is a San Francisco
Bay Area treasure. As a charter member of Bobby McFerrin
’s Voicestra ensemble as well as the innovative vocal sextet SoVoSó, he’s long been internationally recognized as a versatile and fearless vocal improviser, charismatic performer, and distinctive jazz and soul stylist.
Bearde will bring it all to Yoshi’s San Francisco on Saturday 9/13, in the company of his newest collaborator, the renowned pianist/arranger Nat Adderley Jr. Joining Bearde and Adderley for what’s billed as a “Virgo Birthday Celebration”—the leader’s birthday is September 15—will be saxophonist Charles McNeal, bassist John Shifflett, and drummer Leon Joyce Jr.
“Nat has a way of starting you in a different direction,” says Bearde of Adderley, who spent nearly 20 years as music director for Luther Vandross and grew up in a deeply musical family including his cornetist father Nat Sr. and his alto saxophonist uncle Cannonball. “He has no qualms about telling you ‘That’s not working,’ and why. He also tells you what works. He has a way of voicing chords that is so very musical. You don’t have to hear the melody to hear the melody within the chords. We found that during rehearsal of this new material. I thought, this is probably the most beautiful way I’ve ever heard these songs.”
Bearde has already begun work on his next album with Adderley producing and arranging. A five-song late-July New York session, with bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Rocky Bryant, found Bearde delving into the jazz lexicon, including “Lush Life,” “My One and Only Love,” and “Save Your Love for Me.” He’ll be performing these, along with other new songs, at the Yoshi’s show.
Bearde was introduced to Adderley about a year and a half ago while appearing at Trumpet’s in Montclair, New Jersey. The club’s owner recommended that Bearde call Adderley, who lived in the neighborhood, about the possibility of their working together at his next Trumpet’s engagement.
“Nat said ‘Send me the music and info, let’s hear what you do,’” says Bearde. “So I sent him three albums’ worth of material, and he called back and said, ‘Where have you been? Why don’t people know who you are? Of course I’ll work with you.’”
The two continued to work together when Bearde was in the New York area and began to discuss a recording collaboration, now under way. The new album will focus on trio arrangements with guest horns—including alto saxophonist Vincent Herring—with an anticipated spring 2015 release.
Nashville native Nicolas Bearde, who’s been based in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1970s, has worked extensively as an actor for stage, screen, and television and as a voice-over artist in addition to his vocal pursuits. By the mid-1980s, he’d hooked up with Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra, and when McFerrin decided to take a break from the group in the mid-’90s, Bearde and other members branched off into a smaller a cappella unit called SoVoSó, which included Molly Holm, Linda Tillery, Rhiannon, Joey Blake, David Worm, and Edgardo Cambon. “We followed in the improvisational tradition of Voicestra, but added more gospel, Latin, and R&B elements,” he says.
Bearde has released four albums through his Right Groove imprint: Crossing the Line
(1998), All About Love
(2004), Live at Yoshi’s: A Salute to Lou [Rawls]
(2008), and Visions
The Yoshi’s San Francisco show, at 8:00 pm on Saturday 9/13, is sure to reveal surprising new aspects of Bearde’s extraordinary vocal artistry.