Andrea Superstein’s next local performance is at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver on Feb. 5. Her new album is Worlds Apart. (photo from the artist)
For the last year, Andrea Superstein has been touring Canada with her new jazz album, Worlds Apart. Her next local performance will be at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver on Feb. 5.
“I discovered my voice when I was a kid. My parents enrolled me in a musical theatre program at school and I sang in a choir,” Superstein told the Independent in a recent interview. “But my family were concerned about music as a profession for me. They thought the life of an artist was uncertain, so I went on to train as a teacher. I have been teaching theatre in several Vancouver schools since I moved here from Montreal. I still teach part-time. I taught at King David [High School] for awhile. But I always had music in my life as a hobby.”
At some point, the young teacher decided to explore if music could be more for her than a hobby. In 2009, she attended a weeklong summer swing camp, a jazz camp for adults in Sorrento, B.C. “I loved it,” she said. “It gave me access to the big names on the Vancouver jazz scene. I learned so much. I decided that, for my next birthday, I would get myself a gig. I knew I could do it and I did it.”
That performance was so successful and meant so much to her, she committed to pursuing jazz as a career. She couldn’t live without it anymore.
In 2010, Superstein released her first album, comprised of her arrangements of jazz standards. The same year, her debut performance at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival earned her a nomination for a Galaxie Rising Star award. Now, 10 years later, she is a well-known Vancouver jazz vocalist.
“I still teach theatre, while I’m still a learner in jazz,” she said with a smile. “It is good to have different outlets for my creativity.”
Her latest album, Worlds Apart, is mostly her own compositions, although it includes a few of her interpretations of other songs.
“I love jazz because it is often a reinvention of something old, something known, but the musician makes it her own, as I did with the song ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music,” said Superstein by way of example. “I’ve seen the movie many times. I performed in the musical, in the roles of Maria and Reverend Mother.” She created her own arrangement of the song for her album.
“With Worlds Apart, I wanted to deliver something personal by examining the timely issues we all face,” she added. “We simultaneously exist in conflict and in symbiosis, and the contrast fascinates me. It is not only explored in the lyrics but also reflected in the harmonic structure and the songs’ arrangements.”
For her original compositions, Superstein writes both the music and the lyrics. She loves performing, interacting with the audience. “It gives me the biggest joy,” she said.
“I love talking to people between the songs, telling them funny stories about my music and lyrics, offering some extras. I love to hear the audience laugh or applaud. It’s like building a community, creating relationships. Not many jazz performers do that, I think, and it sets me apart. Or maybe it is my theatre background showing…. Usually, my talks are not scripted. There is always an element of impromptu. I try to be open to possibilities.”
Worlds Apart includes songs in three languages: English, French and Hebrew. “I grew up in Montreal, so I’m fluent in both English and French. When we performed this album in Montreal, people loved it when I spoke to them in French,” Superstein said.
She wrote the album’s Hebrew song years ago. “When I was 17, in 1996, I spent six months on an exchange program in Israel, on a kibbutz,” she said. “I was overwhelmed by the different life there, by the people. There were many bus bombings at that time, [Yitzhak] Rabin was recently assassinated, but people didn’t exhibit fear. Just the opposite. Everyone was passionate, on fire for life, and I wrote a song about it.”
When she started working on this latest album, she remembered that song and thought it appropriate for Worlds Apart, so she revised it and recorded it.
“This album is the first I didn’t produce myself,” said Superstein. “It’s good to have someone else to listen, to make suggestions. I invited the Montreal jazz singer Elizabeth Shepherd to be my producer. I also hired a group of Montreal musicians to record the disc. They are wonderful musicians, I enjoyed working with them, and I toured with them for the past year.”
The musicians performed in jazz concert series, in small theatres and bookstores; they also gave some house concerts.
“The life of a musician is a challenging one,” said Superstein, “but I’m fueled by my love for my art.”
For more information and other concert dates, visit andreasuperstein.com.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].