Robin Gregory - Strange
Ms Gregory hails from the Eastern Seaboard, having grown up in Washington, DC, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, during a fertile period of musical innovation in the Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Blues fields. As such, she was surrounded and influenced by these rhythms, from a very early age. She specializes in the “Great American Songbook”, and her extensive repertoire of popular jazz standards bespeaks that upbringing. Her smooth and mellow timbre reflects an amalgam of influences that she attributes to the vocalists and instrumentalists who were the seminal innovators of jazzmusic, during its formative period. Some say her voice reminds them of warm honey. She considers some of her greatest influences to be Gloria Lynne, Dakota Staton, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Scott, Nat “King” Cole, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta Jones, Carmen McRae, Dinah Washington, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, and Louis Jordan.
The East Bay Express - Lee Hildebrand
Natural Delivery "A singer is really naked in a way that other musicians are not."
By Lee Hildebrand
Our writers tell you what's hot this week. The heel of Robin Gregory's golden slip-on shoe taps a steady 4/4 as she and pianist Bliss Rodriguez swing though "S'Wonderful." It serves as an anchor against which the vocalist subtly syncopates the Gershwin brothers' French-flavored standard. Swaying her arms while standing on the stage at Anna's in a tan Chinese-style tunic ensemble--a mop of casual curls framing her round, almond-hued countenance--Gregory draws the attentive listeners in the front rows of the tiny Berkeley bistro into the romance of her music. The chatter of diners in the back fails to break her concentration.
"We're having an intimate conversation," the Oakland-based singer says about this gig with only her pianist. The bassist and drummer with whom she usually performs are absent. She and Rodriguez, a blind pianist with an elegant concept of harmony and an assured sense of time, make for a commanding duo during a set that includes such other old favorites as "Day by Day," "Our Love Is Here to Stay," and Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll," which Gregory dedicates to the memory of the recently deceased Ellington vocalist Al Hibbler. Two from the '60s --"Quiet Nights" and "Watch What Happens" --are among the most modern in the singer's extensive repertoire. Gregory's dusky, richly resonant contralto brings the late Betty Carter to mind, though some hear Anita O'Day in her singing.
"I think of myself as a storytelling singer," she says. "I don't think of myself as someone who wants to manipulate the changes of the song and do a bunch of vocal acrobatics. I want to tell a story when I sing, and I want to convey emotion and touch people's emotions. These songs speak to me emotionally, and I feel authentic singing them.