Vocalist Ty Cooper is celebrating the release of her new recording “I’m All for You” at the Skokie Theater on Sunday October 22nd . Cooper has performed throughout the world from Las Vegas to Paris and even Dubai but she still calls Chicago home. We thought we would catch up with her and talk about her new release, her life in music and what people can expect to hear on October 22nd at the Skokie Theater.
1. ChicagoJazz.com: Before we talk about your upcoming performance at the Skokie Theater on October 22nd entitled “I’m All for You” let’s first talk about your background so people can get to know you. Growing up did you live in a musical household?
Cooper: No, not at all. My mom and dad were very sports oriented. I loved to sing, dance and paint but those things weren't really supported in an educational way by my parents. They each had careers and other interests. Music and the arts just weren't a priority back then.
ChicagoJazz.com: What first drew you to becoming a vocalist? Was there a particular teacher, artist or experience you had that influenced you into becoming a vocalist?
Cooper: I just loved to sing! I was always listening to records and the radio and singing along. I loved all kinds of music! I remember singing on the stairs to the basement because it had "reverb" and I loved that sound. The neighbor boy was learning to play the guitar and we would sit on those stairs and pretend we were going to be on "Bandstand" with Dick Clark!
ChicagoJazz.com: When did you first perform in front of an audience?
Cooper: "When I was in the 5th grade I was in a chorus class in school. The teacher took a special interest in me and made me sign up for the school talent show singing one song (You'll Never Know) and doing a pantomime number “Waiting at the Church” along with it.
I won the show so I suppose you could say that 1st Teacher started it all! Bless her wherever she is!
4 ChicagoJazz.com: Did you attend college for music?
Cooper: No. By the time I got to college I was interested in painting and the arts. Formal music wasn't on my agenda however shortly after my first year I became involved with a musical theater company. Someone said they needed singers for The Mikado and that I should go try out, so I did. I remember that audition very well. The musical director wanted my charts, if I could read music and he wanted me to sing all different kinds of intervals, I didn’t have any formal music training so I couldn't do any of it. He was shaking his head and finally he just threw up his hands and said "Well, sing something!" I did and he said "OK! You're in!"
It was in this production I was chosen by Jacqueline De Lusignan, a mezzo soprano from the Belle Arts Opera Company of Mexico City, who was playing the role of The Mikado, to become her private student. I studied with her for the next 2 yrs. she wanted me to sing opera. I worked later with Jacqueline again in The Three Penny Opera. I was Mrs Peachum in that production.
She is the one who taught me how to use my voice as an instrument and gave me the confidence to go out in the world to perform. The second Teacher to change my life!
ChicagoJazz.com: You have performed professionally throughout the country and the world. Talk about your early years of professionally performing and how you got your first gig.
Cooper: The very first performance to REALLY set me on the path of being a 'singer with a band' happened in Denver. Someone told me there was a talent contest at a Country Western bar and I should go do it! The prize was $100 and I was under age but I snuck into the bar. I signed up on the list and I ask the band if they could play "Crazy" by Patsy Cline. They called me up and I did it. I won the contest. I remember the man handing me the $100 bill and telling me I was a great singer. I thought "Wow! I just do what I love and someone gives me money and says I'm great.I was in!!" This was the career for me! I was going to be a Country Western singer!
There was a change to this story tho in Santa Fe in the mid 70s where I was steadily working as a country western singer and doing very well. One evening I met a young sax player who was on tour with Eddie Jefferson. His name was Richie Cole. Bottom line to this story is Richie came by a rehearsal with my band and left after a couple of tunes. I was crushed. I thought he didn't like what he heard. About an hour later he appeared again with some sheet music in his hand.
He said "You're singing the wrong music. You're a jazz singer."
The 3rd Teacher to change my life.
Since then I've been lucky enough to work in places like Las Vegas, Reno, San Francisco, Paris, Frankfurt, Mexico, Spain, Doha, Dubai and many other places across America and around the world. I've worked gigs, shows, theaters, festivals, concert halls and dives. I've worked with some incredible musicians along the way who have shared their talent, insights and strengths with me and brought so much meaning to my life and career. These Teachers have always been the helping hands along the way.
ChicagoJazz.com: How did you end up relocating to Chicago?
