Dheepa Chari - Vocalist, Songwriter
“I've found music to be way of expressing myself more holistically than with words alone, as certain sounds have the ability to tap into our emotions. It is a way of communicating and connecting with others on a deeper level.”
While this might seem to be an odd perspective for someone whose artistry includes the interpretation of lyrics, it clearly captures the essence of the remarkable vocalist Dheepa Chari. In the spirit of the unparalleled Betty Carter, Dheepa is a band leader, focused upon creating a vivid synergy to weave a rich tapestry of inspired creative interplay that takes the listener on a fascinating journey with each song. Her special palette of colors is drawn from her personal influences, combining the dulcet sultriness of Sarah Vaughan, the emotional depth and sinuous lyricism of Billie Holiday and the impeccable phrasing and effortless control of Ella Fitzgerald. In fact, it was at 18 years old, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, that Dheepa had the epiphany that led her permanently into the world of jazz expression.
Prior to that, music had always occupied a highly significant place in Dheepa’s life, growing from the roots of her grandmother’s professional Hindustani singing in India. Moving from her birthplace of Vancouver to Dallas, TX at the age of six, Dheepa began her serious studies of both Indian and Western Classical music at the age of twelve. Throughout high school, she participated in choral ensembles and regional vocal competitions and then studied Vocal Performance at Southern Methodist University.
Dheepa moved to New York City in 2001 to study at the Columbia University School of Public Health where she also served as a cappella choral director for one of its vocal ensembles. From 2002 to 2004, she was a member of Juilliard’s community chorus, performing at prestigious venues throughout the area, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. During these years she renewed her studies in Indian Classical music from a new angle of perception stemming from her evolving interest in jazz and the deeply spiritual substance that is so powerfully ingrained in both forms.
“Forging a path unified by both traditions made sense to me as they share common ground in terms of depth, complexity and a lack of predictability. I've always been drawn to music that is more complicated structurally, even if I can't fully understand it, because I believe it mirrors us as people and the many layers beneath the surface that ultimately define who we are.”
A position in the pharmaceutical communications industry took her to Los Angeles in 2006, where she began to seriously pursue music professionally, hitting the local scene, making connections and just basically “learning the ins-and-outs of what it takes to lead a band.” But epiphanies of a different sort came into play in 2008 in the form of two life-altering events. “I lost my voice due to a cyst on my vocal chords, and while I was recovering, my father passed away in the fall of 2008. I realized the shortness of life and the need to pursue things that really give you a sense of purpose and meaning.”
In 2009, from the dual perspectives of seeing music as a source of healing and the need to express her own message, Dheepa – aided by the guidance of the renowned bassist, composer and educator Rob Kohler – formed her first group and worked in and around L.A. at well-known venues such as the House of Blues and the now defunct Café Metropol. She released her first recording in 2010 – On 4th Street, an EP featuring her unique take on five Great American Songbook classics – garnering some excellent reviews and beginning to make her own mark on the jazz world.
She released her 2nd CD, the full-length album Some New Fashion in late 2011 (produced by Kohler)to equally impressive reviews. With this album, Dheepa began her signature approach of embracing an eclectic repertoire of Songbook classics, works by jazz heavyweight composers and unexpected rock songs all re-imagined in uniquely original conceptions that make every piece entirely her own.
In 2012, Dheepa returned to New York City where she currently resides, put together a new ensemble and began to work in and around NYC. Her vision is straightforward and clear in focus: “I want to do what’s best for the song to best articulate its message.” To accomplish this in its most personally expressive manner, Dheepa has formed a collaborative artistic partnership with the extraordinary pianist and arranger Lars Potteiger. Her latest CD Patchwork (released in June of 2015 and produced by Aaron Nevezie) reflects this brilliant collaboration fully and has been already receiving outstanding reviews, revealing the continued maturity and development of a singer who is becoming recognized as one of Jazz’ most special talents.
With New York’s iconic Lower East Side venue Rockwood Music Hall as her home base, Dheepa performs regularly in New York and along the east coast as far south as Washington DC; and while performance opportunities are increasing substantially behind the release of her new CD, the competitive environment of chasing gigs is not a primary area of pursuit.
Dheepa successfully balances a career between the world of music and a fulfilling occupation in the arena of medical communications for oncology, allowing her to contribute to both spiritual and physical health and well-being. “My work is both rewarding and productive in many ways. It is uplifting to know that what I do every day so positively impacts the lives of patients.” It also allows Dheepa to focus entirely on her music in its purest form, without compromise or the need to bend to purely commercial purposes.
“I hope to keep refining my skills as a songwriter and better articulate the connection between what I feel and the music to express those feelings. Each album has been an interesting process where I've learned more about myself, helping me to evolve more as an artist and hopefully offering some light and meaning for my audience.”
Lars Potteiger - Pianist, Keyboardist, Composer, Accordionist, Musical Director
New York City based pianist, keyboardist, and composer Lars Potteiger is a soulful improvisor that likes taking risks and exploring uncharted waters with his music. He plays with an intensity that engages his fellow players in a meaningful dialogue. “Music is language, and it is important to communicate effectively with the players performing as well as the audience.” “Taking risks and exploring new territory is one of the most exciting things that a performer can experience with players that have that kind of rapport.” Potteiger can be seen performing at venues large and small in New York, ranging from the Blue Note and the Rockwood Music Hall to more intimate venues like the 55 bar and The Shrine, as well as festivals and venues throughout the US and abroad.
Potteiger likes to juxtapose old and new sounds in his playing. Performing standard repertoire with recomposed meters or using a heavy backbeat amidst a post-tonal landscape are some of the sounds he likes combining. When asked about the direction he sees his music taking, “I like to push myself creatively as an improvisor and composer to find new sounds on an instrument I have played for almost 30 years. Connecting with players that challenge and inspire me creatively makes this process fresh and inspired.” An energetic and enthusiastic performer, keyboardist Lars Potteiger’s playing is described by Jack Bowers at allaboutjazz.com as “provid(ing) a constant flow of adrenalin.” His playing and compositions on the recording In and Out, Mike Breen of City Beat describes as “lay(ing) the groundwork for the best playing and arranging...bridging the gap between more modernized fusion acts...with earlier pioneers like Weather Report and Miles Davis. The ranging dynamic of the writing keeps things interesting from start to finish.”
Potteiger has performed with a number of great jazz artists including singer Carolyn Leonhart (Steely Dan), Grammy Award winning tenor saxophonist Wayne Esscoffery, jazz bassist Francois Moutin, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Phil Woods, Sunnyside Records flutist Jamie Baum, Frank London of the Klezmatics and Hasidic New Wave, saxophonist Denis DiBlasio, trombonist John Fedchock, Grammy Award winning saxophonist/composer Bob Belden, Glenn White (Armored Records), virtuoso tubist and founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet Sam Pilafian, international jazz saxophonist/recording artist Greg Abate, Steel Pan player Othello Molineux (Jaco Pastorius, Chicago, Monty Alexander), woodwindist Chris Vadala, SteepleChase recording trumpter Brad Goode and drummer John Von Ohlen (Woody Herman and Stan Kenton).