Annie sings to stay young

Leah Salterio (The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - “Music is my life and passion.”

That’s jazz queen Annie Brazil for you. A proud octogenarian (she will turn 81 on Oct. 6), Annie started singing when she was only six. Through the years, she has performed in Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and the US.

However, Annie isn’t about to throw in the towel when it comes to performing live onstage. While her contemporaries have long settled for retirement, Annie continues to perform whenever and wherever she can.

“An active life is the key to staying young,” Annie maintains. “I sing to stay young. I love singing. It’s my passion. Music will make you feel young because your spirit is there. Singing is like food for your soul. As long as I have my voice, I will keep on singing and continue to inspire others. I will not stop singing until my last breath.”

Based in New Jersey with daughter Rachel Anne Wolfe since 1990, Annie always manages to accommodate a performance in Manila when she’s in town. At her age, she’s happiest when she’s onstage.

“I always come back to Manila even if I’m in New Jersey because this is my home,” Annie says. “My loved ones are here. My good friends are also here. I will not give up singing unless the good Lord takes away the gift He gave me which is my voice.”

Since she learned to take on the microphone and carry a tune, Annie has never given up on singing. Up to this day, she gets a different kind of high when audiences appreciate her performance.

“I never count the years when I perform,” Annie says. “That way, I don’t feel old. To be able to perform continuously, the artist is pleased when the audience appreciates her performance. When the crowd supports you, you feel good when you’re onstage.”

The grand lady of jazz was lured to the genre by listening to such male singers as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Perry Como and Van Monroe. Subsequently, she developed her own style of singing high-brow jazz tunes. Not a few who heard her perform attest she is the local version of international jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday.

She has charted many memorable performances in her career, like when she performed with Duke Ellington in Thailand. She also sang with jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, father of jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, here in Manila in 2003. That opened doors for her to sing in international festivals like the Newport Jazz Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, where she collaborated with great artists such as Nina Simone, The Bee Gees and Miles Davis.

The biggest milestone was when she became a Lifetime Achievement awardee by the Filipino-American Jazz Society in 2003. “Being recognized by your fellow musicians with true passion in the craft is something else,” Annie reasons. “It is absolutely a beautiful and wonderful blessing.”

Annie’s inherent love for music was proudly passed on to her children — Richard Merk and Rachel Anne — who are both renowned artists in their own right. However, Annie insists she never taught her children how to sing, but instead how to carry a tune.

 “I told them they have to sing a song from the heart and sing it with their own style,” Annie insists. “To sing a song with feeling, you must know what life is all about. With experience, you get the true emotion of the song.”

Annie will hold a special birthday concert, How High the Moon, on Oct. 6 at Musica Bar, G-Strip Greenhills Shopping Center, Ortigas Ave., San Juan. Musical director is Elhmir Saison, with Colby de la Calzada on bass and Mar Dizon on drums. On Oct. 14, she will perform in the birthday concert of her son, Richard.

Repertoire in Annie’s birthday concert includes You Don’t Know What Love Is, You’ve Changed, Come Rain or Come Shine, It Could Happen To You, You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You, Lullaby of Birdland, Mr. Sandman, Satin Doll and How High the Moon, among others.

“I believe the secret to a long and merrier life is simple and that is to be happy,” Annie says. “I laugh most of the time and that is really good to your body. Just like what I said, singing is my passion and it’s in my blood. I will never stop singing ’til my last breath.”    

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