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D-Erania

written by Bridgid Brousseau

 

“And when you left my realm, there was no fanfare. You just came down and saw about me like a mother would and went back up like a creator would.” ~Bass player, Sharay Reed~ (on the “Language of the Heart” CD)


The “Goddess of Sound,” D’Erania is indeed touching hearts and leaving listeners awestruck with the release of her latest CD, “Language of the Heart.” The multi-instrumentalist, performer, producer and songwriter has magically intertwined all that she musically embodies with the style, beauty and class of a queen. 

   

WJM: D-Erania is a beautiful, unique and powerful name. Does your name have a particular meaning or are you named after anyone?

 

D-Erania: Erania is my mother’s name and she is my first musical influence. As I was coming up she sang and played traditional Gospel, piano and sang. I learned to play piano as my first instrument by ear from hearing my mother. I always told her I was going to put her name in lights.  “D” is the initial of my first name.

 

WJM: You’ve noted that you remember hearing Wayne Shorter for the first time and age seventeen and it was at that moment you decided you also play saxophone.

 

WJM:  What was it about Wayne Shorter in particular that drew you to him and the saxophone because you also grew up listening to Earth Wind and Fire, George Clinton and Stevie Wonder? Your “ear” could have taken you towards any of those directions or you could have gone into Gospel like your mother.

 

D-Erania: I’ve always played piano and for the longest time I didn’t know that it was a gift to play by ear. I thought it was something that everybody could do because it came so natural to me. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I realized that it was special and that not everyone can just sit down and play music by ear. I was introduced to jazz in high school by a friend. I had some cassette tapes and came across some Weather Report.  I don’t know what it was about Wayne Shorter, saxophone and that music. I didn’t even know at the time what he was playing. I just knew that whatever he was playing I wanted to play.

 

D-Erania: I’ve always been the type of person to be inspired just by hearing something. I found a saxophone in my parent’s attic and I had it refurbished. I just started playing it until I started getting a sound. I really love the straight alto saxophone. It’s a little darker than the regular alto saxophone. I had always wanted one since I heard Kenny Garett.  I think the reason people view me as being very soulful and playing from the heart is because I’m not really trained as a saxophone player. I'm also the only artist in Illinois that plays the straight alto saxohpone. 

 

WJM: So are you self-taught?

 

D-Erania: I am self-taught although I did take music theory and music classes when I was in college. But I never took sax lessons early on. I also took a few lessons from James Perkins who is an amazing Chicago jazz saxophonist.  I just kept playing song after song. That’s really just how I learned how to play and play from the heart.

 

WJM: How did you just happen to find a saxophone in the house?

 

D-Erania: I’m the baby of seven. I have three brothers and three sisters. I think the saxophone was one of my older brothers that he never played and it just ended up in the attic.  By having such a big family I listened to a lot of music from P-Funk to R&B and Soul. I could hear all of the parts of the music from the bass line to everything that’s happening in between; soprano, alto and tenor. I just always had that ability. So I’m a natural songwriter.

 

WJM: How long was “Language of The Heart" in the making?

 

D-Erania: Almost exactly a year. I started recording it last July of 2015 and finished mixing and artwork by the end of this past July. That includes the writing. I have been so busy the past few years just gigging that I wasn’t really focused on writing. That’s like wearing a different hat. At a certain point I decided that I needed to come out with another project because I’m an artist. Once I decided to do it, most of the material just flowed out. I wrote it and got my musicians together, started recording and it just came together. To me a year is fast.     

 

WJM: That is fast!

 

D-Erania: Yes! I felt like God was just speaking to me. It was just one song after another and among some of the feedback that I get from people is that they just love the writing. That really touches my heart because creating something is a very vulnerable thing and of course you want people to like it.

 

WJM: Tell us about the other musicians that play on “Language of The Heart.”

