Interviews & Reviews

Review: The New York City Jazz Record, May 2024 by Russ Musto

The intimate atmosphere of Mezzrow (Apr. 6) proved to be the perfect setting for vocalist Vanessa Rubin to mine heartfelt meaning from the lyrics to her set of mostly jazz and songbook standards. She also related personal tales of love lost and found to the wildly appreciative, sold-out house. Backed by a stellar rhythm section of Brandon McCune (piano), Kenny Davis (bass) and Winard Harper (drums), the singer kicked off her second of two nights at the club swinging hard on Duke Ellington’s “Love You Madly”, propelled by the fiery backing of the trio. The engaging warmth of Rubin’s vocal range was in full display on her beautiful interpretation of the Irving Berlin classic “What’ll I Do” and the seldom sung Sammy Cahn lyric to McCoy Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing”. Her own considerable ability as a songwriter was evident on the original “Once Was Not Enough”, an episodic excursion that began as a lilting waltz and then, following an absorbing cymbal-centered Harper interlude, modulated into a pulsating samba that had the vocalist jubilantly dancing in place during McCune’s commanding piano solo. The Cleveland native Rubin celebrated her hometown hero, pianistcomposer- arranger Tadd Dameron, with a medley of selections from her album The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron, including “Lady Bird”, “If You Could See Me Now”, “Good Bait” and “Whatever Possessed Me”. The vocalist closed by urging her audience members to join her by snapping their fingers to her sultry reading of “Black Coffee”. (RM)

Review: Hot House Jazz Magazine, April 2024 by John Zaff

Vanessa Rubin Mezzrow / April 5-6 Vocalist Vanessa Rubin brings more than just a great voice to her performances. There’s a whole lot of intelligence, sophistication and thought that goes into her singing. Not the usual adjectives you’d expect to hear in praise of a singer. There’s a richness to her singing that comes from her life-long love of both vocal and instrumental jazz and her deep understanding of the history of the music. With eight album releases and counting, her diverse catalogue includes tribute albums to Carmen McCrae and Tadd Dameron and vocal versions of jazz classics like Giant Steps, Simone and Speak No Evil, instrumentals for which she has penned lyrics. Make no mistakes about it, with Vanessa, every song tells a story, but you’ll also enjoy the show for the pure emotions of her performance and the soulful resonance of her vocals. You can catch Vanessa at Mezzrow, April 5th and 6th. (JZ)

Review: VTY Jazz, Family Gathering, Smoke Jazz Club, Vanessa Rubin  The New York Amsterdam News

Review: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron Carl Anthony, Notorious Jazz

Review: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron JazzWax

Review: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron Jazz Journal

Review: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron Jazz da Gama

Review: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron LA Jazz Scene

Review: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron All About Jazz


Review: O’s Place Jazz Newsletter

Vanessa Rubin is a polished jazz vocalist and storyteller, a perfect artist to interpret the works of lyricist and composer Tadd Dameron. Tadd was a prominent musician in 1940s -‘50s jazz serving up tunes and coaching/advising Miles, Eckstine, Vaughn, Dizzy and countless others. Vanessa invites listeners into the lyrics to hear and feel the stories. The accompaniment is strong anchored by a solid rhythm section including pianist John Cowherd, bassist Kenny Davis and Carl Allen on drums. Five brass soloists add spice to the mix notably Clifton Anderson (tb) and Eddie Allen (t) as on “If You Could See Me Now”. We also enjoyed “On A Misty Night”, “Reveries Do Come True”, “Kitchener Across The Hall” and “Next Time Around”.

Review: Jazz Weekly

Review: Jazz Station from Brazil featured Vanessa Rubin: The Dream Is You as the Vocal CD of the month in March

Review: JazzTimes “Vanessa Rubin: The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron (Nibur) A review of the singer’s album celebrating an overlooked modern jazz giant”

4 Stars from Jazzwise!
Vanessa Rubin Jazzwise

Review: Wall Street Journal “Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron – A Tribute to the Romanticist of the Bebop Movement”

Review: WTJU “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron”

Vanessa Rubin – The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron (Nibur): “Revered as both a torchbearer and a storyteller, jazz vocalist Vanessa Rubin possesses a voice hailed for crystalline clarity, hearth-like warmth and playful lioness sass. The Cleveland native brings a wealth of diverse influences to her vocal performance from both the Trinidadian/Caribbean roots of her mother and traditional jazz by way of her Louisiana-born father.” ( This release celebrates the compositions of Tadd Dameron often with lyrics provided by a variety of writers. The band includes John Cowherd (piano), Kenny Davis (bass), Carl Allen (drums), Eddie Allen (trumpet), Patience Higgins (tenor sax), Bruce Williams (alto sax), Clifton Anderson (trombone) and Alex Harding (bari sax). Rubin is a wonderful vocalist and wherever Dameron is, I’m sure he has a huge smile on his face.

