Monique Ella Rose • Best Female Jazz Vocalist

Offering a Unique Synthesis of Blues, Jazz & Soul

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, , Review Music Awards,   From Issue 861   By: Robert Martin and Matt deHeus

03rd May, 2018     0

In sports you will often hear of the concept of “validation,” basically meaning that for an accomplishment to actually “count,” you have to follow up and do it again.

Saginaw based chanteuse Monique Ella Rose has done that and then some, collecting her third straight Female Jazz Vocalist of the Year at the 2018 Review Awards.

She capped the evening with a stunning set as one of the featured performers at the Awards show.  Each year it seems there is one act that jumps out and captivates the people in attendance and it is reasonable to think that Rose’s band was the combo that accomplished that feat at this year’s ceremony.  It is also said that the hardest audience to perform in front of is a room full of fellow musicians; but in this case, Monique and her band earned a standing ovation at the end of her performance from all in attendance.

In a set that transitioned through Jazz, Soul, R&B and even a little Country, Rose showed off her formidable vocal talent that was recognizable to all in attendance.  As an aside, as the winner of the Male version of this trophy this year, I am simply glad there was no requirement that I perform a duet with Ms. Rose.  As much of an honor as that might have been, there is no doubt she would leave this poor crooner in the dust.  The lady has some serious pipes.

And, in the true sense of doubling down, Rose and her band, which consists of Eddie Gaiter, Errin Norwood, Chris Robinson and Coreyeon Ingram, repeated the feat in a headline turn on April 28 at a CD Release concert at the Temple Theater for her new album, Such Is Life. For those that have experienced the Monique Ella Rose Band live, or for those that are fans of modern R&B, there is a lot to like on Such Is Life.

The nine-song set of Rose originals, with her singing over a mixture of live instruments and programmed tracks, works the seams between R&B and Jazz.  Despite the “modern-ness” of the sound, my references for the work tended to be very old school, with names like Anita Baker, Roberta Flack and Lutricia McNeal coming to mind. 

Rose’s voice is the star of the recording.  Her range is obvious and impressive.  Her use of melisma, or the nuance of singing a grouping of notes across only one syllable, indicates a vocal dexterity that requires both natural talent and the dedication to develop it.  It’s a sophisticated skill.

The vocal cadences and syncopation employed Rose throughout the recording owe as much to Hip Hop as they do jazz, a hybrid that’s fresh.  It’s a mix that settles easily on the ears, even for a listener who normally dabbles in more blues-based forms. Songs like “Move On,” “Damn Love” and the title track are well-constructed, with interesting changes in dynamic and a slickness that belie the recording’s local roots.

The arrangements also feature the types of dense backing harmonies featured in now classic R&B acts like Destiny’s Child and TLC.  Rose forms her own vocal backup section, fitting as it would be tough to find local vocalists who could hang suitably with the power of her lead lines. 

While Rose’s time to shine has been in the works for awhile as she developed a live following, with Such Is Life she also announces herself as a force to be reckoned with as a writer and studio performer.

She released her first single, ‘Move On’, in 2014 and her second single, ‘Hustle & Grind’, later that year on her label, Soul Blend. Her impeccable talent has earned her openings gigs for artists such as Anthony Hamilton, Chrisette Michelle, Freddie Jackson, and even the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Indeed, when Monique sings you are taken on a passionate ride that leaves you wanting more. “Rather than being placed in any genre, I consider my music to be my life music, which means it may come out sounding like funk one moment, classic R&B the next, or even gospel. I write and sing what I feel.”

Monique explains that her interest and passion for music developed at a young age, given that her entire family sings and instilled a deep appreciation for music within her while growing up. “I was born in Saginaw and my family moved down to Detroit when I was around 3-years old, so I first started singing in church, moved back to Saginaw in 1998, and have been here ever since.”

With her father being an artist & poet and her mother an author, playwright, and educator, creativity is genetically wired into her veins. “My family had music around all the time and the first time I sang a solo performance was at the age of 7 at a Sunday church service; and my Stepfather was actually a part of Motown,” she continues. “Even though I was so young at the time and didn’t realize how awesome that was, he actually played organ and keyboards for Motown, and because of that we actually had a studio in our house, so I immersed myself into music.  As I got older, I was able to perform with different Gospel acts, singing in church and in the studio.”

In addition to singing in church, Monique involved herself in the Drama Club at school and today she fully appreciates how fortunate she was to have parents with deeply seated backgrounds in the arts. “My mom is an artist, so I was able to grow up inside the arts and cultural scene in Detroit, which was really awesome.  I also remember that Gil Scott Heron’s father was also part of my Mom’s Bridge Club, so I had an opportunity to be around and grow up around that world and these types of artists, which inspired me tremendously.”

When asked how she distinguishes herself and the sound she is striving to achieve, Monique admits it’s a hard question to answer and address. “Everyone has specific influences and for me I’m a student of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter in particular,” she reflects. “There are many singers I study on a regular basis and what I love about these three women is they each had a distinct style. What I notice while studying them is how they would often do covers of other peoples’ music but would make the song their own with their particular vocal style, and that’s what I look to do when approaching a song.”

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to music, but I feel you do have to put your own style into the material, make it your own, and be true to yourself,” she continues. “If I had to box my sound with descriptive terms, I’d say it’s a mix of jazzy, bluesy soul; but each one of my shows is never exactly the same, because I don’t take a cookie-cutter approach and am always reacting to the audience. For me the audience is the wild card and the extra ingredient – they present this tug that brings something out of me that you won’t find in the song alone.  It’s all about connection with the audience and the material.”

 “What I love most is the spontaneity involved with music,” concludes Monique. “I like to do an improvisation where I will have the audience give me three words and I will make up a song right on the spot with the musicians. Not only does this allow you to feed off the audience, but by using the words they present all these emotions and ideas start flowing out. Music is awesome in that it allows you to create in a manner where similar to a painter, you see musical notes that are similar to colors and have an opportunity to put it all together.”

“Each opportunity to me is like an audition,” reflects Monique. “You never know who’s out there in the audience and who’s listening and who may reach out to you, which is why I look at each performance as an opportunity.

 Classy, classic and coming to a stage near you.  Monique Ella Rose and her band are the real deal.


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