Tokeli
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Tokeli

Fallbrook, California, United States | SELF

Fallbrook, California, United States | SELF
Band Jazz Adult Contemporary

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"She Has A Right to Sing the Blues"

Painful romantic breakups and bitter divorces have inspired such landmark albums as Beck's “Sea Change,” Joni Mitchell's “Blue” and Marvin Gaye's “Here, My Dear.”
But in the case of budding jazz and Brazilian music singer Tokeli, getting divorced is what inspired her to start pursuing a musical career in the first place. While she didn't enjoy the prelude, she's very pleased with the resolution.
“I went through a really bad and very expensive custody battle five years ago,” said Tokeli, a San Diego native who lives in Coronado with her 6-year-old daughter, Tayrn.
“I had been working days in advertising and made a lot of money. But most of it went toward the divorce and I was soul-crushingly unhappy.”
Seeking a form of catharsis, or at least a good distraction, Tokeli (who does not use her last name, Mushovic, professionally) decided to put on a concert at the Coronado School of the Arts.
Students from the school formed the core of her backing band. Her repertoire was jazz-focused, she recalled, “but I think I sang it more like a Broadway gal. I did jazz standards, but I didn't sing them well. I had a lot to learn.”
Performing comes naturally to Tokeli, who has a bachelor of arts degree in theater from UCSD and a master's degree in drama from Tufts University. Her résumé also includes stints as the managing director for the La Jolla Stage Company and Diversionary Theater.
Her divorce-inspired Coronado gig put her musical aspirations on a fast track.
Within a year she had completed her debut album, “Where Do You Start?” The 12-song release was co-produced by top San Diego guitarist Peter Sprague, who has played in the bands of Chick Corea, Sonny Rollins, Al Jarreau and Diane Reeves.
Following the album's release, she began a 19-month-long residency at Manhattan in La Jolla that ran through last summer. Tokeli performed two nights a week at Manhattan, often accompanied by nationally acclaimed jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, who is also on her album. She cites him, Sprague and San Diego jazz patriarch Daniel Jackson as her key musical mentors.
“She has star quality – her look and presence – and she has a lot going for her,” said Sprague, who will play in Tokeli's band when she performs June 11 at downtown's all-ages Anthology.
“She's so diligent and motivated to better herself, better her music, and get further along. And that's neat to be around, because she does it in a way that's not cut-throat.”
Tokeli, who has studied with Sprague, is now focusing less on jazz standards and more on sambas, bossa novas and other Brazilian styles she has taught herself to sing, phonetically, in Portuguese. She will be featured on composer Carl Hammond's upcoming album, “Once – The Music of Carl Hammond,” which she describes as sounding “really out and avant garde.”
When not singing or teaching music to private students, Tokeli works as a model, stand-in and actress (youtube.com/campaignamerica). She credits her mother, a former theatrical director, and her mother's mother, a former jazz singer and organist, for inspiring her as a young girl. The first concert she attended was a San Diego Sports Arena double-bill by Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis Jr.
“I was 12 or 13 and all my friends were into Duran Duran,” recalled Tokeli, who looks a decade younger than her 40 years. “I think they thought I was a little goody two-shoes. And now I'm a jazz singer.”
Make that a jazz singer who is quick to critique her performance on her first album.
“I wish I could go back and do it over, because I don't think my vocals are that strong,” she said. “I've got courage now – and depth. I'm not sure what the next step is. But I'm ready for something more, even if I don't know how to make it happen. I have more to sing about, and more integrity, which makes it stronger.”
Might her increased musical confidence and emotional gravitas be a result of the divorce that first spurred her to become a musician?
“Gosh,” she said with a laugh, “I should thank my ex-husband for making me such a good blues singer.”


by
George Varga - San Diego Union-Tribune


"Where Do You Start?"

