My name is Tatiana Eva-Marie; I am a jazz musician and bandleader of the Avalon Jazz Band. I specialize in Parisian inspired hot jazz and swing reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s.
How did you get your start in music?
My mother, Anca Maria, is a classical violinist and my father, Louis Crelier, is a composer. When they detected the first spark of musical talent in me, they both very adamantly shoved me onto the stage and I very soon understood that it was a calling I couldn’t ignore. There is something very special about a family trade, something very pure and primal. It becomes a way of life. I was always hanging out backstage at concerts and theatre pays, listening to my father compose, to my mother practice, falling asleep at recording studios. It was a very unusual childhood that trained me for this career in show business.
What prompted you to start singing songs in French? Are you bilingual
My father is Swiss-French and I am fluent in both languages. He introduced me to French pop music of all eras, from Charles Trenet, Maurice Chevalier, Yves Montand to Jacques Brel, Juliette Greco and Serge Gainsbourg. He never cared much about school or homework, but one thing I had to know perfectly was French spelling, grammar and history. He was an encyclopedia and I enjoyed nothing more than listening to his stories and anecdotes. I started singing in French because I loved poetry with a passion and many French songs, even jazz tunes, are poems set to music. Jacques Prévert, who wrote “Autumn Leaves” was my favorite poet when I was a kid.
What are a few of your most favorite songs you’ve written?
That’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! All the songs I write are inspired by silly little things that charm me in their own specific ways. I have been getting more into songwriting recently and it’s something I want to keep exploring. I am currently working on an idea for a musical set in wartime Paris for which I will be writing songs reminiscent of 1940s French jazz standards.
Any fun stories to share while on tour?
Going on tour is always full of unexpected adventures and mishaps. Missing instruments, drunken musicians, canceled trains, sharing rooms, sharing beds… you never know what’s going to happen. Touring is definitely not for everyone. I’ve traveled all around the world from Europe and the USA to India and Fiji; my bandmates and I have crossed jungles, climbed ramparts, ridden wild horses, shared hallucinogen drinks with village chiefs, stayed in castles and slept on floors… there is no shortage of adventure when you’re an itinerant musician.
Who are some artists/musicians that inspire you as a creator?
Lately, I have been obsessed with Hoagy Carmichael. I think that ‘Stardust’ is the most beautiful song ever written. I am fascinated by the skill he has of creating melodies that are dreamy and simple but also deep and intricate at the same time. But I have to say that my greatest inspiration has always been my father, who taught me the importance of melody. I am currently in Switzerland for the premiere of his opera, “La Citadelle de Verre”. He never ceases to impress me and challenge my creative instincts.
Who did you listen to most when you were growing up?
Louis Prima was my absolute idol when I was a kid. The ability he has of effortlessly turning a concert into an unhinged and irreverent party always captured my attention. He mixes the cocky Siciliano vibes to the dreamy bayou atmosphere in a way that has always deeply moved me. I try to channel his energy every time I sing.
Why jazz? What led to this kind of music?
My father was the lead singer of a 1920s New Orleans style big band, so we always listened to a lot of jazz at home. Disney films also had a big impact, with the soundtracks of the Jungle Book, the Aristocats, etc, as well as the TNT and TCM classic movies I was glued to all summer. Even as a small kid, I used to go wild when I heard swing. It’s very hard to explain, but I just completely lose myself. The syncopated rhythm acts like a drug. When I’m away from it for too long I start getting antsy, I need my swing fix. It was a very natural musical path for me and I have never questioned it: I’m addicted to the joy this music brings.
Where has been your favorite place to perform so far?
A couple of years ago we played at the Midsummer Night Swing festival at Lincoln Center. That remains my favorite concert, simply because I remember being in the audience when I was ten years old and thinking “oh how cool it would be to perform on that stage someday”. Moments like these are like honey. It’s so magical to be on the stage you used to dream of as a child.
What are you looking most to this year with your band?
We just performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and it was an eye-opener for me. I had sort of an epiphany – if you will – that “happy music” is a real calling for me. I want to develop this particular concept, mixing 1930s hot jazz, Gypsy jazz and Western swing, creating a sound of joy that is reminiscent of both American and European music. Something old and something new. I am excited to start working on that repertoire and writing music for it. In addition to that, I have a new Avalon CD coming out in the fall and I am collaborating with bassist Elias Bailey and guitarist Vinny Raniolo on a trio CD. I will also be starring in a feature film called “Swing Rendez-Vous”, a Woody-Allenesque jazz fairytale by French director Gérome Barry that we’ll start shooting in September. Many projects to look forward to!
If stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you want with you?
My red lipstick, Dodger (my stuffed dog), my ukulele, a case of scotch whiskey, and the complete works of William Shakespeare.
What was your favorite childhood cartoon growing up?
Peter Pan. And I’m still waiting for him to come take me to Neverland.
If you could meet anyone who would it be?
Mozart. I think we would have had a great time goofing around together and getting thrown out of parties for lewd behavior.
If you could travel back in time where would you go?
Postwar Paris, 1950s. I would have loved to be part of the existentialist movement, swing dance in medieval cellars, talk philosophy at the Café Flore, write poetry and hang out with Sartre, Vian, Gréco and all those cats. What an inspiring time to be alive.