 

D-Erania: I just love each and every one of them. They’re all great musicians to me. I’m so grateful to have access to the “cream of the crop” from Chicago. I met most of them through doing gigs. I used to put together a different band every Friday for almost three years. I met so many amazing musicians because I was able to offer them a gig. It was people that I always wanted to work with and since I was able to give them a gig it just became a fun type of hub for musicians that I’ve had. It turned into this great Friday night musicians gig. I could just go on and on about each one of them.

 

D-Erania:  I have Tony Cazeau on keyboards and organ. I also have Robert Irving, III on keyboards. He is well known for his ingenuity as a pianist.  Makaya McCraven is blowing up on the drums. He just did a European tour and was voted as the number one jazz player by the Chicago Reader last year. Isaiah Sharkey is on guitar. He just won a Grammy. Sharay Reed plays electric and upright bass on the whole album. He’s a phenomenal bass player with an amazing ear. I’d say he does a lot of sneaky things that really elevates the music. D’Artagnon Gunn is on drums along with Keith “KeKe” King and Sammie Torres on percussion. I also have Aaron Weistrop on guitar and Steve Stampley serves as executive producer.

 

WJM: Your mother of course your earliest influence. She is a musician and a gospel singer. What is the best advice musically that your mother has ever given you that sticks with you most?

 

D-Erania: I wouldn’t say there was any singular piece of advice. I just used to always watch her play. She was on the piano every morning playing a warm-up classical piece and then she would play her Gospel music. She practiced a lot and she used to teach the choir, sing and write songs. She was a big example of someone who practiced and prepared for whatever she needed to do and that was a big lesson for me.  

 

D-Erania: I’m always shedding on my instruments. I think that’s just who I am. The CD is very multi-faceted. It’s not just one style of jazz. It’s all different types. I love all styles and I think the CD really shows that. I call it a celebration of the different types of azz. I don’t think there is one definition of jazz. Maybe back in the day when people thought of jazz they thought of Be-Bop and then you had the Smooth Jazz movement that came along. I don’t really have a Smooth Jazz sound as far as far as my tone. I sound more similar to a Wayne Shorter or Kenny Garrett. So I can’t put myself in a particular category. I would just say play what you like and don’t try to put yourself into a category.

 

WJM: When listening to “Language of the Heart,” I admit was trying to put a style to it and it was difficult. You already have your own unique style.

 

D-Erania: I would definitely use words like “organic.” Because of the way that the music is mixed, it popped out in a more natural way. It’s not over processed. You can hear every instrument and everything that’s going on. It’s very real sounding music and I like it like that! I like for it to have a rawness and edge to it. I don’t like for my saxophone to sound “smooth.” I like for it to have some grittiness in the sound. I just don’t know how I would fit into the whole jazz community because I know it is a different sound. Maybe that’s a good thing. You never know!

 

WJM: It’s absolutely a good thing! “Language of the Heart” is receiving rave reviews and the consensus is that you indeed have a unique, raw, signature sound. Perhaps you fit it because you don’t fit in?

 

D-Erania: I guess so. The reviews talk about my sound as superb and organic. I really get a sense that people definitely feel the music. It’s not the type of jazz that goes over your head. The most important thing is that you can really feel it and it takes you to different places. To me the title “Language of the Heart ” is a really good one because the heart feels so many things at different times.

 

WJM: There are eight wonderful tracks on “Language of the Heart.” Is there any particular song that has a more personal or emotional meaning to you?

 

D-Erania: “Laelia’s Dream” because my son Jahari helped me write that song. People say that he is a genius because he’s an outstanding drummer and pianist and he’s only 16 years old. He’s already doing big things. He has a scholarship from the Jazz Institute of Chicago and he was just awarded a special award at the Jazz Festival. I had never performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival but I was able to go because of him. So, I think that’s very special because I’m writing all of this music and then my son comes along and he helped me. Laelia is a Brazilian flower.

 

WJM:  I love “All We Need.”

 

D-Erania: That one has more of Gospel flair to it and ironically a lot of people from church like that song for that reason.

