Vivian Sessoms

@ Blue Note Jazz Club – Shows @ 11:30AM & 1:30PM (Doors @ 10:30AM & 1PM)

“You have to believe in or feel something about what you’re saying if you want anyone else to buy into it,” explains Vivian Sessoms with absolute certainty. “It’s important to me to mean what I say when I’m writing or singing about something. It can’t simply be just a collection of words.” For Vivian, a life surrounded by music have ingrained the passion and the power of music in her.

Born and raised in Harlem, Vivian, whose mother was a session/jingle-singer, and whose father was a flautist/percussionist (who’s played with the likes of James Brown), learned the wonder of music at a young age. Surrounded by nightclubs, churches and regular jam sessions at her family’s home, she was already singing by the time she could talk. “Growing up, there was always music to express the way I was feeling. I was so immersed in it, that I kind of viewed music as a kind of backdrop to my life,” she recalls.

By the time she was nine, Vivian had begun work doing television and radio voiceovers. With the help of an agent, she had made the rounds of auditions for various Broadway plays, all while classically training her voice and her skills as a pianist. Around the age of 16, Vivian began composing her own songs, following in the footsteps of her musician parents.

Years later, while on one of her first major tours, performing with pianist/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (whose film credits include the score for Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Little Buddha, High Heels), Vivian had her eyes and ears opened to an entirely new world of sound and became galvanized. Sakamoto taught Vivian much about song-craft, performance and musicianship. She absorbed as much as she could from the brilliance of his artistry. She found herself surrounded by accomplished, seasoned musicians like drummer Manu Katche (Peter Gabriel, Sting), Victor Bailey (Weather Report, Madonna) and Darryl Jones (Miles Davis, Rolling Stones). Sakamoto expected her to behave on par with those musicians, placing her in the spotlight as a featured vocalist, and teaching her to sing in Japanese. She in turn pushed herself tirelessly towards perfection as both a singer and performer.

Several years of résumé building followed, with Vivian performing, either live or in the studio, with an amazing array of artists including: P. Diddy, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Sinead O Connor, and Stevie Wonder. She did a stint with Virgin Music Publishing and then signed on as an artist and staff writer with K.G. of Naughty By Nature, though an album was never released. She even went on to write and perform as a guest artist on a number of Sakamoto’s later releases, but unlike with Sakamoto, none of these situations would touch her the way future partner Chris Parks would.

Chris and Vivian met during a recording session he was producing, where Vivian was again hired as a guest vocalist. Though things were touch and go in the beginning, the pair began recommending one another to other artists in their respective circles. This, in turn, created repeated scenarios for Vivian and Chris to work together numerous times, eventually discovering that in addition to their mutual respect for one another’s talents, they made a formidable team.

Whereas Sakamoto’s influence on Vivian had been more of a mentorship, Chris’ was that of an equal, the two forging a partnership in the truest sense of the word. Combining their talents to write songs for other artists, the pair stumbled upon this chemistry almost by accident, “It was like being hammered over the head,” explains Vivian when recalling their pairing, “I realized I had finally found my niche with Chris.” That was the beginning of their joint production company “Black Cherri” that has since written, produced or remixed songs for a number of artists.

At a music exec’s suggestion, while re-recording songs they had originally written for another artist, Chris, Vivian and a few of the players on the demo’s began reshaping tunes and writing new material. They instantly realized they had stumbled onto something exciting, thus forming the group Albright (so named for Vivians maternal grandmother). The end result is “Sunny One Day”, an album recorded over the course of three years at their Suprdupr Sound Studio in Brooklyn. Striving to make the album an entity unto itself, a complete body of work, and not just a collection of songs, the pair took their time fine-tuning until they were satisfied. A unique mixture of soul & jazz, tinged with rock and coupled with beautiful melodies and lush instrumentation, the duo succeeds where many other artists fail, in creating music that has instant familiarity and warmth.

If there’s any truth to Vivian’s credo that you have to truly believe in what you are saying before anyone else can, and be willing to present a well-thought out idea and stand behind it with passion, then she’s already won the battle with “Sunny One Day.”

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June 1, 2014
Blue Note Jazz Club