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Portrait of Karin Carson

Karin Carson

About Karin Carson

Alpine, CA

Karin Carson is a talented and highly appealing jazz singer as can be heard on her recent recording debut, The Time Is Now. However Miss Carson is more than just a vocalist for she is an organizer, a spokeswoman, and an activist for the jazz music that she loves. She makes things happen, whether it is gigs for her fellow musicians, publicity for jazz, or new musical partnerships.

The granddaughter of a trumpeter Peter Sirna, who played jazz in the San Diego area in the 1950s and '60s, Karin Carson grew up around music and, even very early in life, she was organizing musical events. "I sang every chance I could get. I sang in choruses and put together my own shows when there wasn't anything going on. In classes I was always very eager to organize groups, even as a child." She put together kid productions that had dancing, gymnastics and puppet shows. In high school Karin sang jazz-inspired arrangements with a gospel choir, became involved in musical theater, and organized a group that performed at festivals. "We paid our own way and choreographed moves to all of the music ourselves."

While attending Grossmont College where at first she took classes that trained her in classical music, Karin became drawn to jazz while taking a big band course. "I started singing with a jazz band but I did not quite understand the music. Kristin Korb, one of my teachers, suggested I see her perform at an IAJE conference in Los Angeles. While there, one day I walked into a room where Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler were playing passionate music before an enthusiastic and large audience. The vibe was so sympathetic that I got a rush of joy. I looked around the room and I knew that this was home. This was what I was supposed to be doing and, if I could make people feel the way I felt at that moment, that is what I should do with my life."

Never one to sit by passively and wait around for opportunities that might not come, Karin quickly became an advocate for jazz. When budget cuts in 2004 threatened the music department, she started a music club called Melodia and organized a talent show that raised money for the department. She became successful at writing grant applications, resulting in new instruments being acquired for the Afro-Cuban ensemble and the refurbishment of instruments for the college.

Karin picked up important experience working as the promotions assistant at Jazz 88.3-FM in San Diego and behind the scenes at the Monterey Jazz Festival. She has interacted closely with the administration and the artists at Monterey to see how the festival really works so she could bring her knowledge back to San Diego.

Back home, she formed The San Diego Jazz Musicians Guild in April 2009. The idea had originally come to her back in 2000. "I wanted to do a documentary on the history of jazz in San Diego, and it morphed into something much bigger. Our goal is to build bridges across the global liberal arts community through jazz. We help young people to get involved in doing what they love by holding jam sessions, giving people of all ages opportunities to see the music and play, and also building up the jazz community. We had our grand opening in April and brought together jazz musicians from San Diego who had never actually met before. Since our inception, we have presented over 200 musicians and artists alike and continue to grow."

In her own singing career, Karin sings regularly in the San Diego area (including at the Enchanted Village), hosts the Live Jazz Jam at the South Park Bar & Grill and the Jazz Collective at Tango Del Rey, Jack & Giulio's and occasionally performs out of town for the City Nights Jazz series presented by the Mike Raynor Quartet at the Inn at Morro Bay.

Her debut recording, The Time Is Now, teams Karin with a brilliant rhythm section. "Pianist-keyboardist Joshua White was one of the first people that I asked because we have played together for many years. I knew the great Christian McBride and he offered to play on the album. Gregory Hutchinson is a friend of his, and one of Christian's top picks for drummer, so he was a natural choice." Some selections also have guests including trumpeter Derek Cannon and saxophonist Tom Cantanzaro, background singers Leanne Wright Yip and Bridget Allen, and percussionists. The music is a mixture of favorite jazz standards and a few surprises. Among the many highlights are an unusual uptempo version of Duke Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss" (which is otherwise always taken as a ballad), a rendition of "Lush Life" that has Karin accompanied by Christian McBride on piano, and a vocal-bass duet on "Save Your Love For Me." All of the music was recorded during a single studio session and a concert that took place the following day. Karin wrote the title track of "The Time Is Now" when she was starting college. The collection as a whole, forms a soundtrack for her purposeful life since that time and throughout, Karin sounds at her best, interpreting the lyrics with plenty of feeling.

Karin Carson, who was recently nominated by the San Diego Music Awards for "Best Jazz," looks forward to the future with enthusiasm. "My life is an ongoing process and I can't say for sure what the future holds for me. I would really love to tour, see the world and make a lot of music. Whatever my future is, I want to make a difference." She already has and it is a sure bet that plenty of important accomplishments are in her future. - Written by Scott Yanow

"I believe that music is the one unifying voice of love in this world. I want to use my voice to reach the heart." ~Karin Carson



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