Tokeli's unique name hints at something foreign and exotic. And sure enough, the San Diego-based vocalist delivers an album of jazz standards with a decidedly international flavor. Tinged with Latin and African influences, Where Do You Start? is among the year’s spiciest jazz releases, a record that consistently surprises and mesmerizes from beginning to end.
Co-produced by multi-award-winning jazz artist Peter Sprague, who also contributes guitar on nearly every track, Where Do You Start? is never fixed to a single sound or tempo. The album flexes the muscles of this impressive lineup of musicians, and Tokeli is consistently in sync with them, letting her voice flow with their music as well as the vintage lyrics that she tackles here. From Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale� (where Tokeli showcases her vocal range and effortless wordplay) to Rodgers and Hart’s immortal “My Romance,� the vocalist is always at full strength, yet she never goes overboard.

Given the number of times these compositions have been covered throughout the decades, Tokeli and her band look for new ways to approach them—like coloring Kurt Weill’s “Youkali Tangoâ€? with mandolin and harp.

In the end, though, it will be Tokeli’s voice that’ll win over fans. Weaving through these songs in a myriad of styles, with a tone that ranges from childlike innocence to mistress sex appeal, Tokeli hits the right notes without a single misstep, and that's quite an accomplishment for a newcomer.

by
Robert Sutton - All About Jazz


"Tokeli, Where Do You Start?"

The arrival of Norah Jones has us longing for the dark-haired jazz mistress of the night, her luscious voice crooning in our ears.

If that's what you have been dreaming of after playing those Jones records too much, you'll find comfort in the sultry tones of Tokeli. Stunningly beautiful and gifted with a rich, comforting voice, the multilingual Tokeli performs classic jazz not only with the freshness of youth but with the wisdom of the ages.

On the opener "Love for Sale," Tokeli captures the frenzied energy of her band in the shifting tempos of her voice. It's quite extraordinary hearing a woman so young have complete mastery over such old and time-tested material. Unlike Jones, Tokeli has real versatility, capable of expressing melancholy and joy with equal aplomb. Tokeli shows different sides here; not all of her singing sounds the same. Her greater range allows her to experiment quite successfully, such as the snappy version of "As Time Goes By."

Jazz enthusiasts will be impressed by Tokeli's company, which includes guitarist Peter Sprague. They illuminate her vocals with various colors and textures, transforming the classics into vibrant contemporary pieces.

by
Kyrby Raine - INK 19, United Kingdom


"Reviewing Tokeli"

Her voice brimming with breathy sensuality and atmospheric beauty, Tokeli (http://www.tokeli.com) will keep you up at night. After all, this collection of jazz standards is best appreciated in the late evening hours as stars are draped across the midnight-blue skies.Whether you're feeling loved or loveless, Tokeli hits the spot, caressing the heart with the softest touch.

Tokeli has a magnificent voice, able to command different languages with the same playfulness and passion. Tokeli is equally effective on both upbeat and slower numbers. There have been countless jazz vocalists that have tackled timeless, hauntingly pretty music as this, but rarely do you find them able to make the songs their own; you end up thinking about how other, more masterful artists did it. The same cannot be said for Tokeli, who sings with the confidence and maturity of someone who has completely absorbed these tunes.

Using her voice to let the words slyly roll from her tongue, Tokeli's technical skills cannot be praised enough. Just as important, though, is the expression of her emotions; these are not generic, paint-by-number renditions. On the title track and "Someday," Tokeli's rainy-day romanticism is moving and utterly spellbinding.

Just as impressive is the tightness of her band, especially the plucky bass of Mark Leighton and the robust, energetic percussion of her various drummers.

by Adam Harrington - Whisperin & Hollerin, United Kingdom


Discography

2010 Nominee "Jazz Artist of the Year" Los Angeles Music Awards, a global category.

2009 Nominee "Live Entertainer of the Year" San Diego Entertainer Magazine.

"Where Do You Start?" 2007 Nominee "Jazz Album of the Year" for debut album!

Singer/songwriter Tokeli transcends jazz roots, blending new jazz, world music and pop in an acoustic trio.

Photos

Bio

Sexy Brazilian and world groove music from an internationally reviewed jazz singer.

Band Members