Here's our interview with piano player, vocalist, and composer Amy K. Bormet, one of DC's brightest young stars.
DCJS: You've taken an amazing musical path, from Duke Ellington School for the Arts, University of Michigan, Howard University, and now Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead. Did you make a pact with Satan?
Amy: Awesome. I have been tremendously blessed with incredible teachers, from Davey Yarborough at Ellington helping me apply to and prepared me for college, to fabulous Ellen Rowe at U. of Michigan who gave me so much love and knowledge. From there, Geri Allen, who went to Howard, and Fred Irby for convincing me to go back to grad school with the enticement of a free trip to Japan and a chance to write and perform music with all of the amazing people who I can't imagine my life without now. And of course Charlie Young told me to put together my application for Betty Carter Jazz Ahead.
DCJS: Did you get to work with Geri Allen at Michigan?
Amy: Of course. I stalked her from the first time I saw her play at the Kennedy Center when I was 16. She's a powerhouse and an incredibly passionate person. Last time I saw her was backstage at the McCoy Tyner/HUJE concert at the Kennedy Center. It was a remarkable night and I have a fond memory of sitting next to her in the wings watching McCoy's solo piano on "Search for Peace".
DCJS: Who are some of the other musicians (students or teachers) who most left an impression on you?
Amy: I have always been lucky to be around people who push and inspire me. From the notorious Ben Williams at Ellington, to CV Dashiell and Karine Chapdelaine at Howard University. At Michigan I had a great "Nat King Cole" style trio with my fiancee Matt Dievendorf (guitar) and Keith Reed (bass). I lived with a hilarious and monster bass player Andrew Kratzat. I love that guy. I have stayed in touch with most of the guys I went to school with and we all support each in our diaspora of jazziness. One of my favorite teachers at Michigan was Donald Walden, a beautiful tenor player who lived in Detroit. He passed away recently, and I always laugh thinking of him showing up to my senior recital in an all red outfit and declaring he was color-coordinating with my red cocktail number. He had me play on the Detroit Jazz Festival and it was a real memorable show.
DCJS: How's Jazz Ahead going? I heard the schedule is intense. I heard you guys killed it at JoJo's Thursday night.
Amy: It is ridiculously great. I'm exhausted already, but having such a good time. Dr. Billy Taylor is showing me voicings and Curtis Fuller is talking about my comping style. What more could a girl want? All of the players are really inspiring, and I can't wait for the shows next week. I have alot of people coming!
DCJS: Did you know Mark Williams before Jazz Ahead? (I found him on Twitter, and I LOVE his playing)
Amy: I knew he was going to be there because he went to Howard and was in HUJE. Irby was so excited that 4 of his students from Howard were going to be there in the same year. Mark is in my band, and he is a energetic and dramatic musician. I am so happy to get a chance to work with him, and to be around his upbeat personality.
DCJS: What's good and bad about the DC jazz scene? What would make it better?
Amy: I love the scene here. I feel like I have a big support system and I can do whatever I want to do artistically and be appreciated. I can't wait for the new Bohemian Caverns Big Band in a month so I can hang with some of my favorite people. We are lucky to have Mike West to write about Jazz in DC, and to have all the great places like Bohemian, or Rock and Roll Hotel, to see live music in and around town.
DCJS: How did you fall in love with jazz?
Amy: My mother is a clarinet player, and loves some Benny Goodman. I started out listening to Ella, and singing along with all of the tunes. From there I started playing piano in Jazz Band, and going to camps during the summer. There were always so many more good looking boys at the jazz camps in comparison to the musical theater camps I was attending. And that can be a really influential factor when you're 14.
About Amy Bormet:
Washington D.C.'s Amy K. Bormet is an active performer and current graduate student in the Howard University Jazz Department. With the Howard University Jazz Ensemble Amy performed at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater with NEA Jazz Master McCoy Tyner and toured Japan last May.
Amy has also been selected to participate in the Kennedy Center's inaugural Mary Lou Williams Piano Workshop in May 2010.
In addition to her piano performances Amy is a prolific composer. Her compositions have been performed on the HU Jazztet and HUJE 2009 CDs. She has been commissioned to arrange her composition "Lightning" for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and HU's Afro Blue to be premiered April 24, 2010 on the National Mall.
Amy also composes and performs on piano, accordion, and voice with Brazilian Jazz Band "Aqui oh".
Find Amy Bormet on the web: