by John Noyd
former Milwaukeean now NYC girl Katy Pfaffl on the cover of Maximum Ink in Jan. 2002
photo by Joshua Silk
Light grooves and soaring melodies circle and dive with Latin jazz accents, soul throaty climaxes and soft, sophisticated pop. Fluid flowers of pan-global sensitivity blossom into polysyllabic rivers that dance among the keyboards, guitar, hand percussion and bass. Sounds conjuring wide-open spaces find strange bedfellows in Manhattan - a crowded city of subways and skyscrapers, but that is exactly where Katy Pfaffl found her muse - New York, by way of Amsterdam, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Katy was a Sukuzi violin student, competing as a classical pianist before she entered high school. While she feels lucky to have grown up in Milwaukee, she found the city’s arts scene limited and more concerned with stability than change. “I’ve always had many interests and was always told I had to choose only one and commit to it,” she explains, “I believe that if you have a lot of talents and interests then use them all, explore them all so you can keep growing and expanding.” Her far-ranging talents found similar resistance in Cincinnati where she attended the University’s Conservatory for two years. Cutthroat and competitive, the environment was more damaging than constructive to Katy’s confidence and musical direction.
Despondent and recovering from the last of several serious back injuries, Katy returned to Milwaukee, working long hours at a mindless job and hibernating creatively. A sad, bitter year away from music proved too much and Katy quit her job and packed her bags for New York, a place she happily admits ate her up and spit her out the first three years she lived there. Eventually she ditched her temp jobs and focused on working free lance as a vocal coach and voice therapist. She also taught herself to play the guitar and forced herself to play more gigs. One gig in Amsterdam brought Katy together with Scott Chasolen a keyboard player who introduced her to a Manhattan music scene she previously found inaccessible. Discovering like souls, assembling a band, playing out and cutting a disc seem to happen overnight though the band’s been together for over eight months and the disc took less than eleven days. “I’m a very determined person,” Katy says,” my dreams keep me going and I’m the kind of person who uses hard times to inspire me, that’s the theme of the album… choosing love over fear.”
The self-titled disc carries haunted, lofty vocals and smartly casual backing with beds of sad refrains and sentimental dreams, a cautious yet curious mixture of liberating grace and rippling effervescence. “I didn’t want there to be any limitations,” she says, “music should be about expansion and exploration - give more to the listeners so they can grow too.” Driven by rhythms, the gentle filigree of acoustic guitar, the African assault of multiple percussion, Katy stirs a playful counterpoint with a voice that can dodge downtown traffic or float over autumn fields. “Although I’ve never listened much or studied the music from different cultures,” she says, “living in Spanish Harlem and the Village, playing in the subways and having friends from around the world make the music and life of those cultures come through in my sound.”
For a taste of this Downbeat Award winning jazz vocalist check out her website, www.katypfaffl.com . A wandering spirit rooted in solid musicianship and a radiant optimism, Katy exemplifies the gung-ho spirit that conquers adversity and profits with exuberance. Musically everyone wins.(8547) Page Views Katy Pfaffl Online:
CD: Katy Pfaffl Record Label: Liilaa Records
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