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Celebrating Jazz Standards: Tina Schlieske, Veteran Minneapolis Rocker, Embraces ‘The Good Life’

After many years as one of the prominent rock musicians in Minnesota, Tina Schlieske has fully embraced performing classic standards. This shift involves donning a tuxedo jacket, incorporating jazzy arrangements, and selecting material from the Sinatra songbook.

Describing her venture into singing jazz, Schlieske likened it to preparing for a marathon, emphasizing the need to stay alert and attentive to the music’s nuances. She views it as a mental workout that demands acute awareness of the present moment and the musical direction.

In anticipation of the album release event for “The Good Life” at Icehouse on Friday, Tina Schlieske shared insights into her musical journey. This project marks her return since the 2014 album “Barricade” with Tina & the B-Sides, the band that propelled her to fame in the Twin Cities during the ‘90s.

The upcoming performance will feature musicians from the recording, including Bryan Nichols on keyboards, Pete Hennig on drums, Cody McKinney on bass/production, Brandon Wozniak on saxophone, and Matt Darling on trombone.

Having flown in from her primary residence in Santa Barbara, California, Schlieske engaged in rehearsals and reflected on her experiences with standards and her fondness for tuxedos. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Q: What inspired you to delve into singing standards?

A: Before the onset of COVID, amidst a dark and tumultuous period marked by the Trump era, I found solace in these songs. While their musical complexity intrigued me, it was the simplicity of singing a heartfelt love song that I yearned for. This led to the inception of Tina’s Tuesdays in Santa Barbara, where I serenaded audiences in a tuxedo with standards. The positive reception encouraged me to pursue this path further, eventually performing at venues like the Dakota in Minneapolis before the pandemic struck. Prior to its impact, I recorded three songs as a testament to this newfound passion, culminating in the decision to release the album.

Q: Transitioning from rock to jazz presents its challenges. Could you elaborate on this shift?

A: The transition to jazz poses a unique challenge, particularly in embracing slower tempos. Coming from a rock background characterized by high energy, adjusting to the subdued pace of jazz requires a different mindset. The dynamic interplay between loud and silent moments, a hallmark of jazz, contrasts with the continuous engagement demanded in rock performances. Navigating these contrasting styles has been both exhilarating and demanding, pushing me to explore new dimensions of musical expression within the ensemble setting.

Q: Your diverse vocal styles on the record showcase a range of voices. How did you develop this versatility?

A: Drawing inspiration from artists like David Bowie and Elvis Presley, I admired their ability to embody different personas through their voices. Embracing a more instrumental approach to singing, I aimed to diversify my vocal delivery beyond the conventional belting style. By exploring withdrawn and nuanced expressions, I sought to enhance the flexibility and depth of my vocal interpretations across various tracks.

Q: The theatricality in your live performances of standards adds a captivating element. What drives this dramatic flair?

A: The dramatic essence inherent in jazz standards resonates with me on a personal level, perhaps stemming from a familial connection to opera through my grandmother. Viewing these songs as miniature operas, rich in emotional depth and theatricality, inspired me to infuse my performances with heightened drama. This artistic dimension allows me to fully immerse myself in the storytelling aspect of the music, enhancing the overall experience for both myself and the audience.

As Tina Schlieske prepares to grace the stage at Icehouse for her album release, her journey from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz standards reflects a deep-seated passion for musical exploration and artistic reinvention. Through her distinctive interpretations and heartfelt renditions, she continues to captivate audiences with her dynamic vocal prowess and unwavering dedication to the craft.

Event Details:

  • Artist: Tina Schlieske
  • Date: Friday,
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Venue: Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.
  • Tickets: 30-40