cool queen gets hot with Swing Fever
October 2, 2015, by Andrew Giilbert, BERKELYSIDE.
Denise Perrier’s theme song could be
“Travelin’ Light,” as the supremely stylish San Francisco jazz singer
continues to follow her wanderlust to the wide corners of the world. Since
she first lit out to tour Australia some five decades ago, Perrier has
performed in more than two dozen countries, a tireless itinerary that means
she’s often introducing herself to new generations of Bay Area jazz fans
when she gets back home. You can catch her Saturday at the
Swing Fever, but then she’s off for San Miguel de Allende in
Mexico, followed by her first trip to Cuba in December.
Like so many
of her previous foreign connections, Perrier got the chance to fulfill her
longtime desire to sing in Cuba by being in the right place at the right time. A
few months ago she was performing at
Bird & Beckett, the
invaluable San Francisco bookstore and venue in Glen Park, where she met the
great Cuban poet, translator and essayist
“we ended up at the Sheba Lounge singing in Spanish together,” Perrier says.
“She talked with the minister of culture and got me this invite.”
how to make a lasting impression. With her velvety contralto and unerring sense
of swing, she’s equally at adept at interpreting American Songbook standards
with a piano trio in an intimate cabaret as she is belting out blues backed by
Band (though she’ll be in Havana for the JCBB’s next gig at Yoshi’s on Dec. 15,
so the estimable Rhonda Benin is stepping in).
working with Swing Fever since the turn of the century, regularly performing
with the group on first and third Tuesdays at the Panama Hotel in San Rafael (as
Pier 23 and
Founded and led by trombonist Bryan Gould, the combo has long served as a smart
showcase for the best singers in a region known for producing exceptional
vocalists, starting with the great Mary Stallings. Before Perrier took over the
vocal spot Swing Fever boasted singular singers Paula West, Kim Nalley, Brenda
Boykin and Jackie Ryan. For Saturday’s gig, the band features tenor sax great
Noel Jewkes, guitarist Jeff Massanari, drummer Tony Johnson, and bassist Dean
Riley, a Bay Area jazz mainstay since 1945 (!).
Part of what
makes Perrier such a beguiling singer is the way her dry sense of humor and
supple phrasing reveal layers of irony in familiar standards. “She does the
blues great, but I really think she’s a standards singer,” Gould says. “With
Swing Fever the blues make up about a fourth of her repertoire and the rest is
mostly Gershwin and Arlen. I really believe in songs, and we pay a lot of
attention to the lyrics. It’s straight out of Ella and Billie and Sarah.”
Perrier is one of the great musical gems who calls San Francisco
home. We who live here are blessed to see her perform and hear
her rich and sultry contralto voice when she is not traveling
nationally or internationally. Her voice is matched by her
wonderful and elegant stage presence, as she stirs her audience
with the passion and moving interpretations she brings to jazz
standards and blues classics alike. You will kick yourself if
you've put off seeing the classy Denise Perrier perform, asking
yourself, "What took me so long? "-
"Ms Perrier boasts a gorgeous
instrument; call it a burnished contralto.
When she sustains a tone, it remains unswerving. Yet when she
decides to go for a high note, she can leap an octave with ease
and vocal strength."
--- Harvey Siders, Jazz Times
has this wonderfully warm voice....Listening to
her is like sipping the best glass
of wine you ever
in your life. You savor every note that
- Dee Spencer, pianist and professor of
"Denise has everything a singer should: sound, soul,
And she's a party!"
-- Houston Person, tenor saxophonist
Perrier is more than a good singer. She is a
is able to take a song and
make it her own."
Brown, Jr. radio host, KCSM
"She's the real deal, right in
there with Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah
- Bryan Gould, founder of big band Swing Fever
"A commanding singer with
a big, warm voice and a stylish delivery."
-Donna Kimura, Jazz Reviews
"Perrier’s work is
big, rich, melodic, and hits home with
a remarkable punch. She has that swirling,
dancing, ingratiating intimacy usually
vocalists…a real pro,"
- Phillip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner