Swingin' with Philly Jazz Vocalist Miss Justine
Vocalist Justine Keeys, aka Miss Justine, is one of Philadelphia’s jazz gems. Starting in the early '80s, she enthralled audiences at clubs and private venues across the Philadelphia area with the late pianist Gerald Price. Their long collaboration taught her the importance of finding the right musical fit. Miss Justine fills in WRTI's Meridee Duddleston about her life in music.
Miss Justine describes her repertoire as “classic jazz,” and her early influences as Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. But she is her own star, and has been called "The Singer's Singer" for her ability to interpret and convey the story inside the melody.
A sophisticated singer with roots in Philadelphia has a lifetime of experience working with other musicians. Miss Justine fills Meridee Duddleston in about getting the “right people on the bus” or in this case, on the stage.
Meridee Duddleston: It looks and sounds so effortless, so perfect, so fluid. But the intimate connection between musicians and the audience, depends on more than the music – it also has to do with the ability of the performers to do that kindergarten thing: “playing well with others.”
Jazz vocalist Miss Justine, grew up in North Philadelphia in the '40s and '50s in a home that was a musical meeting house. John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and McCoy Tyner, who married her younger sister, were just some of the visitors.
Her Philadelphia-based career includes performing at clubs and at private soirees. It was her long-time accompanist, the late Gerald Price, who reinforced the idea that lessons learned early on last a lifetime.
Miss Justine: If you’re doing the job right, everybody gets time to shine. Gerald Price, who was one of my main mentors when I really started singing, he said, 'If we’re working a job and the audience really likes that bass player, let him play.'
MD: And in a genre that’s so open to individual expression – that can be a good thing or a power play - it’s important to find just the right fit.
MJ: Too many people, when they get up there, they forget that they are part of a team – and I think that’s bad.
MD: Call it a two-way street or, as Miss Justine does, "The Golden Rule," vocalists and musicians need the right fit - and have a tougher time finding accompanists...
MJ: In growing in the music, with the music, and knowing the musicians, you know who feels the way you do about the music.
MD: Miss Justine is working on a third CD – one that will include duets – the ultimate in sharing experience.