Eboni Ramm is one of precious lights in the Columbia jazz community – you just feel good when she is around. She is naturally a supportive person, soulful and insightful. She has the heart of a teacher and a passion for jazz. She does some amazing work in the community and you’ll often find her creating unique jazz-based presentations in the Richland Library branches. She is unique. She is cool. She is fun.
Let’s see what she has to say…
Where did you study music?
As a very young girl, about 6 or 7 years old, my mother would taker my twin sister and I on vacation to visit Aunt Mary in New York. I absolutely loved the cheesecake with cherries. One day, Aunt Mary put on an album and I fell in love with the voice emitting from red crushed velvet speakers of her stereo. It was Billie Holiday. I was hooked ever since.
Is there a story behind your latest composition or recording? Where can we find it?
My last composition, The Look of Love, can be found at www.EboniRamm.com. My backing musicians are Art Weiss (drums and percussions), John Kilik (piano), Bernie Sanders (EWI – electric wind instrument) and Clark Sullivan (bass). We recorded the CD in Conway, SC at Art Weiss’s studio.
What is your favorite tune to play and why?
What a Wonderful World is my favorite tune to sing. It is very calming to my soul and reminds me to enjoy Life, all of it and its Beauty.
How long have you been performing in Columbia?
I started performing in Columbia as a spoken word artist or poet in 1999. I added jazz standards or vocalizations to my poetry when I performed. My 2001 CD entitled Passion reflects this.
Do you have a favorite venue in Columbia?
I’ve had the privilege of performing at the Richland Library for the past 12+ years. Since 2009, I have served as one of their Literary Residents and, along with the wonderful friends of the library, have developed the Jazz Roundtable Program into the engaging event that it is. Our Children’s Jazz Program is also beginning this fall. Chayz Lounge at Nonnah’s is a very close second favorite venue. I love the mood of the venue. It allows the artist as well as the listener to partake how much and however they feel. It’s a true listening lounge. The food, desserts and open bar is great too.
What other cities, states, and countries have you played in and how do those experiences compare with Columbia, SC?
I played in other states along the east coast, my most memorable being Florida. Both the Jacksonville Jazz and Lincolnville Jazz Festivals allowed me to experience performing at outdoor venues with some amazing musicians. Outdoor is definitely different from indoors. I had to adjust to this. Now, I welcome the outdoor experience.
What is your most memorable experience as an artist?
My most memorable experience as an artist is introducing jazz and poetry as a collaboration to our youth. As a Teaching Artist with the South Carolina Arts Commission as well as with ARTS ACCESS SC, I’ve had the honor of going into the schools of Richland and Fairfield Counties. The youth are amazing. They come in not knowing or even caring much about jazz and poetry, but leave letting me know how much they’ve enjoyed the workshop. Plus, their showcase reveals their enthusiasm and joy. This warms my heart.
What music genres and/or artists influence your style and approach and why?
Over the years, I have drawn close to the style of the incomparable Sarah Vaughn. Her phrasing and use of the note is impeccable. The way she delivers a song is like my Grandma saying, “Here baby, take a sip.” It all LOVE.
Who is your favorite Jazz artist?
Presently, Sarah Vaughn is my favorite jazz artist.
Who would you give credit to as your mentor(s)?
The legendary Skipp Pearson is my mentor. Anytime, I needed to talk or understand something about jazz, he was there. As an added bonus, him being my cousin always gave me the warm fuzzies when we chatted.
What is the best advice you ever received as a musician?
My best advice given was from Skipp Pearson who told me, “Always deliver yourself through the song.”
Music is a way of communicating and connecting with people. What are your thoughts on this? What are some ideals and values you’d like to reflect in your music?
I’ve never studied music, but I think the study of what I do through poetry and singing with a band teaches me so much. I started to see how the art forms blend together, you know. The different tones I use to deliver a particular emotion or the tone I use when I’m singing a certain phrase matches the rhythm they use or how hard the drummer hits the drum. It all blends together like a conversation. We’re communicating through our instruments. Having a jazz band… I love it. It is not only entertaining but brings about a healing to myself and others.
How often do you practice or give time to your craft?
I sing whenever and wherever I can throughout the day. If I have an upcoming show or workshop, I devote more time to my polishing my craft.
Tell me about your band and how everyone came together or about the musicians you usually play with.
My Music Director is Kyle T. Whitlock, pianist/keyboardist. At present, I can’t remember how Kyle and I came together. I’m just sooo grateful we did. I’ve recently started working with bassist, David Levray. He also adds so much to my sets. My band members consist of other ColaJazz artists I gather who are available for my gigs. I’ve worked with Shannon Pinkney, Mark Rapp, Tony Hall, Danny Boozer, Andre Gonzalves, Reggie Sullivan, and many others.
What are some ways that we can expose younger generations to Jazz? What are your ideas on how you can help grow the scene?
I’ve made it a practice of not only going where the youth are, but bringing them to venues like the McKissick Museum and Richland Library. Recently, the McKissick Museum had a gallery showing of Well Suited: The costumes of Alonzo V. Wilson for HBO’s Treme. Students from W.A. Perry Middle School were brought in to view the exhibit with Mr. Wilson and participate in a youth jazz/poetry workshop with myself focusing on the sense of community with the Mardi Gras Indians. Pictures are on my site at www.EboniRamm.com.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I grew up listening to my grandparents sing spirituals either in church or around the house. To me, jazz and spirituals are not that far apart at all. And sometimes you will find me jazzing up a spiritual like Wade in the Water, then adding a poem I wrote entitled Healing Waters. Both genres allow me to praise from the inside out. And jazz is about improvisation to me, which is what a poet does.