Former San Francisco opera singer and longtime cabaret powerhouse Wesla Whitfield will be making a stop at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Sunday, September 7, to perform a collection of songs from the Great American Songbook. Whitfield, who started singing at age 7, began her professional life as a vocalist in the mid-1970s. Today, she’s released close to 20 albums, including her most recent, The Best Things in Life: Live from the Rrazz Room, with the Mike Greensill Trio.
Looking back on her decade-spanning career, Whitfield recalled a number of milestones and highlights, including how she first discovered singing. When she was only 2-and-a-half years old, Whitfield found herself in front of her grandparent’s television watching ’50s country crooner Molly Bee. “Once I heard her, I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” said Whitfield in a recent interview with The Santa Barbara Independent. In 1995, she recalled, she experienced one of the greatest moments in her career; after performing a concert at Carnegie Hall, she was demanded back onstage for an encore and a bow. (She’s played the Carnegie stage three times since then.) Thrilling as the experience was, Whitfield said, the one thing in life that gives her a comparable feeling is teaching — “especially when a student takes what I’ve taught them and applies it to their own style and voice.” The ability to take a song and resculpt it to your own musical characteristics is what a true artist does, she explained.
When asked what drew her to music at such an early age, Whitfield answered simply and resolutely: “Music made me feel like life was worth living.” And regarding life, she offered up some equally affirming advice: “Life is important. Live every last second because you never know what is going to happen around the next corner. Don’t take it too seriously, either — it’s too mysterious.”
Whitfield will be bringing her unique touch to the standards — and her exquisite chops — to SOhO this weekend as part of the Santa Barbara Jazz Society’s ongoing (and stacked) concert calendar. For tickets or info for this, or any Santa Barbara Jazz Society shows, call (805) 687-7123 or visit sbjazz.org.