Karin Carson

Karin Carson

 San Diego, California, USA
BandJazzSinger/Songwriter

Karin Carson is a talented and highly appealing jazz singer as can be heard on her recording debut, The Time Is Now.
More than just a vocalist for she is an organizer, a spokeswoman, and an activist for the music that she loves.

Band Press

Breathe In The Jazz – San Diego Reader

“I would sing in church, in school choirs…although there was plenty of passion, I felt unmoved.”

By Michael Hemmingson
Published November 23, 2005


'Our vocal group at school had been offered the opportunity to record an on-air spot at Jazz 88.3 for a festival at City College," says La Mesa resident and jazz vocalist Karin Carson. "I went to the station, recorded the spot, and was offered an opportunity to become an intern. For two semesters I worked as the promotions assistant at Jazz 88.3. Eventually I would like to learn the art of being a DJ, but for now I am singing and volunteer my time at events. When people have asked me what I do there, I say, 'Whatever they tell me to do. '"

On her website Karin writes: "I have always had a passion for music, but in the years I was growing up I was exposed to very little real jazz music. I would sing in church, in school choirs...although there was plenty of passion in the music, as well as expression, I felt unmoved."


TRICKIEST PROBLEM PLAYING LIVE?
"To me, jazz is a live music. It is for the people. Since there are varied impressions on what jazz is, there is a level of expectation that may or may not be met in a live setting. I have tended to play more traditional styles of jazz, but I'm moving into a more creative space.... In playing jazz, every experience is different due to constant improvisation. Dave Holland said it best: 'You have to let go of expectations and allow the magic to happen. '"

TOP FIVE END-OF-THE-WORLD CDs?
1. Ramsey Lewis, Wade in the Water. "Soulful funk with some gospel blues thrown in and a taste of ragtime. This old-school jazz makes you want to dance!"
2. Cassandra Wilson, Belly of the Sun. "Cassandra's mellow tone and experience in the industry speaks to me. You can hear the stories in her music."
3. Josephine Baker, Josephine Baker Box Set. "There is a wild side to jazz that Baker epitomized with her lifestyle. She was an entertainer that lived her music with great flamboyance."
4. Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) (soundtrack). "After playing Black Orpheus at Jam Session's, I finally saw the original film and have been listening to the soundtrack written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá. The story is based on the myth of Orpheus and his love for Eurydice. A tragic story -- it brings new meaning to the bossa nova."
5. The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More -- 25th Anniversary. "I am planning a tribute to Jim Henson on his birthday. We will be performing 'The Music of the Muppets. '"

BEST GIG?
"Had to be my very first show. I played a tribute to Nina Simone at Dizzy's and sold the show out. We played two of the most frightening and exhilarating sets of my life. Dr. Carroll Waymon [Nina Simone's brother], a San Diego resident, graced us with his presence."

WORST GIG?
"One of the first bands I joined, appropriately called Mis-led, rehearsed at this place called the Pelican Pub in Lemon Grove. Led by a guitarist straight out of the Big Hair Era, the band included me doing backup vocals, a lead female vocalist, a female drummer, and my friend on bass. We would play every week for tips, and the same ten people would dance to the same set of Blondie, the Motels, 4 Non Blondes, Alanis Morissette, and No Doubt covers. The first night we made $5 in tips. I made my first musical dollar playing there."

WEIRD GIG DREAMS?
"I am a pretty vivid dreamer. I tend to have the dream similar to the dream where you want to run but are fixed in place, and everything goes in slow motion. It is like that, only I can't sing when cued and everything slows down. My mouth is still open and moving, but nothing is coming out. In one dream I am sitting at a piano talking to Chick Corea about music. Just before I wake up he tells me, 'Everything is going to work out just fine, don't worry. It's about the music -- you have to breathe it in. '"

Blues Community Rallies Around Kid In Need – The Pennisula Beacon

Blues Community Rallies Around Kid in Need.