Review: Gina Loves Jazz “Vanessa Rubin Praises Tadd Dameron”

Review: Black Grooves “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron

(Audio) Interview with Dan Polletta, WCPN of “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron”

(Audio) Vanessa Rubin and Joe Mosbrook talking about her new CD “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron”!

Review: The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron from ArtsFuse,
February 20, 2019 By Steve Provizer

Review: Downbeat Magazine

Review: “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron” from New York City Jazz Record

Review: “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron” from Dee Dee McNeil from CA from her blog Musical Memoirs (scroll down to see my review):

Review: All About Jazz, February 4, 2019
10 Artists – February, C. Michael Bailey

Finally, a fitting tribute to the music of Tadd Dameron, with Vanessa Rubin’s vocal adaptation of Dameron’s work as an added plus. The Cleveland native has distinguished herself as an impressive song stylist with a Midas touch for challenging material. Rubin has eight previous recordings. Interestingly, only Girl Talk (Telarc Records, 2001) has been reviewed on All About Jazz. The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron offers a grand opportunity to remedy this situation.

On this first collection of vocal Dameronia, Rubin performs in various-sized formats made up of members of an octet led by pianist John Cowherd, from a piano trio on the bouncing “Kitchenette Across the Hall” to the full band treatment for the lush “If You Could See Me Now.” The band is full and understated. Rubin also pays special tribute to arrangers of the Dameron songbook, including Frank Foster, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Bobby Watson and Willie Smith. Smith’s arrangement of “Good Bait” is pure swing that gives a deep nod to Dameron’s penchant for the offbeat. Rubin’s voice is beautifully studied in these performances. Her affinity for Dameron and inclusion of his music in her performance book are both amply evident. This inspired theme is programmed with the same inspiration by Rubin and co-producer Cecil Bridgewater. 2019 is already looking up for jazz vocals.

Vanessa Rubin
The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron
Nibur Records, 2019

Review: “The Dream is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron” by Leonard Weinriech

(Commentary) Jazz Vocalist/Professor of Jazz, Carla Cook

“Singer Vanessa Rubin has delivered an homage to her fellow Cleveland native, Tadd Dameron, that highlights the genius of his poignant, passionate and sometimes playful melodies- all while displaying her extraordinary gift for storytelling.  Good clean swinging arrangements by several of the genre’s best, the combination results in a recording that is bound to become one of this singer’s favorites”.

Vocalist Vanessa Rubin Sings Music by Jazz Greats at Nighttown and Akron’s Blu Jazz +

Rivablue from WCLK 91.9 Atlanta Talks w/ Vanessa Rubin About Hammonds House Benefit

vanessarubinRochesterJazz Fest 2017, Day 5: Frank reviews Vanessa Rubin

Vanessa Rubin: Sheer Wisdom and a Depth of Experience

Vanessa-as-BillieVanessa Rubin is a jazz vocalist, composer, producer, and actress who has graced the jazz scene since the early 80s. She has worked with Etta Jones, Frank Foster, Lewis Nash, Patience Higgins, Kenny Burrell, Grover Washington Jr, and Steve Turre to name a few. Rubin studied under Barry Harris at the Jazz Cultural Theater in New York and as a result, she has continued to follow her musical passion which has brought her success and to a place that has qualified her as a great jazz singer.

 iRock Jazz had the pleasure of speaking with Vanessa Rubin about her start in music, her career and her current projects.

iRJ: Were you exposed to music as a child?

VR: My father was a WWII veteran so he was really into jazz; big band, Count Basie, Gene Ammons, and American jazz. My mother, coming from the Caribbean, obviously was into Sparrow, Calypso Rose, and all the traditional calypsonians. We just loved music. My mother was a very cultural woman and a lot of us took music lessons and piano lessons. I played flute. She just always made sure we were exposed to art, music, dance and things like that. I grew up in a very artistic household. I’ve always loved music since I was a child. I guess it’s not unusual that I am in music as a profession. My parents didn’t encourage me to be a professional singer. They expected me to go to law school or medical school; they stressed academia as well. I went to school for journalism, which is what my degree is in, but my passion spoke louder than my need to be a journalist.

iRJ: While competing in the Miss Black Central Ohio contest you performed “God Bless the Child”, were you inspired by Billie Holiday?

VR: At the time I didn’t know much about Billie Holiday. I didn’t know that tune was so very closely associated with her. I wasn’t even singing professionally and I didn’t compete in beauty pageants. A girlfriend of mine and I, in college, did it as a joke. It was something to do, to have fun. When it got to the talent portion I was really a dancer, but I could always sing a little bit. I kind of leaned on whatever natural music ability I had. There’s a well-known jazz pianist in Columbus, Ohio by the name of Bobby Floyd. He was the musical director for the event. I don’t know how I got to, “God Bless the Child”, but that was the song that I chose to sing. It wasn’t because of Billie Holiday; it was just learning a standard. That is what I presented as my talent and won the talent award. At that time a light went off and I said, ‘Wow I did pretty good. Maybe I should consider this for something I would like to do as well, in terms of work.’ I didn’t take it seriously then, because I was always involved in music. As a younger person it was never something I thought I would be doing as a profession. It definitely was an aha moment, as some people would call it.

rubiniRJ: What was your big break in the business?

