By Tripp Liles, Editor
So stop me if you’ve heard this one before, because I’m sure you hear this story every day. Small town girl from Hiram, Georgia goes on to become a jazz artist with international appeal. I know, I know, Hiram is well known to be the jazz capital of Paulding County, but this?
To be sure, Hiram and the rest of Paulding County are in the process of being swallowed by Atlanta, just like all of us, but when Carol Albert was a child it was still as country as country can be, so yes it’s a little different that she fell into the jazz world. Like most children, her obsession with music started at an early age.
“My grandmother lost an arm to cancer, so she played the bass with her left hand and taught me to play the treble with my right,” Albert said. “She also composed songs in her sleep and taught them to me. In sharing her melodies, my grandmother imparted her love for me as well as her love of music.”
Albert started playing the piano at the age of five and never stopped. In her professional past she has been a staff accompanist for the Georgia State University Music Department, Agnes Scott College, and the Atlanta Ballet. In 1991 she received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Achievement and Individual Excellence as a Composer for original theme music, for work on a PBS show. With a degree from Georgia State University in music, the classical training provides a backbone to a unique blend of smooth, contemporary jazz and assimilating rhythms. Her influences, beyond her grandmother, are numerous, and she draws inspiration for compositions from life experiences.
“I saw a young girl in Germany who was lying on the steps of a church with addiction issues and I wrote one of my favorite songs about her, called “Sasha,” Albert stated. “I write songs about people, my children, nature, abstract ideas and emotions like love, sadness, disappointment and joy, and spiritual themes such as in “Dreamer” which won a Peace Song Award.”
The music she creates is highly accessible and in all honesty immediately puts you in a good mood. It’s perfect chill music. The imagery from her latest CD, Fly Away Butterfly, invokes a whimsical feel with a strong nod to Brazilian bossa nova. It also serves as a metaphor for her own transformation. One such example is the single “Mas Que Nada.”
“I have a light voice that emulates South American voices like Astrud Gilberto,” Albert explained. “Mas Que Nada” was a blast! It was the first track I put out as a single. I wanted to record a joyful, fun tune and the Olympics were taking place [in Brazil] so I decided on this song, especially since I used to sing it while I was touring in Europe.”
And tour she does. She has an international presence and has toured Europe four times. Her CDs have been extremely popular overseas. Albert’s previous release Love In Your Eyes earned accolades throughout Europe and her latest release is gaining momentum as well.
The publication Jazz Weekly said of Fly Away Butterfly: “Fingers snap and toes tap throughout. Carol Albert does bass programming, lush keyboards, and lead singing on this collection of smooth Brazilian moods with dreamy support and framework.”
The fact that she evokes the imagery of a butterfly on the latest CD has deep significance in her life.
“The butterfly became a symbol of hope to me after I lost my husband in 2014 to a heart attack during a triathlon. I kept seeing butterflies after he passed. They became a spiritual symbol to me. I went on a trip to Costa Rica and was hiking high up in the mountains and a blue morph butterfly landed on me. It wasn’t until a year later that I started seeing blue butterflies in everything like books, pictures, you name it,” Albert explained. “I looked for the meaning behind this and found they’re symbolic of new beginnings, change and awakening, as well as being good luck and a spiritual messenger. I was working on the track that I named “Fly Away Butterfly” and it just felt totally right, especially when I had Sam Skelton add the flute part that became the butterfly flying. I named the album Fly Away Butterfly because it made sense, all these pieces fit with this theme of movement and change.”
As most recording artists will attest to, you can’t do it alone. She has a solid group of artists that she records with who are all local.
“They all live in Atlanta and are exceptional. I couldn’t have had a higher quality team to add character to each of my pieces. My Brazilian friends, guitarist Sander Pinheiro, bassist Chocolate Costa, and world-renowned percussionist Rafael Pereira gave an authentic sound for “Mas Que Nada,” said Albert.
In the month of October you can see Albert perform at the Suwanee Jazz Festival, Town Park Center, on Oct. 14. Additionally, she has performed often at The Velvet Note in Alpharetta. The Velvet Note (see sidebar) is one of the region’s best jazz clubs, with a growing national reputation. Tamara Fuller, owner of The Velvet Note, has been an admirer of Albert’s work for some time.
“I’m a big fan of Carol’s work. Her music blends elements of classical, pop, new age, and jazz to create a unique sound,” Fuller said. “It’s a new evolution of music with great energy and lingering optimism.”
Moving forward, Albert looks to build on her continued success and artistic expression. She is constantly being inspired for new work and is interested in returning to her classical training for the possibility of a symphony, as well as scoring some of her original works for teaching purposes. The inspirations, no matter how far she travels from home, never stray from her original inspiration that came from her grandmother.
“Just last week I was dreaming a song and I wanted to get up and write it down but I was having too much fun listening to it,” said Albert. “I thought I’d remember it but I didn’t. Sometimes I can remember them and write them down. I am the happiest when I am in the pure state of writing a new piece, hearing parts and weaving the pieces together, dreaming of ideas to add the next morning, fitting it together like a puzzle. I love that place.”
Carol Albert’s music is available through all major platforms as well as her site at www.carolalbertmusic.com.