The name Dana Masters is synonymous with jazz on both sides of the Atlantic, and this year this celebrated singer will be one of the main highlights in the City of Derry Jazz Festival programme.
Dana’s music takes its roots in the songs of her childhood, with strong gospel, soul and jazz elements melding to form her distinctive velvety style. And jazz fans will be thrilled to hear that her repertoire includes music by greats such as Al Jarreau, Michael Franks and Dinah Washington, and features classic numbers such as ‘At Last’ and ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’, all delivered with the power that has made her a true tour de force in the industry.
But after years performing at some of the best clubs in LA, Dana is now happy to call Ireland home, and is a regular on the local jazz circuit, where she plays regularly alongside local legends such as Linley Hamilton.
Speaking ahead of her much anticipated debut performance at the City Hotel next week, Dana said she was looking forward to experiencing the festival for the first time.
“I’ve been living here for the past five years now and performing on the local jazz scene for the past four, but I must say I really love it here,” she said.
“The big difference is that the music scene in Ireland is much more relaxed than back home. I was performing in LA and it’s so unbelievably competitive over there – in fact everything is just so intense. So it’s great performing somewhere that’s so laid back. I do a gig every weekend at McHugh’s in Belfast and talk about singing for your friends! It’s all regulars, and it’s so much more intimate and relaxed.”
Dana is accompanied onstage by a band of formidable talent, featuring the soulful sounds of saxophone sensation Meilana Gillard, and local jazz stalwart Linley Hamilton on trumpet. They bring something extra to the table every time they take the stage, as Dana revealed.
“There’s real intent behind the music, people are really passionate about it. I certainly notice that the people in the band are extremely ardent about the performance, and you never know what to expect from them. There are some real characters, which really adds to the experience for the audience.
“I think that in the bigger cities we’re seeing younger people starting to enjoy jazz music and it’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence. I know that I’ve only been here for a short while but I have noticed a change in that people are trying to build a new cultural identity here. Obviously with such a complicated history the focus had perhaps shifted away from culture, and now people are exploring and creating a new identity for themselves.
“There’s a big focus on music here now, it’s a vehicle for change, and there’s many different types of music here now. People are trying out new things and trying to rebuild through music and song.”
On the back of this the singing legend is delighted to have the opportunity to make her first appearance at the festival during the city’s Culture Year.
“This will be my first time at the jazz festival, but I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve heard so much about the event and the atmosphere. And of course with it being City of Culture, it really adds to the sense of occasion. I hope people will love the show, we try to make it intimate and personal and warm, and there’s a lot of passion in the music.
“I’m going to be here for two nights so I’m really hoping to catch some of the other acts while I’m in the city, and get the chance to experience for myself what everyone’s been talking about.”
The Dana Masters Band will play at the City Hotel on Friday May 3 at 8pm. For more information about the City of Derry Jazz Festival and a full programme of events go to www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com
The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival is arranged by Derry City Council in association with the City of Culture 2013 team, with funding from Diageo and support from NITB and Airporter.