Born: December 1, 1968 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
“My greatest inspiration as a child came from my father's old record collection stored in a box in the fruit cellar. I listened to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and popular singers like Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield. All of the greats.
While attending the University of Toronto, Irene Atman began her career as a jazz singer as the lead vocalist with the Stan Hiltz Orchestra. One of the greatest things about singing with this big band was that some of the best musicians in the world would sub in - greats like Moe Koffman on flute and sax. I learned a lot from just listening to these guys.
Soon after, as word traveled quickly through the jazz community, Irene was invited to perform with other jazz luminaries like the Boss Brass, Guido Basso and Oscar Peterson alumni, Dave Young and Terry Clarke. Early career highlights included an appearance on the same bill as Tony Bennett and Luciano Pavarotti.
To escape the cold Canadian winters, Atman ventured south to Miami to sing jazz onboard cruise ships sailing the Caribbean. ”Some very cool musicians from the Berkley School of Music were there. It was a great experience to discover world music from the islands” recalls Atman. Continuing to grow and define her personal style, she moved to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, to take up a two year stint singing on the historic Delta Queen Riverboat.
Longing to come home after being away for a few years, Irene returned to Toronto. She soon after discovered that the live jazz scene changed, many of the clubs had closed. Her music career was suddenly put on hold and she had to make choices to survive. Irene took a job in advertising, which sidelined her music career for the next few years. Then, one night at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in LA, Atman’s co-workers persuaded her to sing an impromptu performance at the piano bar. Her colleagues were astounded, ‘If I could sing like you, I’d quit my day job and sing jazz for a living too”. That moment was a turning point. Determined to not give up, she vowed to pursue her life-long dream with rekindled passion.
In 2007, Atman connected with her friend and pianist Danny McErlain and produced her self-titled independent debut CD. The ‘live-off-the-floor’ studio session consisted of her interpretation of eleven time-honored classics from the Great American Songbook. Even without the promotional support of a record label, she still managed to use her advertising savvy to generate some buzz, especially amongst the jazz media who lavished her with praise.
“A Tour de Force! Why can’t more vocalists create magic like this! I Love It!” Barry O’Sullivan. BLU FM 89.1 Australia.
Inspired by the city that never sleeps, Atman relocated to New York. Backed by some of the finest jazz musicians on the New York scene, she recorded a session one afternoon that became her second independent CD titled - “ New York Rendezvous,” a collection of her interpretations of the softer side of jazz. Upon its release in 2009, Irene Atman was being hailed as one of the finest jazz singers around.
“Atman has a voice that was divined to sing jazz, just as assuredly as was Tony Bennett, Shirley Bassey, Vicki Carr, or any other vocalist born with the timeless elegance that Atman possesses. She has a voice that can make the hardest soul melt in her lap, and the repertoire that she chose to showcase on her latest album, will have audiences doing just that.” — Jazz Review, Susan Frances.
Irene performed internationally in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Holland (Amersfoort Jazz Festival), winning over audiences.
In 2012, she embarked on writing her own original material and approached producers Bruce Barrow and Glenn Morley to work with her in cultivating a new direction. They challenged her to use her incredible voice in new ways to expand her horizons into other music styles. Unlike her first two albums that were recorded in one or two days, this album was recorded over the period of 6 months with a much bigger production and intricate arrangements with strings, horns and background vocals. The resulting sessions produced a world-class debut crossover into contemporary jazz and pop.
2013 will undoubtedly bring Irene Atman to a whole new global audience. Travelling to Asia for the Taipei Fall Jazz Festival in October, Irene will also be releasing her sophomore CD New York Rendezvous for the first time in the Asian market. I'm really looking forward to performing in Asia again and hoping they will love New York Rendezvous.
Awards:Nominated for Ontario Independent Music Awards - "Shall We Dance"
Produced by Atman and her pianist Frank Kimbrough, New York Rendezvous is an easy listening jazz album made for today’s audience. And even though Atman’s vocal intonations are similar to the ladies of the ‘50s and ‘60s, she sounds more like she could be their grand-daughter rather than someone who sang alongside these jazz vocalists of another era. Atman’s own spin on the timeless beauty “Charade” is exquisite, she really nails it keeping the tune’s classic effects while also modernizing the piece to make it relatable for a contemporary audience. The song selection for the album consists of all ballads so audiences won’t be experiencing anything extremely festive here, although Atman does sing “Somos Novios” in its native Spanish with all of its softly spangled bossa nova effects. Atman winds the listener around her finger with sultry vocal curls along “The Glory Of Love” and the lengthy vocal extensions that she applies to such heart-felt mooning in “Why Did I Choose You.” Kimbrough’s accompaniment on the piano is a perfect fit for Atman’s vocals and its especially noticeable on the opening number “Two For The Road.” The saxophone twits of Joel Frahm and the tinsy bumps of bassist Jay Anderson in “Taking A Chance On Love” produce tingling sensations as drummer Matt Wilson holds the melodic rigs steady. Atman takes periodic time-outs, allowing the musicians to have center stage, which exhibits her endearing showmanship.
Irene Atman has the kind of voice that makes audience members say… ‘If I could sing like her, I’d quit my day job and sing jazz for a living too.’ After hearing Atman’s latest offering New York Rendezvous, I have to wonder why her music is only reaching as far as hotel ballrooms and local clubs when it deserves so much wider exposure. Atman tells in her liner notes that “I wanted to record my second CD in New York and wanted a distinctly New York sound.” New York Rendezvous has more than a New York sound, it has a worldly sound that music fans who are enthusiastic about soft moving melodies which can be easily absorbed into the skin, have been waiting for and her album delivers it.
Tracks: Two For The Road, Taking A Chance On Love, Why Did I Choose You, Somos Novios, Time After Time, I’m A Fool To Want You, Charade, A Time For Love, Alfie, The Glory Of Love
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