VR: Obviously, living in New York afforded me the opportunity to network with the best in the business. It’s hard to say because it’s never one moment. It’s always an accumulation of a lot of achievements that kind of build up to things. Coming to New York and meeting people like Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, and Paul E. West, and people who were already known and proven entities in the jazz world was good for me. I was able to work with them, study with them, and most importantly learn from them while I was working with them. Steve Coleman, who people may be familiar with, a wonderful saxophonist was recording for RCA at the time and decided to mention my name to the guy who was doing the jazz label, Novus. He decided to take me on as a production project. Steve Backer was the guy who was the head of Novus at the time. Steve Backer heard a demo tape that Steve (Coleman) did with me in the studio and decided to sign me. That might have been a break in terms of my recording, but I was already singing. I spent a couple of years singing in Cleveland. I had been to Singapore, but I really didn’t have any international acclaim at all. When I started recording for RCA one of the important breaks was getting on a label that had international ability to put your record out around the world. That helped as far as name recognition. It’s never really one big thing that happens. It’s all of the things you do building up to that. All of the little gigs I did prior to that allowed me to hone my skills. Certainly signing to RCA, Novus and having Steve Coleman as a friend, was certainly an important moment for me.

iRJ: Do you think paying tribute to other artists is the formula that was used to start your career?

VR: I think it’s a formula for the record company or the industry maybe. It’s always an honor to play homage to someone you really admire. Carmen McRae is someone I absolutely love as a jazz singer, but I loved Sarah Vaughn and I loved Ella Fitzgerald. I loved R&B singers, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, and Diana Ross. All of them were inspirations for me. By the time I had become a professional singer and chose jazz to be the genre, how many people could I have done a tribute to? There are many others. Every time I come out and sing and I do a standard, I take a little piece of each one of those singers with me – I’m paying tribute to them. They are all wonderful and important influences. I stand on all their shoulders.

VANESSARUBIN.jpg2_RJ: Why do you think we don’t see as many vocalists in jazz today?

VR: If the majority of people don’t see singers it’s because they are not looking for them. There are a lot of jazz singers out here. There are a lot of people doing original, contemporary, cutting edge, and people like me who are holding up the great American songbook. The times have changed and when those singers were out it was more so the popular music at the time. They got more publicity. The big bands were in and a lot of them sang with big bands. There were a lot more clubs and people have always loved singers, but a lot of those venues are not here anymore. All those places out in Vegas and some of the places in my own hometown of Cleveland like Leo’s Casino, they don’t exist. Those rooms don’t exist anymore, so where do those singers go? The places that do exist, where a lot of them went, you see some of everything in there now. These jazz clubs are presenting more than just jazz. It’s not that singers are not out here. I’m out here, Carla Cook, Diane Reeves, Nnenna Freelon, and Carmen Lundy. There are tons of them, but we got too much to focus on nowadays. People aren’t really digging on live entertainment. People aren’t going out spending their money on live entertainment like before. I think the times just don’t support all the things it takes for a singer to get around and be heard and be known. It’s like Nancy Wilson told me, “If you like jazz you got to go out and look for it.” Classic jazz I guess. Smooth jazz is all over the place. When you think of radio being owned by corporate America they decide what’s going to get played. So it’s whatever making the dollar.

iRJ: As a musician today, with the changes in economy, lack of clubs, and the format of radio stations, how difficult is it to make it in the industry today?

VR: I think it’s an argument on both sides. Some would say it’s very difficult and some who are not used to the old ways would say it’s great. You’ve got some people who are so technically savvy, they’re doing it all. They’re doing their own records; they’re promoting their own records online. They’re doing their own publicity online and reaching more people than the record companies used to be able to do, because now you can push a button and your stuff is gone. It’s like liquid. So I guess it’s the way you look at it. Yes it’s difficult because everything is very expensive. If you are a hard worker, you have determination and you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and getting in the trenches, you can accomplish a lot of things. Success is relevant to a lot of things. The whole paradigm is different now.

IMG154-1iRJ: What are your current projects?

VR: I have a new record out with Don Braden. It’s called, Full Circle. Don Braden is a wonderful saxophone player with his Organic Trio. We’ve come full circle with our musical relationship. We started out early in New York together in the early 80s. We always wanted to do something together and we finally did. It’s not only full circle for me and Don getting back together, but for me getting back to the organ. It’s my first organ record. I was raised on the organ back in Cleveland. I’ve been doing a one woman show on the life of Billie Holiday. It’s called “Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday”, written by Reenie Upchurch. It’s directed by the great Woodie King of The National Black Touring Circuit. I’ve been doing it off and on for the past three years. It’s really wonderful. We’ve toured it in a couple of cities. I was very honored to get nominated, in 2011, for a Kevin Klein Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. It has a lot of potential for continued growth and hopefully we will get it out to a couple more cities.

You can get more information on Vanessa Rubin and her tour dates at:

By Shonna Hillard