Shana Tucker
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Shana Tucker

Durham, North Carolina, United States | SELF

Durham, North Carolina, United States | SELF
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""Mirada Ritmica" Commission: Shana Tucker for Andrea Woods, Choreographer"

Woods to present first concert since joining Duke Dance
By SUSAN BROILI (February 10, 2011)

Special to The Herald-Sun

Sea views from a Cuban shore; activist Angela Davis; a photograph of her grandmother as a child; and even the TV Home Shopping Network inspire Andrea E. Woods' concert, "blueswimmin and Other Performance and Video Works."

Featuring her company, Souloworks/Andrea E. Woods & Dancers; musician/composer Shana Tucker; and percussionist Josh Stohl, the Saturday event marks the first concert of her work since she joined the Duke Dance faculty last fall.

"I'm excited about the concert because it is like a reawakening of my work as it is inspired by my new community in Durham," Woods writes in program notes.

In an interview earlier this week, she added that this community includes her dancers Danika Manso-Brown, Christianna Barnett-Murphy and Kristen Taylor as well as Tucker, Beverly Botsford and other musicians she's met. She's also enjoying being in an academic environment that also supports the arts.

She's always had a scholarly bent, liked to read and study history. "I like that you can bring artistic expression to scholarship," she said.

Scholarship led her to Cuba in 2007 when she spent a semester at the University of Havana while working on a master's degree in Caribbean cultural studies at SUNY (The State University of New York)/Buffalo. She had also gone to Cuba the year before to study folkloric dance. The sea and shoreline of Cuba inspire her new group dance, "Mirada Ritmica" ("Rhythmic Gaze") featuring herself and her company: She has Cuban friends and family (by marriage -- her husband is Cuban) and she takes the name of her dance from a poem by him. "The poem talks about how the sea was here before bodies and beings," Woods said. The dance will include video images of the sea and commissioned music composed and performed by cellist/vocalist Shana Tucker. The two women first met in Ellen Hemphill's play, "Out of the Blue," in which Tucker played cello in a quartet and Woods, like the other actors, portrayed both human and crow characters.

After that production, Woods went to hear Tucker sing and was impressed. "The reason I approached her about composing for the new, 10-minute work, 'Mirada Ritmica' is because her voice is sacred like the sea," Woods said.

The sea figures prominently in the work as does Afro-Cuban traditions and rhythms which is why Woods asked Tucker to listen to some Afro-Cuban music about Yemaya, Goddess of the Sea. For her composition for Woods' dance, Tucker draws from that music as far as motif, rhythms and call-and-response. Tucker, on cello, and Josh Stohl on percussion, perform the new music live for the dance. At Woods' request, Tucker also sings words from the poem, "Mirada Ritmica."

Of working with Woods, Tucker said, "I feel like this is a treat. I'm loving the energy that Andrea brings. Her creative process is so easy and accessible."

The blues tradition informs Brown's work as well. She uses music by the Carolina Chocolate Drops for her "Slow Jig," performed by Manso-Brown, Barnett-Murphy and Taylor.

Woods likes to use multimedia in her work -- something she experienced as a dancer during her six years with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, she said.

As a performer, she prefers solos. "I like the intimacy and self-sufficiency you have on stage and in the rehearsal process. You can make choices spontaneously, create and break your own rules as you go," Woods said.

In this concert, Woods performs two of her solos. She bases "blueswimmin: evidence of freedom, prelude to protest," on Angela Davis' book, "Blues Legacies and Black Feminism." TV's "Home Shopping Network" figures into her solo "shipping and handling" in which an anxiety-stricken insomniac feels compelled to consider "retail therapy" to find sleep and personal fulfillment.

Since Woods is a videographer as well as a dancer/choreographer, she includes three of her video works in this concert. "mannish boy'' features dancer/choreographer Darrell Jones' impromptu rehearsals in New York's Washington Square Park. She describes "blue in tunisia/dance in a window" as "a tender and peaceful work" to music by long-time collaborator pianist/composer Randy Weston.

In "still life w/words," she focuses on ordinary but personal objects in her home: dishes in the sink, a half-empty glass of wine, a portrait of her grandmother as a child. "Each object has a living story behind it," Woods said.

WHAT: Souloworks/Andrea E. Woods & Dancers present “blueswimmin and Other Performance and Video Works.”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: The Ark on Duke University’s East Campus.

ADMISSION: Tickets available at the door. - The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC)

"Shana Tucker's SHiNE"


SHiNE, the lush, chamber-soul debut from Durham singer-songwriter Shana Tucker, is an earful. Her sweet, unerring voice alone would be enough to support a career; what makes Tucker special is her adherence to the cello, boldly taking the instrument into new territory. Much like vocalist Esperanza Spalding with her double bass, Tucker and her cello blur the lines in our heads that divide classical, jazz, folk, R&B and soul.

Tucker's heart-driven truths are a goldmine; her melodic inventions reveal novelty without force. Jazzy, rhythmic complexity comes across as infectiously singable in Tucker's hands. Take, for example, the funky "No Get-Back," with escalating backing vocals woven into three-part harmonies (each voice is Tucker's, just multitracked) worthy of The Staples Singers. Or there's "November," the tune most likely to catch a popular wind that could lift Shine to a higher level, like Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." Tucker's confessional storytelling is her strength; one minute, she's rambling over coffee, but before you can put down your spoon, she has boiled the matter down to its essence. "I miss the month I loved you," she sings, telling the story of everyone who has ever been blown out of the water by a truncated romance, wherever it happened to fall in the calendar.

