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Interview : Kristine Mills
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In Remembrance of: Benjamin Henry, Eva Burrell, Eric Paul Jackson, Bertha Smith, Leon Guitry, Jackie Hall
By Richard Henry on February 20, 2010

Biography:

Kristine Mills, a "bold, blonde entertainer outta the old school" and native Houstonian, has been impressing audiences with her varied repertoire, vocal prowess and command of various languages ever since she launched her professional jazz vocalist career in the early 90's at Ovations. Since then she's graced stages throughout the US, Brazil and Belgium. Last year, Kristine was named one of Houston's Hottest Female Jazz Vocalist on Houston Modern Luxury's Lust List and was the featured musician in “The Loop Music” Houston Modern Luxury Magazine, July 2007.

In May of 2007 Kristine released her first cd, Kristine Mills MUSIC. She followed up that cd with the live April 28, 2007 recording of her second cd, Kristine Mills, Playing with the Big Boys - Live! This second album was recorded live during a performance at Cezanne's, Houston's premier jazz club. It features Barry Lee Hall, Jr. and Rocky White of the Duke Ellington Orchestra backed by the Ken Ward Trio.

Following this recording, Kristine was invited to perform as guest vocalist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Kristine and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performed in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brasil for the Brasilian International Jazz Festival, August 2007.

During the DEO Brazil tour Kristine met Tommy “TJ” James, a leading pianist, composer, arranger and music director. After their return to the States, Tommy vowed to create masterful arrangements and perform with Kristine. They performed together for two dates in late March 2008, along with Barry Lee Hall, Jr., trumpeter, conductor and also arranger for the Duke Ellington Orchestra. They presented a spectacular musical event to commemorate the two-year anniversary of Wade Wilson Gallery and the FOTOFest 2008 also in honor of their friend, Rocky White, drummer of the DEO who was suffering with cancer.

Immediately following this performance Kristine headed off to Chicago to play with the Duke Ellington 8-piece band for the Jubilee Celebration of Mies Van Der Rohe.

Kristine Mills is also the 2009 Houston Press Music Awards "Best Female Vocalist". In 2009 she was a 2009 Houston Press Music Awards Nominee for "Best Jazz" and "Musician of the Year". She was also a 2008 Houston Press Music Awards "Best Jazz" Nominee.

Interview with Kristine Mills March 1, 2010


How did you discover your love for singing?
I was about 3 years old and in pre-school and I created an impromptu stage and sang “Aquarius” for my class. It just started from there. I always had a love for music and singing. It has always been a part of my life.

When I heard your music, I noticed that you have a very smooth and rich voice. What do you attribute these vocal qualities to?
I am a trained singer. I started studying voice with Jean Krietzer (Patterson) back in high school and continued with her until after college. Now I work with Dr. Sharon Radionoff and continue to work the voice, build on technique and do my best to care for my instrument.

Your last album "Bossanovafied" that was released in 2009 features songs arranged in the style of bossa nova. How much has latin music influenced your style and music?
Brazilian music has been a part of what I listen to since college. A buddy of mine sat me down my freshman year at UT Austin and opened the world of Milton Nasciamento, Gil, Jobim and others on the floor of his apartment. From there, I began exploring the variety and beauty of Brazilian music from samba, to bossa nova and other genres of music that come from the culturally rich Brazilian musicians and people.

How awesome was it to perform with the Duke Ellington Orchestra?
Totally and completely awesome! I learned so much from those guys. It kicked my level of performance and professionalism into overdrive and made me start listening to music a completely different way.

What other kinds of music do you like to listen to?
I listen to just about everything. Jazz, pop (I have a tween daughter), classical, female singers, trumpets, etc. My iPod has everything from Led Zepplin to Sade and lots of Miles Davis, Ella, and the list goes on…

What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in studying jazz?
Learn to LISTEN! Take the time to listen to records and ask a lot of questions. Also when you’re performing in an ensemble remember that it is dynamic, not static. It’s not really what’s on the page, but what’s in your heart. BUT, you have to know your basics, so you can soar on your own.

What do you love most about performing?
I love two very distinct things about performing. One is the relationship with my band. We have a very intimate conversation through our music. Someone will put a musical idea out to the group and if they (we) are connected, then someone else will then respond and then it goes from there. That’s where the magic happens. The intimate relationship and conversation that happens on that stage through the music. That’s what fulfills me. I can have virtually no one in the audience, but if the band is connected – wow!

The second thing is the audience. If you can share the truth of what’s happening with the band, the audience will respond. They know if you're not really into your work and then inversely they know when you’re ON. It’s a thrill to take them with you and see them respond accordingly.

When you travel to other countries, I bet that it's very refreshing to see a new culture and interesting people. I love to travel and to perform for audiences in other countries. Each place has it’s own vibe and culture and it’s interesting to see what dynamics they respond to and how to allow for the truth in the music and in the performance to transcend any language barriers that may exist. Music is the universal language.



Kristine Mills
   
 
 
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