Lorraine Feather, Orcas Island resident and jazz vocalist, is first and foremost a word-lover. That is why her latest CD, released just last week and already on the top 40 jazz charts, is entitled, “Language.”
Feather and her husband, jazz drummer and webmaster Tony Morales, moved to Orcas Island last year, after careers in New York, Los Angeles and the Silicon Valley.
Many of Feather’s lyrics are written to classic instrumentals, most often by Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. “Language” contains songs that are fast, staccato, and articulated spitfire-fashion by Feather, who says, “Singing is hard, but singing faster is no harder.” Her voice is “not big, but flexible,” she says.
The daughter of renowned jazz critic Leonard Feather, Lorraine was born in New York, and named “Billie Jane Lee Lorraine, after her godmother (Billie Holiday), her mother, Jane, her mother’s former roommate (Peggy Lee) and the song “Sweet Lorraine.” At a young age, Lorraine decided she was to be called “Lorraine” rather than “Billie Jane.”
After years in New York waiting tables and struggling to be an actress, singing in bands to fill in her income, Feather says, “When I began writing lyrics it was like a thunderbolt – I knew what I wanted to do and had the biggest talent for. It’s fun to do.”
When she first wrote lyrics to a Fats Waller composition, she submitted her “reinventions” to the famous “Stride” pianist Dick Hyman, who advised her to do a whole album of Waller songs. Feather’s style of writing and singing jazz lyrics has been called “vocalese,” where fast, quirky words are added lightening-style to the music.
The songs on “Language” are inspired by the everyday experiences of listening to radio traffic and weather reports, waiting on hold after dialing customer service on the phone, but it also includes a somewhat melancholy tribute to New York at Christmastime.
As a jazz singer, Feather loves performing live; she is scheduled to sing at the Orcas Center next February. She also finds it the most challenging part of singing jazz, because “you can’t re-do” the song. Her CDs include “Dooji Wooji,” “Such Sweet Thunder,” “Cafe Society,” and “The Body Remembers.”
For the future, Feather sees herself “writing pretty much forever; I don’t know that I’ll always perform.” She says the majority of pieces in the vocal jazz repertoire are recreations of old standards. “It’s important to do that, but I love to take part in expanding the jazz repertoire – and the people are so much fun to work with.” She credits the help of composers and writers Russell Ferrante, Eddie Arkin, Shelly Berg, Terry Sampson, Bill Elliott and husband Tony Morales, who moved with Feather and their two dogs to Orcas last year.
Her dream project is to do a full-length animated jazz feature, along the lines of the Walt Disney classic, “Fantasia.”
“I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and done things that didn’t come off well, but I’ve been very fortunate to have the quirky career I’ve had. It’s wonderful to be on Orcas Island and to be able to do what I do in this setting.”
Lorraine Feather’s latest CD, “Language” is available at Darvill’s Bookstore. Her website is www.lorrainefeather.com.