Smooth Jazz with Cami

If you’re looking for a musical sound unlike any other, you might consider the following recipe: In a large bowl, mix together a little Etta James blues, throw in a dash of Bob Wills swing, and just for flavor, add some Rosemary Clooney. For the final kick, throw in some Ella Fitzgerald and mix all ingredients until they form a rich, finely tuned concoction. Let the flavors simmer and enjoy the unmistakable sounds of Cami Stinson.

Her passion and training necessary to make it in the music business are forged deep in her past. At the insistence of her kindergarten teacher, Cami’s parents eagerly enrolled her in voice lessons and soon grew accustomed to hearing their daughter singing throughout the house. Fast forward almost twenty years and add an extensive education in music theory, music composition and the business of music, and the result is a star in the making.

When asked about her music, Cami explains, “It’s not traditional jazz; We do some Real Book songs, but we make them our own. Everything we play is tied down with blues and jazz roots somehow.” She further describes her sound as reminiscent of “older genres of music, but with a new edge.”

While growing up in the small town of Sulphur, Oklahoma, Stinson discovered her love for the western swing of Bob Wills, who she credits as her gateway to jazz and big band. She also discovered Benny Kubiak.

“Benny was one of the fiddle players of the Texas Playboys, He played with Bob Wills, and taught me how to play the fiddle. He was my hero, and I was so excited to learn as many swing songs as he could show me. Sometimes, he’d even let me play twin with him at his shows.” Kubiak’s early instruction has helped shape a jazz fiddler with serious spice.

Kubiak adds, “At the time I met Cami, I wasn’t taking any students, but when I heard her, I knew she had what it took. I really just showed her a few things and watched her take off on her own. You could just tell she had that kind of talent.”

And Kubiak knows talent. For years he toured with Bob Wills, playing with the best fiddle players in the country.

However, there was something about a talent like Wills. “He had a magnetic force that you could just feel when he came on the stage,” he said. “It makes me proud that Cami carries on the tradition of western swing.”

In addition to the raw talent of Stinson, musical connoisseurs can expect to hear a wealth of skill from her faithful band, affectionately dubbed “The Riot.” For starters, playing that Martin HD-28 LSV guitar, is Johnathon Cross. In his words, the sounds that Cami and The Riot produce are a funky mix of Duffy, Jamie Cullum, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer and Maroon 5. Anybody get the feeling this band is heavy on the smooth jazz funk?

Cross says his influences include Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton, but “Phil Keaggy is the first guitarist that made me think, ‘I want to do what he does.’” Though he’s been playing music since the age of four, Cross’s musical career turned up a notch in the strangest of places.

“I played mandolin for a summer at Six Flags. One of the guys in that group was attending South Plains College. He convinced me to go out there and study,” Cross says. “That school boasted some of the finest music educators I could have hoped to encounter. The year I spent there really shaped what I know about theory and developed a philosophy of practice and continual learning.”

Blowing on the saxophone is Philip Foiles, another pertinent member of The Riot. Growing up, Foiles watched as his older sisters learned the horn. When he was 13, he decided it was time to start learning the instrument for himself. “I discovered Charlie Parker in high school, when I began to seriously listen to the saxophone greats,” he said. “Living in a small town in Oklahoma, I only heard about John Coltrane and David Sanborn through random people who mentioned their names. I began lifting Charlie Parker solos from the first CD’s I owned, and later discovered the Omnibook, which is a saxophonist’s bible.”

The other Riot members include Oklahoma City University students Clinton Trench on bass and Derek Box on drums. Keyboardist Harry Philips is the newest member of the group, and adds a funk groove Stinson says she was dreaming to find.

“I have the best band members in Oklahoma City and I’m not just saying this because they’ll read it,” Stinson says. “Clinton, John and Derek make an unbelievable, tight, rhythm machine. They have impeccable timing, but also play with so much feeling- with just the right amount of fills and dynamics. All my band members have the rare combination of being great technicions and musicians. They’ve all got ‘it’. They are all great soloist and also play so well together, with respect and without egos getting in the way. And Harry and Philip lay down the most impressive, right-on-the-money solos.

Musical determination runs deep in this crew.

Cami recently received a clothing sponsorship from Francesca’s in Edmond, and has begun ‘jazz jam,’ a jazz-lover’s dream that occurs every Monday night at the Prohibition Room in the historic Gold Dome, located on 23rd and Classen.

With all that appears to be in store for this determined young lady, keep an ear open for an unfamiliar yet unavoidable voice pulling you in next time you turn on the radio – it might just be Cami Stinson.

Performing at the UCO Jazz Lab, Galileo’s, 51st Street Speakeasy and even Lucille’s in Mulhall, Cami Stinson can be found at www.myspace.com/camistinson.

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