Tucker's faith in herself—and in a higher power—lights up the title track, as well as the lovely "Simplicity." As part of her codex, Tucker takes no mess, as "Repeat Again" makes clear, a song that begins where her patience with fools ends. Virtually the only emotion not cataloged on Shine is fear. Tucker's debut is a bold piece of vulnerability, meticulously executed and gorgeously produced, with a supporting cast that includes local talents from Eric Hirsh and Stephen Coffman to James Wallace and Chris Boerner. Transcending obstacles, Shine is acoustic music for inner rooms, with the human soul as resonating chamber. - | The Independent Weekly (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC)

"Shana Tucker's ChamberSoul"

By Cliff Bellamy (February 22, 2011); 419-6744

DURHAM -- Cellist, singer and songwriter Shana Tucker uses the term "ChamberSoul" to describe the music on her debut CD "SHiNE," and the musical path she has taken. The original songs on "SHiNE" have elements of jazz, acoustic pop and contemporary folk, with hints of Latin rhythms.

The term also is a way to prepare listeners for the kind of intimate, personal sound that Tucker wants to express. "There's a cello, and the cellist is classically trained," Tucker said in a phone interview. "There may be amplification. There may not be. It's not going to be in an arena," but even if the music were played in a large venue, "it should sound like it's in your living room."

Tucker adds that at Thursday's CD release concert for "SHiNE" "it's OK to snap your fingers or respond the way you would when someone plays a solo in a jazz [composition]." The release concert will be Thursday at The Reality Center.

Tucker has been playing in the local music scene for a little more than a year (she is also the operations manager for Mallarmé Chamber Players). Her musical philosophy is "performance first, then CDs second," but listeners kept asking her if she had a CD they could purchase. "I just got tired of saying, 'I don't have one,'" Tucker said.

She did not have the backing of a recording label, and knew that many labels would have difficulty getting their minds wrapped around the idea of a cellist who sings original songs. She chose a route similar to the one jazz arranger and composer Maria Schneider took, when she became the first artist to win a Grammy for a recording that was sold only by Internet through Artist Shares. Using the IndyGoGo site, Tucker raised money from fans to finance the recording of "SHiNE" (which was recorded at Sound Pure Studios in Durham). She set the ambitious goal of $5,000 initially, and in 60 days had exceeded that by $370.

That route allowed her to have complete control of the music and musicians. "I retain 100 percent of my artistic vision," Tucker said. "I chose where I recorded it. I chose the players." Having that kind of creative control allowed her to present the music "in all of its glory, in all of its imperfection" and "allowed my friends to have a larger sense of ownership in this process."

There's far more glory than imperfection on "SHiNE." "Fast Lane" and "No Get-Back" have infectious, up-beat tempos (and the latter has a fine guitar solo from Chris Boerner). Tucker's vocals and cello solo make the title track an absolute stunner, with its uplifting lyrics ("Far away, over forest and trees / Is a light/ That heeds neither rain nor shine /It continues to shine / For you and for me"). She also takes a fine solo on "November." The musicians on this record, who also will join Tucker at Thursday's concert, are, in addition to Boerner on guitar, Grant Osborne on piano and accordion, Pete Kimosh on bass, and Josh Stohl on drums.

Tucker was raised in Amityville, N.Y., where she learned to play piano from her great-grandmother. Later, she played violin, then switched to cello, studying at Howard University and later at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music.

In music school, she realized that a life of studying standard cello repertoire (Bach, Dvorak, Saint-Saens) was not for her, but she still loved the instrument. "I knew clearly I did not want to be in an orchestra, and did not want to pursue cello in that way," Tucker said, "but I did not have a lot of other examples of what you could do with your cello." She found Quartette Indigo, a string quartet that writes and performs in the jazz style, and began taking lessons from quartet cellist Akua Dixon Turre.

"I knew I wanted to write music. I knew I wanted to sing," Tucker said of the path that led her to "SHiNE."

She believes that music schools are becoming more aware and open to different paths for musicians. They are realizing that "you don't have to quarantine the cello to an orchestra or to a quartet," she said. There's a growing awareness of "a different perspective on what people can do, growing on your own strengths."


WHAT: Release concert for singer, songwriter and cellist Shana Tucker’s release “SHiNE”

WHERE: The Reality Center, 916 Lamond Ave., Durham

WHEN: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

ADMISSION: General admission tickets are $12 in advance and $15 day of show. Ticket buyers will receive a copy of the new CD. To purchase, visit or - The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC)

"N&O Rock Picks"

SUBMITTED BY BY DAVID MENCONI (Friday, February 18, 2011)

You rarely see Joni Mitchell invoked as a reference point, and it's not because Mitchell isn't one of the greats. It's because her music is so uniquely individual that few can follow her. But in Shana Tucker we have a worthy successor. The Durham singer/cellist calls what she does "chamber soul," and her debut album "ShiNE" is a delectable combination of folksy acoustic pop and in-the-pocket jazz, topped off with her easy croon. It's an impressive record, and Tucker will unveil it with a 7:30 p.m. Thursday show at the Reality Center in Durham ( Tickets are $12 advance or $15 at the door and include a copy of "SHiNE." See for details. - News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)


Still working on that hot first release.



Currently at a loss for words...