Bart Mendoza

October 19, 2006

When the chips are down, San Diego’s music scene has rallied around its community. Whether because of a natural disaster or a personal tragedy, local musicians readily pitch in to help. The latest such example, A Big Blues Benefit to Help Bring AJ Home, will take place on Monday, Oct. 23, at Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge.
Music gets underway at 6:30 p.m. with a full roster of some of San Diego’s best blues artists on hand. Harmonica player Chet Cannon and The Committee will be joined by harmonica virtuoso Kellie Rucker, Karin Carson and Eric Leiberman, as well as Steve White, Hoodoo Blues and The 145th Street Deluxe Band.

The show is a fund-raiser for 13-year-old AJ Hendrick of Lakeside, who suffered a brain aneurysm following a blow to the head during a schoolyard scuffle. Now living with major brain damage, AJ cannot function without special medical equipment. His mother would like to bring him home from the hospital but the family apartment is too small to accommodate the machinery needed for AJ’s care. Recently, a larger home was found but major renovations must take place before the family can move in.

After seeing the story on the KUSI Turko Files, Cannon decided to gather the blues community for a fund-raiser to help this worthy cause. According to Cannon, there is no shortage of talent that wants to be included in an altruistic event like this, but other things will take precedence. “Band selection usually comes down to those who aren’t scheduled with other business at the time of the event,” he joked. “I’ve learned most folks want to do something to help when presented an opportunity. Artists are caring, compassionate, giving people who understand hard times. Most of us don’t have much money but know that we can make a difference by working together.”
Alongside his band, The Committee, Cannon got his start in the area’s clubs in 2001 and has since built a solid fan base. He released an album in 2006, Don’t Get Me Started, which was nominated this year for a San Diego Music Award for Best Blues Album.

In 2003, he began to put together occasional benefit concerts for causes such as The Marine Family Food Locker. A personal experience in his past proved to be the catalyst for setting up this fund-raiser and others like it.
“Years ago, I was involved in a serious car wreck – breaking my neck and back – and couldn’t find any help getting resituated,” he explained. “I decided back then if there was ever something I could do to make a difference in someone’s life, who was in a similar situation, that I would try,” he said.

According to Carson, it’s only natural for performers to want to help others. “Musicians are the storytellers of our time. There’s a natural sensitivity to the nature of the human condition that we experience, write about and share,” she remarked. “With that platform comes the responsibility to reach out to the people around us.”

Facing The Music – San Diego City Beat

San Diego's jazz scene has the horses—but are the barns to follow?

by MARTIN JONES WESTLIN

Ocean Beach's Portugalia restaurant opted for familiar turf on Easter Sunday, featuring vocalist Karin Carson in a few sets of jazz and blues and pop, as it often does. A minor twist was to follow when one of Carson's ex-boyfriends showed up with a date—a girl with some musical acumen of her own. The girl sat in with the group, an utter stranger to most, never expecting the modest windfall that would blow across her palm as the gig wound down.

"It was really uncomfortable and kind of weird,"Carson explained, "but at the end of the night, I paid her, and I didn't take any money for myself. I paid 'em all. It was only 25 bucks each, and I felt stupid about paying them, because $25 is just nothing.

"But the San Diego [jazz] scene is weird that way,"Carson explained. "You get close, so close that it becomes personal. It is family.”

She's right. Over the last year and a half, I've seen a little of that bond congeal among the several jazz musicians I've met. I've come to know a couple of them—like Carson, who's been regaling local audiences with her take on jazz for a little more than eight years—fairly well. I've shaken hands with others I'll probably never see again. Both ends of that spectrum collide mid-beat in wholesale passion for this art form. Like its practitioners, jazz is a fiercely independent animal, shunning technical convention for the spirit of the moment and the caprice that colors it.

But in its most important respects, San Diego's jazz environment barely breaks a sweat, even as April—the sixth annual national Jazz Appreciation Month—draws to a close.

