focus to coax some of the subtleties of the phrasing out of the Brazilian tunes as opposed to the more bebop repertoire.

I actually consider “Cinnamon & Clove” to be pretty Brazilian. It was most famously covered by Sergio Mendes – the version that inspired me to record the song.

3. By far, the most “far out” cover I have ever seen from any album, vinyl or CD was in the second Project: Pimento cover of “Space Age Love Songs”. Can you tell me the story behind the cover? I bet just mimicking a scene straight out of the groovy 1960’s must have been really cool.

acDoing the photography for the album was so much fun. This was actually our second attempt at getting a good photo for the cover of the album. Our first attempt was with a great photographer and we loved the pictures but they were perhaps a little bit too subdued for the vibe of the record. Robby, the theremin player, showed our mockup cover to filmmaker Steven M. Martin (who directed the theremin documentary called “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey” from 1994 and who has been a supporter of the band) and Steven strongly suggested we go a little more vibrant and evoke the energy and the essence of the music we recorded. He sent us a bunch of photos of record covers from the 60s to help inspire us. Steven had a very positive influence in our decision and in a way was directing us from afar.

So we went back to the drawing board and found a wonderful Bay Area photographer named Rio Costantini who shot this photo. I kept hearing Steven’s advice in my head while we shot, so I tried to evoke the 60s girl singer vibe and ham it up a little. We laughed a lot during this shoot! Rio had set up these brown curtains in his studio to use as a backdrop and he had someone rustle them around during this particular shot to get a feeling of movement and energy. There may have been some cocktails consumed during the making of this record album.

4. Staying on that same point, I wonder if at any time since the album came out that you used your stage name when traveling: “Hi there, I am Lola Bombay. Is there a room for two double beds, non smoking with a pulsating bath inside, please?”

Ha! I’ll never tell!  (Editor’s Note:  Well, at least it was worth a try in asking.)

5. With a rather hectic schedule, do you have any time at all to relax or do any “girl things”–reading, shopping, cooking, etc.? Any hobbies that you enjoy doing?

You mean boys don’t read, shop or cook? 🙂 I try to squeeze in as much as I can of things I like to do like reading, cooking (I also like watching cooking shows – Top Chef is one of my favorite shows!), a little bit of sewing just for fun, museums, seeing live music of all genres. I feel like you can get inspired by anything, even things that don’t seem to relate directly to your field or your life. Writing is also something that I am trying to make time for. I also love to roller skate!

6. When you recorded “The Look of Love”, did you realize how huge that song is, and what impact do you think having it in your latest album will just add another chapter to your already growing playlist as a true Rising Star? Just fyi–it is one of my all-time favorites, and your version ranks up at the top along with Diana Krall and recent blog interview subject Sherie Julianne.

I was aware of the popularity of “The Look of Love” and in some ways, I try to steer away from songs that people consider to be ‘overdone’, but I love that song and felt it had a place on Sugar & Smoke. These songs keep being played for a reason – they are well written, beautiful pieces of music and they should continue to be honored and have life breathed into them.
(Wow, thanks for that great compliment! I will have to check out Sherie!)

You’re quite welcome, Lori.  Just take that mouse and kindly scroll down a few paragraphs and you will see my interview with Sherie below.

7. Any Brazilian songs that are you thinking of doing in the future, especially from the likes of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, Astrud Gilberto, or Basia just to name a few?

For years, people keep mentioning they’d like to hear me do “Waters of March”, which is a great song, so that’s on the list. (If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to share!)

8. Anything else that fans wish to know about what makes your music special, the online floor is yours…

Image courtesy of loricarsillo.com

Image courtesy of loricarsillo.com

I’ve been told that my music or that my “thing” is subtlety and that is not always easy to communicate to a large audience. I definitely thrive in a smaller, more intimate venue situation. I will continue to try and figure out what the best songs are for my particular voice. I guess that’s all part of the process with being any kind of artist, trying to grow and learn and continually improve. It’s challenging but fun at the same time!

Thank you so much for interviewing me for your blog! I’m excited to be part of it!

Here is Lori singing “Cinnamon and Clove”, followed by “The Look of Love”:


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