I was writing about my own mother which, in trying to find Matt Hanks email address, flashed to this, from 2006. And by the way Sasha and Norah have a project coming soon to GAMH I noticed at the Bill Frisell “side man” show:
> Thank you so much for writing to me.
> i’d love to meet you one day.
> i’m so blessed to have my wonderful family which
> includes my 2 older
> children from my first marriage to pianist George
> Muribus, my 4
> grandchildren, and then my Smith jr. and Sasha. I’m
> very very proud of
> Smith Jr. and Sasha for their passion and love of
> the music that they
> shared so intimately with their great Dad. Every
> time I play with Smith
> Jr. also called Smith V (the fifth generation of
> that great name Smith
> Weed Dobson), and hear Sasha’s beautiful voice, my
> heart bursts with
> love and pride. I’m a fierce Mom, huh!
> Our hearts still ache every day missing Smith, but
> it’s getting better,
> i’m not sure what article Rachel Metz wrote about
> Sasha. Could you send
> me a copy?
> Best and blessings,
S ibbledy boppidy bee-bop, dee wah-wah-wah.” It would be gibberish to some, but to 23-year-old jazz singer and teacher Sasha Dobson it’s scatting, her second language. “You’re making up a melody over the chord changes of a song. A lot of it has to do with harmonics and music and stuff, but it also has to do with being creative and being in the moment,” Dobson said, describing the skill for the uninitiated. Locals can see for themselves when Dobson performs on Wednesday at Campbell Recital Hall, as part of the Stanford Jazz Festival. Joining her will be her mother, vocalist Gail Dobson, and her brother, Smith Dobson, Jr., a drummer, tenor saxophonist and vibraphonist. Dobson also intends to honor her mother at the concert in honor of her birthday. The performance is appropriately entitled “Homecoming,” a fitting name since Dobson first attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop as a 12-year-old student. Today, the 23-year-old musician is one of the youngest teachers at this summer’s Stanford Jazz Workshop, where she’s instructing two musicianship classes, two combo classes, and one master class for vocalists. “I definitely enjoyed being a student here and now I’m kind of honored to be a part of it. You take it all for granted when you’re living it,” Dobson said. In her own classes, Dobson helps students learn vocal warm-ups, work on their scatting techniques, maintain their focus and learn how to deal with stage fright. “Some of (my students) have been singing jazz for a while and some of them have never even heard a jazz record, but they’re so open,” Dobson said. The dozen years Dobson has spent perfecting her talents as a jazz vocalist have served her well. Her grace, throw-back style and white-knuckled command of the microphone stand are evident in her music, which tweaks jazz standards into moods and melodies all her own. A Santa Cruz native, Dobson grew up singing and dancing alongside her late father, Smith Dobson, a pianist and vocalist; her mother, Gail, and her brother, Smith Jr. “We always had bad luck with babysitters so we just went to the gigs,” Dobson said, explaining how she and her 25-year-old brother got their starts in jazz by following their parents to shows. By age 3, she was grooving to her father’s tunes and by age 5 she began singing. By her eighth birthday she began singing with the Dobson Family Band. Though she sticks mostly to vocals, Dobson plays a little piano, writes some lyrics and wants to begin composing. She grew up at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, helping her parents, who were instructors, and attending classes herself. At the age of 17, Dobson left Santa Cruz and headed to New York City to pursue her goal of singing professionally. For two and a half years, she attended the city’s arts-oriented New School University on a partial scholarship. Dobson left college in 1999, explaining she was “ready to start singing.” “My experience there was finished…It’s so much money; the vocal program there is not that strong,” Dobson said. “I needed to be out singing, experiencing.” She beefed up her skills while living in a small studio in a building subsidized for artists, waiting tables at Dano’s, an upscale restaurant, and spending nights singing at local clubs and bars. “I feel like I have established myself out there locally,” Dobson said. “All the opportunities I had growing up I realized when I was there.” In New York Dobson polished her chops singing an array of jazz standards, about 30 of which she knows off the top of her head and perhaps 100 with which she is well-acquainted. Dobson is trying to learn more, she said, though the creativity scatting brings will remain a large part of her music.
She will also undoubtedly continue to admire and draw from her father’s body of work. A well-known musician, Smith died in May 2001 after falling asleep behind the wheel of his car on the way home from a gig in Palo Alto. “In the last year it’s just been such a journey since my dad died…I’ve incorporated meditation, spirituality and yoga and they’ve helped me get through life in the hardest times,” Dobson said. A scholarship named for Smith was established last year by the Stanford Jazz Workshop. It is awarded to a student between the age of 12 and 17, and includes full tuition. Since her father’s death, Dobson has recorded her first album, “Detour Ahead,” which will be released within the next month on Small Records, a New York-based label. Two of the arrangements on the album were written by her father. Dobson has spent the past two summers teaching jazz vocals at Camp Heartwick in Oneonta, N.Y. Eventually, she would like to get her master’s degree in music. In the meantime, she will keep playing music with her brother and would like to continue working with the Stanford Jazz Workshop. “I plan to move back here and settle down; (but) probably not for like 10 years,” Dobson said with a laugh.
Who: The Sasha Dobson Group, presented by the Stanford Jazz Festival.