"Definitely, the San Diego scene needs a jump-start,"Carson said. "Right now, there are so many [potential patrons] that aren't really aware. They don't have any idea of what's available to them."Many club owners, she added, see her ilk as window dressing or a creature comfort, oblivious to the rich musical life story underneath. The local family is thus firmly ensconced on the outskirts of town, often left to celebrate its art only among itself.

Carson, 28, talks San Diego jazz like Stacy Taylor talks lefty politics. Her command of the topic is seamless and intense, thick with references to the city's old Stingaree district and the Creole Palace of the 1920s, the anchor that inspired some traveling players to call San Diego the Harlem of the West. By then, jazz had morphed into a national movement, having exploded out of turn-of-the-century New Orleans with a uniquely American mix of improvisation, 19th-century minstrelsy and top-heavy rhythms and brass. Nothing like it happened before or since, and Mark DeBoskey, manager of San Diego City College's jazz-based KSDS-FM radio, thinks the local consumer base is primed to assume its place in that roily history.

"I got here 30 years ago,"DeBoskey explained, "and the baby-boomers were in their 20s. Now, they're in their 40s and 50s. They're finding themselves disenfranchised by the [music] they grew up with, because it's become so homogenous. I believe we have an educational job ahead of us now, which is to say, ‘Try it—jazz isn't what you think it is.' It's not just smooth jazz; it's much broader than that—the Dixieland, the big band, the music that people discover and say it's great. I think San Diego has the potential to be a good jazz town."

KSDS program director Claudia Russell sees the same trend, but for her, the gravitation to jazz is more incidental, like much of this city's entertainment scene.

"Because of our geography and our climate,"Russell said, "we have so many options. San Diego isn't an anything town. We're not a theater town; we're not a dance town; we're not a jazz town. We're not even really a football town or a baseball town, despite the Padres. We are a do-what-you-feel kind of community.

"But I think what I've seen is a core jazz audience, that periphery of people… who just want good music and want a pleasant experience. From what I've seen over the last six years, I think that is starting to come back "
If that's true, then San Diego is left to address the core issue that colors its jazz—the wholesale lack of venues. Clubs have been closing in disconcerting numbers over the last several years, leaving maybe three that local players mention in the same breath: Dizzy's, Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar and The Onyx Room—where Carson recorded a live CD on April 3.

Holly Hofmann, San Diego-based jazz flutist and music director whose longtime acclaim finds her mostly on the road internationally, notes the shortage. She's also quick to add that San Diego isn't alone.

"There are only two legitimate jazz programs in town,"Hofmann said, "the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla and San Diego Museum of Art's Jazz in the Park. That's it. [Both venues] seat about 400, and they are full each and every time they do a concert."The demographic, Hofmann added, can often reach age 75 among both patrons and musicians, "and there are enough college-student programs here that the students are often sent out to hear live performance, because if you're hearing the music, that's an important part of the experience.

"But this society,"Hofmann explained, "does not consider art as one of their top six or seven options for disposable income. When you compound that problem with the climate here, where there are outdoor entertainment options for the dollar year-round, you're just adding to the same problem that every other city has. Musicians tell me the same thing when I tour. Clubs come and clubs go. And jazz is an educated music. It tends to be played and enjoyed by people that like the better musics."

Meanwhile, Carson—who's been singing since age 3, who's attended almost every International Association for Jazz Education parley since 1999 and who's pining to get a local jazz-musicians guild off the ground—is in no position to give up. Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos; drummer Bob Daniels; keyboardist Ed Kornhauser; Hofmann herself: Carson speaks respectfully of them and their considerable talent. They and many others are the local extensions of her musical travels, which led her to jazz only relatively recently.

"I didn't get to that point until I was in my 20s,"Carson said, "and I had to go to L.A. to get it. It was a huge ordeal for me to have to do this, but I knew something there was life-changing that I had to go find.”

What's so irksome is that she couldn't find it here.

Write to marty@edarts.info and editor@sdcitybeat.com.