Raya Yarbrough

Raya Yarbrough

Raya Yarbrough
  • Release Date: 26 Feb 2008
  • Label: TELARC
  • Genre: JAZZ
  • CAT # 83658-25

    1. Lord Knows I Would 4:30
    2. You're So Bad For Me 4:56
    3. Joy Spring 5:23
    4. Dreamer's Ball 4:39
    5. Sorrow's Eyes 5:48
    6. Mood Indigo 3:43
    7. Early Autumn 4:42
    8. Listen Emily 5:30
    9. Hollywood Love 5:29
    10. 'Round We Go 4:24
    11. Vice and Vanity 5:24
    12. Better Days 4:29

Raya Yarbrough Merges Jazz, Pop and More On Self-Titled Debut Album

For several years, L.A.-born songwriter/vocalist/musician Raya Yarbrough has been captivating West Coast audiences with a mesmerizing blend of jazz, pop, rhythm and blues, Latin and much more. On the strength of compelling live performances that reveal shades of Joni Mitchell, Duke Ellington, and a variety of other diverse influences, she has captured the attention of critics as an up-and-coming star. The Los Angeles Times called her voice “a pliable, versatile instrument, an effective vehicle for a musical expression that ranges freely from pop-style ballad to surprisingly effective scat singing.”

Yarbrough makes her debut on Telarc with the February 26, 2008, release of her self-titled album, Raya Yarbrough, which embraces the broad sweep of her musical influences and the insightful songcraft that has become her trademark.

“This is a collection of songs I’ve written over many years – some just this past year, some as far back as high school,” Yarbrough explains. “Each of these songs is a little story about what I was going through at the time it was written. I’ve made demo albums in the past, but I’ve never really had sufficient time or the facilities to really explore everything I wanted to do artistically. On this album, I finally got the chance to do that.”

Produced by guitarist-composer Steve Bartek (formerly of Oingo Boingo), the album represents a personal triumph for Yarbrough, whose initial attempt at a debut recording a few years ago was thwarted when her earlier label went bankrupt and her work in progress remained unfinished and unreleased.

But Yarbrough’s Telarc debut is a complete story. The CD opens with the bluesy, minimalist “Lord Knows I Would,” a sultry, open-hearted ode to the frustration of trying in vain to please the one you love. Further in, she delivers an intriguingly moody rendition of Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring,” complete with some electronic embellishments that challenge the song’s traditional jazz underpinnings. “There are plenty of loops in there – vocal loops, percussion loops, drum loops,” she says. “Though of course I’m a fan of jazz , I’m also into a few electronic artists who work with manipulated sounds. I was aiming for that effect on this song. I wanted to do something really outside the box with this classic bebop tune.”

“Sorrow’s Eyes,” also penned by Yarbrough, follows a more straightahead jazz tack. “The hardest thing to write is a simple lyric,” she says. “Anyone can wax on forever and use million dollar words in double and triple rhyme schemes. But to simply communicate the emotion of a moment is the hardest thing to do. I think I might have captured that in this song, if just for a second. Plus I got to write for alto flutes, which rules.”

Yarbrough wrote the impassioned “Listen Emily” for one of her students in the midst of a bad day. “She was feeling very down on herself,” Yarbrough recalls, “and I wanted her to know that the things you go through when you’re a young teenage girl are things that you will put in perspective in your twenties. The song is all about realizing that you have the strength to get past the BS.”

“Vice and Vanity” is a feisty commentary about how time and ambition can turn old friends into complete strangers. “There’s a completely different kind of lyric here,” says Yarbrough. “It’s actually a lot more wordy than many of my other songs, but I like it when the story that I’m telling in the song feels complete. The vibe of this song is my little tip of the hat to Steely Dan.”

The music on this album, not unlike Yarbrough’s life in general, is a multi-faceted prism. As a multi-racial twenty-something, she sees the parallels between being a mixed-race person and writing mixed genre music. The daughter of a musician/songwriter father, Martin Yarbrough, and a screenwriter and painter mother, Pam Douglas, Raya grew up in the context of cultural and artistic dualities, thus bringing unique textures, colors and tonalities to her art form. Rather than call herself a jazz artist or a pop artist, she’d just as soon be Raya Yarbrough, the songwriter/musician.

“I don’t choose to identify solely with jazz or solely with pop. While jazz may be my root, both genres are me,” she says. “If you’re onstage and you’re being real, the audience will know. If you have an inkling of who you are and what your direction is, you just have to follow that and say, ‘This is me. Please come and join the story.”

Find out more about Raya Yarbrough