Next in our series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is vocalist Tia Harris. Harris is well-known as one of the area’s finest vocalists, equally skilled at performing jazz standards, big band swing, or R&B. She currently leads her own trio and is also active with Canta Brasil, Rick Brunetto Big Band, Vernon Hairston Trio, Ray Charles Tribute Band, Sly & The Family Stone Tribute Band, Carl Sally & Friends, and Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra. Harris has a busy upcoming schedule, including gigs on Thursday and Saturday this week, with the Rick Brunetto Big Band and Canta Brasil, respectively. Keep reading for more on her musical background and upcoming projects:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Tia Harris (TH): Music has been in my life since I was born. Both of my parents are singers in church and when my mother first moved to Columbus, she was a jazz singer here on the local scene. She then decided to focus on music in church, being a vocalist and a choir director. Music has always been instilled in me and is my passion.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
TH: I love and listen to a lot of artists. Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Patty Austin, Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, Patty Labelle, Sade, Earth Wind & Fire, Elis Regina, Eliane Elias, Chaka Khan, Basia, Gabriela Anders, Maysa, Incognito, Kevyn Lettau, Manhattan Transfer, Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn, Phoebe Snow, Quincy Jones, Yolanda Adams, The Clark Sisters, Take 6, shall I go on? I can truly say I’ve always idolized all the trailblazers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and more, but I cannot get enough music so narrowing it down is very difficult for me.
What is your fondest musical memory?
TH: My fondest memory would have to be when Ray Eubanks, who was the founder and conductor of the Jazz Arts Group, decided to take me with his band to Spain and Germany to do some touring. I was the featured vocalist with the band, and we performed to such welcoming audiences everywhere we went. It was so good to see and feel the appreciation of what we did in another country. Actually, whenever and where ever that happens, it’s always an overwhelming feeling for an artist. But my fondest musical memory would have to be being appreciated by another country and culture.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
TH: I listen to all many types of music all the time. I sing with a jazz/Brazilian band right now by the name of Canta Brasil. I am listening to a lot of Brazilian music, as well as a lot of gospel, and music that is dealing with heavy vocal harmony such as Take 6, New York Voices, etc. I’m also listening to a lot of Big Band material which I dearly love and often sing with the Rick Brunetto Big Band at the 94th Aero Squadron, every 3 Thursdays.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
TH: Columbus has so many extremely talented musicians here. If you have a musical plan and are looking to get it done, I believe there is a musician or artist that can fulfill whatever that need is. There are so many wonderful artists and so much talent here that you should be able to also go hear music all the time with choices. Recently the jazz scene appears to be getting better with many establishments starting to utilize the great talent that is here. My hope is that it will continue to get better and grow because the talent is definitely here.
What are you working on currently? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
TH: I have been working on a CD project for several years now that is compiled with 14 original songs that I either wrote myself or collaborated on with local musicians. The CD was released May 2015 and I am now working heavily on the marketing and promotion of this music. All of this music is very dear to my heart and finally I just wanted to share with others a little piece of me. The CD is entitled Fly Away With Me, and you can order it on my website at www.justtia.com.
Where can local audiences see you play in the near future?
TH: Thursday, March 24, 7:30-10:30pm: Rick Brunetto Big Band at 94th Aero Squadron
Saturday, March 26, 9pm-1am: Canta Brasil at Notes
Thursday, April 14, 7:30-10:30pm: Rick Brunetto Big Band at 94th Aero Squadron
Saturday, April 23, 7:30-11:30pm: Tia Harris Trio at Black Point Restaurant
Friday, April 29, 9pm – 1am: Canta Brasil at The Walrus
Thursday, May 5, 7:30-10:30pm: Rick Brunetto Big Band at 94th Aero Squadron
Saturday, May 7, 10pm-12am: Canta Brasil at Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza
Saturday, May 21, 10pm-12am: Tia w/NexLeveL at Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza
Saturday, May 28, 7:30-11:30pm: Tia Harris Trio at Black Point Restaurant
Thursday, June 16, 7:30-10:30pm: Rick Brunetto Big Band at 94th Aero Squadron
Saturday, June 18, 6:45-8:15pm: Canta Brasil at Gahanna Creekside Festival
Friday, July 29, 10pm-12am: Tia w/NexLeveL at Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza