"If you skate, you would be great
if you could make a figure eight.
That's a circle that turns 'round upon itself. Place it on its side and it's a symbol meaning infinity..."
Perhaps you remember this simple tune from School House Rock. Maybe it even taught you how to multiply by eight. But for performer Jaye Maynard, it did far more. As Jaye puts it, when she first heard the song she "stood transfixed ... thinking 'Oh my God, What a great message!' It was about infinity, and the future, AND the number 8." But it was more than the subject matter that enchanted Jaye, who was just beginning her creative journey. What really caught her attention was the distinctive voice, so high and light that it was hard to determine whether the singer was a woman or a child, which really appealed to Maynard at the time because she was somewhere between woman and child herself. Thus began her affinity for jazz legend Blossom Dearie.
Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Jaye discovered she had a "big voice". And her experiences in school and local community theater taught her how to play lead roles and "drink coffee." After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Musical Theater, she made her way to California, to be "the brunette in the land of blondes." But it was a jazzy, curly haired blonde (with cat eyeglasses) on an album cover that caught Jaye's attention in a music shop one day. She was surprised to discover that it was none other than the woman with the childlike voice she had idolized in her youth. With the help of her mother, Jaye set out to meet the legend. She found Blossom playing with a small jazz trio, not far from her home in California. Everything about her captivated Jaye: her music, her style. She even looked a bit like her relatives. While Blossom was signing her CD, Jaye asked her if she had a songbook. In her small voice, Dearie replied "Yes. But it's out of print". Jaye vowed to one day find it!
A touring production of Joseph Papp's "Pirates of Penzance" led Jaye to New York where she continued to audition and perform while finishing her Master's Degree in Vocal Performance at NYU. Soon after graduating Jaye said to herself "I have to make this work for me!" She formed her own LLC and went to the Broadway League to learn how to produce, eventually mounting shows in LA and NYC at the Fringe and New York Music Theatre Festival.
When Blossom Dearie passed away in 2009, she remembered the songbook and a new plan began to form. With the help of sheet music expert, Michael Lavine (who contacted the Library of Congress), Jaye tracked down the music and used it as the basis of her own solo show Bird Amongst the Blossom: The Blossom Dearie Songbook.
She applied to the United Solo Festival and in 2011 activated her first Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the production. Her first performance featured only her on the piano and a bass player, because Blossom once said "Even when times were tough, I always had a bass player." But the story didn't end there.
Jaye developed the show on both coasts, playing in cabaret clubs and theaters in San Francisco, LA, NYC and even right here at Ripley-Grier! Her devotion to Blossom and her music eventually caught the ear of some of the musician's former colleagues, and she has recently found herself in the enviable position of being able to record Blossom's songs at Capital Records (in the same studio that Blossom recorded in)! Jaye looks at this as yet another opportunity to pay tribute to the artist who inspired her all those years ago: "I knew that I needed to record because I was making connections with Blossom's people. And although she published her songbook, Blossom never recorded it as a project (as most artists did). "I really wanted to find a place that Blossom recorded, and I knew that Capital records was still out there, so I looked on their website and saw that they even produce vinyl, which is really what I wanted. I want to honor the vintage, classic, Jazz Trio sound that she had."
It's clear that Jaye Maynard is following in her idol's footsteps. Her next step is raising money for the production: $20,888, to be exact. After her success with her first Kickstarter, she's back on the fundraising platform, and she has some pretty cool incentives, including a chance to play on the recording.
Just like Blossom, Jaye's committed to finding innovative ways to produce her own work as well as the work of others. And we're so proud that she considers Ripley-Grier an inspiring place for all her creative needs. "Ripley Grier has become my creative home. I can rehearse here. I can record here. I can do photo-shoots here. They have always supported my art. Thanks, Ripley Grier!"
Thank you Jaye, for choosing us as your home base for this amazing adventure. In the words of Blossom, "we like you. You're nice". And we can't wait to hear the album.
Interview By Graham McCarty