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By Gregory J. Robb
Jazz Improv Magazine Review
Summer 2004 Volume Four

Valerie Joyce is a talented composer and musician for whom much opportunity exists. Her debut album, Reverie, is a competent step into jazz recording. The brightest light for the Seattle resident is her voice, a resonant wisp of serenity that can be massaged for power and effect.

Joyce immersed herself in challenges that are endemic to producing one’s first record: technical production, arrangement, comfort and style. Valerie’s decision to showcase range and ability produced mixed results but will, in the long term, greatly benefit the musician.

Valerie Joyce can write. “Oasis,” the first of four original songs within, represents fundamental penmanship. On “Silent Sky,” Valerie’s voice stirs like a breeze off Seattle’s Puget Sound in a state  of mind that undoubtedly prevailed when she penned this song. The composition’s endearing simplicity casts optimism on the integrity of the idea. On “Orchid,” Joyce pursues her vocals the power of quietude. On “Christmas Eve,” we hear the first overt studio effects and they enhance the nostalgic feel of vocal-piano duet. In a future incarnation, one bets that Joyce would imbue this arrangement with strings. Time will bring a welcome complexity to Joyce’s future writings.

Reverie is rooted in a sparse and, therefore, limited sonic sensibility. When one possesses the pipes, as Valerie Joyce does, studio effects can be tastefully employed to powerful ends. Such indulgence would have enriched not only the fundamental effects of instruments such as saxophone, flugel horn and flute, but the players’ opportunities to maximize those machinations.  This kind of playing could generate an aural environment with more affected post-production. As Joyce relaxes, so will her arrangements.  Jazz vocalists habitually contain instrumental improvisation and, in this case, the finished product felt abbreviated. Valerie Joyce has the potential of using voice and instruments to reciprocate and augment each other. Spontaneity can be difficult in a recording studio. Sometimes, it is best to just hit ”play” and ”record,” and dream aloud.

Reverie is an adept entry to the artistic continuum of recording. Valerie Joyce must now cast her rich timber in different aural contexts in order to diversify her vocal talent. A drier, less airy, delivery would prompt a more purely improvised, spontaneous incantation. Valerie can also look forward to the learning curve that inevitably accompanies studio production experience.  When she breathes, technically and aesthetically, Valerie Joyce could a force of jazz.


By Nhien Nguyen, International Examiner

It is only once in a blue moon when a singer’s vocals reach the depths of your soul, reverberating through your body for an unforgettable musical experience.

The rich, smooth voice of jazz artist Valerie Joyce will do just that to her listeners. Joyce performs at the International Examiner’s “Arts, Etc.” event on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Pier 69, Port of Seattle.

In her songs, Joyce, whose voice holds a tranquil, serene quality, reveals her deepest self to the audience.

“When you sing, you can’t hide your personality,” Joyc says. “It comes out in your voice.”

Playing in the Seattle music scene since 1994, Joyce’s debut album “Reverie” released in 2002 set her on the road to being the next Norah Jones.

Born in Japan to an American father and Japanese mother, Joyce was exposed to classical music through her mother’s piano playing and extensive record collection. Though her parents are not big on jazz, her father appreciates his daughter’s recordings. Joyce studied classical piano at University of Puget Sound, under Dr. Steven Moore and Dr. Duane Hulbert. It was then that she discovered jazz, and discovered her voice.

During her sophomore year, Joyce auditioned for the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and won a vocal jazz scholarship, but decided to complete her liberal arts education at UPS.

After realizing her calling in life, Joyce went full force in trying to make a career of her unique voice. Since her senior year in college, she has been playing restaurant and other gigs.

Though Seattle has one of the best jazz scenes in the country, Joyce says that making it in the music business is challenging. Joyce has had to create her own world by finding her own gigs and self-producing her first recording.

Doors are opening up for Joyce after a hectic life of living as a business consultant by day and musician by night.

Joyce has had many musician friends give up on pursuing their dream, as there is no stability in the business.

“You have to love your art and don’t let outside factors bother you too much,” says Joyce.

Joyce believes that today’s world is easier for musicians. For example, they can host their own website, making it easier for independent musicians to establish themselves and get recognition.

“It’s a lot of work, more than I imagined,” says Joyce, who notes that it’s hard being a woman in the business.

Now, Joyce is taking a break from performing to focus on her recently developed passion for songwriting. She is particularly inspired with writing songs about nature and love.

Her music is influenced by jazz legends Duke Ellington and Cole Porter.

“Their songs are such beautiful works of arts. They have simple, melodic songs.”

When it came to improv, Joyce called herself a “complete beginner.”

Scared to try the daunting challenge of improvising, Joyce said, “I remember feeling this blood rushing through my body.”

Now comfortable in her music and improv talents, Joyce is working on her second recording of jazz and world music with Michael Wolfe.

Reviews from Japan:

CD Review

Interview: Adlib Magazine, February 2006
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Interview: Swing Journal, February 2006
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CD Review: Swing Journal, February 2006
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New York Blue Review
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