Connie Fredericks-Malone to perform at the Fringe Festival in Rochester NY
There’s something about vocal jazz and popular music from the 1930s to the 1950s, singer Connie Fredericks-Malone admits – songs popularized by Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, standards like “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “All About Me”.
“It was a particularly rich time,” said the Canandaigua resident. “They were telling stories and I love exploring them.”
Fredericks-Malone has been exploring these stories since 2018 with his solo show “Alone with My Music,” featuring music from Simone, Cole, Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and more. double meaning, expressing both the deeply personal connection to the songs and the fact that she performs the show without live accompaniment, using instrumental tracks created with musical director Scott Bradley.
“I couldn’t afford the orchestra,” she says, “but I have the music.”
She presented the show, which also includes music by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and others from that era – in many settings, including a benefit last year for Light Hill Comfort Care Home and Gleaners Community Kitchen at Canandaigua and Family Promise of Ontario County. This Saturday, she will bring it to the annual Rochester Fringe Festival for the first time.
The Fredericks-Malone concert – one of more than 500 Fringe performances across multiple disciplines and genres at some 30 venues in and around Rochester – will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 17 at the CenterStage Theater’s JCC Dawn Lipson Canalside Stage. , behind the Jewish community. Greater Rochester Center, 1200 Edgewood Ave., Brighton. Tickets are $12 and are available at https://rochesterfringe.com.
Music has always been an important part of the life of Fredericks-Malone and his family. His mother sang in a gospel choir and with large groups that passed through Springfield, Massachusetts. Her brother Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr. is the famous blues musician known as Taj Mahal, and her sister Carole Fredericks had a successful singing career in France. She herself made a living in musical theater for many years, working in musicals, off-Broadway productions, New York jazz clubs and cabarets, television and more.
Then, “my sister passed away in 2001, and I kind of dedicated my life to honoring her legacy – because she was known, respected and loved in France – but nobody knew her in the United States,” said said Fredericks-Malone. She spent most of the next two decades securing Carole’s legacy: she and other family members created CDF Music Legacy to secure worldwide rights to Carole’s recordings in France. In 2006, she became director of the Carole D. Fredericks Foundation Inc., working with French educators across the country to use Carole’s songs in educational materials.
While she remains passionate about showcasing her sister’s musical legacy, over the past few years she’s realized it’s time to work on her own. In recent years, she has created the current show and has performed in various settings in the region – Canandaigua charity shows, concerts at Canandaigua Country Club, frequent sets at Prosecco Italian Restaurant & Jazz Bar in Farmington. (She has a number of Prosecco rounds on the horizon, in fact, September 29, October 15, and November 1 and 16.)
“Five years ago, my gut told me it was time to come back and create,” Fredericks-Malone said. “That’s what I want. I want to sing this music because I love it — I want to sing this music because it touches my heart. And I’ve seen how it makes others feel.
She and Bradley put their own stamp on these classic songs — perhaps changing the tempo or moving the keys, which can reveal different nuances to a song. Gershwin’s song “Summertime,” for example, typically receives a slow, melancholy delivery; Fredericks-Malone gives it a faster tempo and a more exuberant reading.
“If a song is written well, it can flourish in any genre of music and be expressed – you can find a new way to express its meaning,” she said. (Example: her repertoire includes, in addition to jazz and popular standards, the music of country singer Patsy Cline.)
And in each case, it’s the story the song tells that strikes and captivates her.
“I’ve always been drawn to the lyrics of a song, because I’ve always been drawn to the story,” she said. “I’m drawn to the lyrics before I even think about the music. If the lyrics can make my imagination run wild, I can understand the direction the composer was thinking and I can allow the artist in me to follow my own personality and immerse myself in the emotions of the song.
“And I love that.”