Cooper: After my encounter with Richie my life changed. Santa Fe was not the place to find a lot of jazz musicians so I moved to Reno where I had one old friend who said he'd help me get settled. I was married and I worked the casino/ hotel circuit for 12 yrs. between Reno, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. In 1993 I was very successful, but the 'scene' was changing. By that time I was divorced and everything was different. I'd gotten involved with a health club and was entering a new phase of life. I had an opportunity come from 'left field' to go to Germany as a Fitness Director and I took it. I told my band I'd be back in a year. They said "you won't come back Ty."
They were right. I didn't come back. I left the music business completely. I built the fitness departments of three major new health clubs outside of Frankfurt. I married a wonder German man and lived there for 8 yrs. I didn't sing anymore and my life had changed completely! It was OK though because I was happy with what I had.
In 2001, my husband, who was a structural engineer got a chance to work in Chicago. I was raised in the West so I had no idea at all about Chicago and I'd never been here. I loved him, so I came with him, but at that time I was in the fitness business not music.
I had completely stepped away from music for 20 yrs and it wasn't until 2012 when Andreas died of Glio Blastoma that music crossed my mind again. I went down in my basement and found a beat up cardboard box and found some old yellow charts from my former days. I ended up going to Andy's for John Bany's jam session. I remember signing the list and writing 'vocals" by my name. I was terrified! I hadn't sung a jazz tune for 20 yrs. They called me up perform and now I'm here. Funny how life works isn't it?
ChicagoJazz.com: Tell us about your new recording “I’m All for You”. What is the concept for the recording, how did it come about, tune selection etc.
Cooper: I've been successful in Chicago over the past few years creating "shows" and I had an upcoming performance at Open Door Theater. I needed a theme for the show and I've asked myself countless time after reentering the music business “why do I do this?” What drives me to try over and over to succeed in a very hard world. My answer was "I do this for my audience. I do it for the people I work with on the bandstand. I do this for the sake of creating. I do this to touch the hearts of people. I do this for YOU"
I chose beautiful jazz standards that focused on the word YOU such as: “It Had To Be You”, “You've Changed”, “I Wish You Love”, “You Don't Know What Love Is”, etc.
That's where the title I’m All For You came from. I was in Santa Fe, there wasn't much going on and I was introduced to John Rangel a wonderful piano player and producer. We talked about the concept of it all and as I became more involved with it I decided to record the material at John's studio "jindojazz" in Santa Fe. We started working in March and it's taken this much time to get it to where we are now.
One thing that was very interesting is Scott Rosenthal (bass) and Steve Duke (sax) are both from Chicago but we never met until we all lived in Santa Fe! Both of them had moved there at the same time I did 2 yrs ago. They didn't know each other in Chicago either. Such a coincidence as they say!
David Post plays drums on the recording and Tony Cesarano plays guitar. They are both living in the Santa Fe area and working regularly.
ChicagoJazz.com: Your CD release performance is on October 22nd at the Skokie Theater, who is in the band and what can people expect to hear that evening?
Cooper: I'll be joined that evening by Tommy Muellner (piano) Eric Schneider (sax) Peter Lerner (guitar) Jim Cox (bass) Justin Kramer (drums) Can't beat that!
We are going to be playing some beautiful tunes performed by some of Chicago's premier musicians. The Skokie Theater is really a very comfortable and acoustically superb venue so I am really looking forward to performing there. Also as part of the ticket price you also get a copy of the new CD, I'd say that's a pretty good deal!
ChicagoJazz.com: Do you have any other performances or releases coming up?
Cooper: Yes I do. I will be performing on Oct 27th "Apres Paree! Wine Women and Song" This will be with Claudia Hommel, Elizabeth Doyle and some of the women I've met and worked with in Paris thru my singing engagements there over the last 2 yrs. This will be my last performance in my Open Door Theater Series for 2017. Next Spring we begin again! For tickets visit www. opendoortheater.net
Nov 9th, Thursday, Hunters Restaurant is presenting a new "Supper Club" series. Tickets include a wonderful dinner and the show. David Turner, Jim Cox and Justin Kramer will be with me. I'm starting the program series and hopefully it will continue thru the winter as a once a month performance opportunity for others. Hunters also has its regular jazz jam on Wednesday every week!
Call (708) 453-4430 for tickets and info.