 

WJM: I’m sure you’d agree that this is a male dominated industry.

 

D-Erania: It's very male dominated. That’s one of the things I liked about the review that bassist, Sharay Reed wrote. He wrote that “It’s rare to find a woman in this over masculated world that is not afraid to get in there with the boys and maintain their “womanness. I’m probably making up words but I often feel like these women are trying to prove that they’re just as good as or better than men. I feel like it robs them of “them,” like comparing the moon to the sun. That isn’t what I saw in this music.”

 

WJM: That’s very poignant!

 

D-Erania: Yes! If you knew Sharay Reed then you would know why this quote is so special to me. I respect him so much.

 

WJM: You’re traveling the country extensively. How has your reception been in this female jazz artist microcosm in such a male dominated sphere?

 

D-Erania:  I wouldn’t say that it’s bad but I do feel that I am being tested in a way. When you first come out on stage with your saxophone the first thing people see is that you’re a woman and that you’re beautiful woman. I think people assume that you’re just a pretty face and that you can’t play that well.  So I think once they get past the look and hear what’s coming out, it’s fascinating for people. Even if you look at the cover of the CD, as Sharay Reed mentioned, “the cover of the CD is like a poke in the side of everything that people are used to. You’re showing me holding my instrument of life, mother, wife, teacher, artist and beautiful, dark African goddess.” I think that’s very profound!

 

WJM: Indeed! You’ve also now been dubbed the “Goddess of Sound.” That’s a striking and obviously fitting title. Where did that originate?

 

D-Erania: I have a group of women that want to start a fan club. Because I play keyboards, sometimes sing and play the saxophone, they started calling me the “Goddess of Sound.” I just go with the flow.  I’ve also been called “Grover Washington on steroids.” I just do and love a lot of unconventional things. It’s just fun! I think that I sound a little like Wayne Shorter because he’s been such a big influence on me.

 

D-Erania: I think you have to be yourself. That’s the key. About a year ago I had to come to the realization that my sound was unique and different. There’s a certain fear that comes along because you feel like you won’t fit in with the “norm.” There are a lot of artists out here that have successful careers and a lot of them have a certain sound and things that they’re doing as players. They have figured out that it’s part of that particular genre and it’s a crowd pleasure or what the audience likes. I do realize that there is certain vulnerability in being different. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. It’s interesting to see how I’ll fit into the jazz world because I know I don’t sound like a lot of the other horn players.  

 

WJM: You’ve also been endorsed by Sax Dakota as their first “Chicago Lady of Dakota.

 

D-Erania: Yes. I do workshops, perform, go to schools and I perform at the NAMM Show when it comes around. I already had the instrument before I spoke to them. I wasn’t trying to get endorsed, I just liked the horn. They found me! I just play the saxophone because I love that horn and the way it sounds.

 

WJM: What’s coming up for you? Where can we see you perform?   

 

D-Erania: I’ve got a few things coming up:  the Maywood Family Festival, a concert for the Jazzology Experience which is a showcase event and a concert sponsored by the city of Chicago called the Austin P.O.W.E.R 5k . {People Organizing for Wealth and Economic Power} It’s sponsored by the Mayor and the city of Chicago. It’s all about the revitalization of a particular area of Chicago for upcoming businesses. So I’m headlining this concert to kick off this revitalization effort and they're putting millions of dollars into this effort.

 

WJM: Tell your fans anything at all that you’d like us to know that we might not.

 

D-Erania: I want to come to you wherever you are! I want to travel the world sharing my music with you! Let's make it happen!  I strive to take my listeners on an emotional joyride and hopefully touch their hearts in the process.

 

 

WJM: This has been joyride! Thank you so much for taking a little time out to talk in the Woodshed.

 

D-Erania:  Yes, it’s been fun!

 

            *To Purchase the "Language of the Heart" CD go to cdbaby.com*

 

 

                 

 

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