Paula Harris and her Speakeasy project wow their audiences night after night by packing the same kind of punch and energy bigger horn bands normally do, mixed with all the texture one would expect from a trio. That they do it in an acoustic format is even more astounding! Their tight arrangements, virtuoso players and the out-of-the-box synthesis of Jazz, Blues and Soul have carved them their own niche because there is simply nothing like them…anywhere!
After Paula burst into the scene when she brought home top three honors at 2012’s International Blues Challenge and won the Monterey Blues Festival’s “Battle of the Bands” competition the same week, Her debut release “Turning on the Naughty” in 2013 garnered her a Blues Music Award nomination, a Blues Blast Music Award nomination, the Sean Costello Rising Star Award nod, airplay on more than 3000 stations worldwide and an invitation to kick off the prestigious Blues Music Awards Ceremony that year. Their performance there stopped people in their tracks at the annual Memphis TN event. The Album was also voted "Best Female Blues Album" on A1 blues and the Internationally syndicated radio show "The Blues Mobile" run by Dan Aykroyd picked them as his "Blues Breaker/Favorite New Release". She's also received Eight Northern California Entertainers and Music Awards nods. This year, Paula was nominated for"Best Blues Band of the Year" and won "Best Female Blues Vocalist" at the 2018 Northern California Entertainers and Music Awards and is again nominated for Overall Entertainer and Best Female Vocalist for 2019. ( NCEMA will announce the 2019 winners in late May)
Paula and crew have developed sophisticated innovative arrangements exemplifying a contemporary take on west coast blues. Their songs that tell stories with clever, emotional and relatable lyrics. Paula has honed her impressive 4-octave range and massive power into a softer, more velvety sound that uses the impressive range and power that made her a stand out with fans from the beginning lightly as more of a seasoning for her sound rather than the meat of it. She still brings the jaw-dropping elements while having an overall sound that is delightful to listen to with its more intimate approach. This new acoustic-based format successfully meshes the sophisticated innuendo with the often slinky, sexy and sometimes sly attitudes of Jazz & Blues from the 40’s to the 60’s with the passion, haunting emotion and storytelling associated with more traditional “front porch” blues. They also mix in a heaping helping of funky soul on the side for a totally ingenious result completely different from other acts in the genre.
Reviewers and members of the press have used many different comparisons trying to capture the multiple facets of Paula’s voice but the smoky contralto range of singers such as Sarah Vaughan and Ruth Brown. More modern soulful divas Phyllis Hyman and Marlena Shaw seem to turn up in descriptions of her rich lower register. But she can turn on a dime and what she dishes out is then described as having the same kind of unrestrained passion that made Aretha Franklin, and Etta James famous. There is also a strong correlation to the smoothness and flexibility of Dinah Washington and Diane Schuur. This South Carolina raised, California based singer is truly a one-of-a-kind performer in a class by herself.
The group has teamed up with Kid Andersen at his Greaseland Studios to record the much awaited second album "Speakeasy" which is on track to be released in 2018. Mastered by Stephen Hart of Fantasy Records, Speakeasy is crafted to take us back to the retro sound of the era when Blues and Jazz were still considered to be the "Pop" music of the day. The acoustic format keeps the sound "vintage" but the modern soulful and jazzy approach to the music is something that is hard to describe. It's Blues and Jazz, and is a completely unexpected acoustic format surprising in its lack of a guitar and the overall sophisticated vibe to be found.
The album will feature four carefully selected and arranged covers from Donny Hathaway, Billie Holiday, Louie Jordan and Thelonious Monk( Originally an instrumental and which Paula Penned all new lyrics for) , two new songs by Bay Area Songwriters Scotty Wright and Pamela Rose, and 8 brand new original compositions. The physical album will also have 5 bonus tracks not available on the digital version. (Two covers and two additional original tunes including a swinging take of "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" a stunningly restrained emotional take on the Donnie Hathaway classic "More Than You'll Ever Know, as well as a radio edit of "Good Morning Heartache") The world-class musicality of her players, the innovative arrangements will thrill both Jazz and Blues Fans alike. They also have the lush sexy original "Something Wicked" featuring BMA award winner and voice of Bluesville", Big LLou Johnson and Santana band member Bill Ortiz on a blistering trumpet. A Toe-Tapping up-tempo original soul-blues "I wanna Hate Myself Tomorrow(For Raising Hell Tonight)", the finger-snapping driving shuffle "Soul-Sucking Man", and a truly beautiful Jazz Tinged Blues Ballad "Haunted" are also among the original numbers featured.
NOTABLE APPEARANCES Include 2 Artist Residencies at Canada’s “Blues on Whyte”, Performed "God Bless America" at the 2018 Oakland- Chargers Game, Regular performances at the Iconic “Top of the Mark Jazz Club”, multiple monthly appearances “Savanna Jazz” and a decade-long stint as the front person of the Carere Orchestras in Georgia.
Paula has also headlined or performed at
SC Jazz Festival
The 2013 Blues Music Awards
San Jose Jazz Festival
Long Bay Symphony Orchestra
Atlanta “Pops” Symphony Orchestra
Clemson Music Festival- SC
Monterey Blues Festival
Fall for Greenville Music Festival-SC
Sausalito Music by the Bay Series
Salmon Blues Festival- Salmon, Idaho
Three Rivers Blues Festival
High Museum Atlanta- Arts Fundraiser Ball
Cotillion Ball- Montgomery, Alabama
Hanford Blues Festival- Hanford, CA
Richmond Blues Festival
Brentwood "Starry Summer Nights" Music Series
Monterey Blues & Brews Festival
Seaside Blues by the Bay Series
Point Richmond Music Series
2017 Northern California Entertainers Award Ceremony
The Beastly Feast ( Fundraiser for Atlanta Zoo) Multiple years
Paula has also appeared at notable venues or special events such as 1996 Baseball World Series After Party for Ted Turner- Atlanta. Paula Also plays or has played Yoshi's, Biscuits and Blues, The Blue Note, Sweetwater Music Hall, Pickens County Performing Arts Center, The Lesher Center for Performing Arts, Montalvo Center for Performing Arts, The Peace Center- Greenville SC, The Fox Theater in Atlanta GA, The Orpheum Theater in Memphis TN and more
A FEW QUOTES:
“Paula is hands down the best singer to ever grace our stage and the audience loved her! I’m looking forward to having her back”
Denton Morrell- Talent buyer/Manager “Blues on Whyte” Canada
“Paula was a knock out at the San Jose Jazz Summerfest. She and her band enthralled the crowd and were a highlight of the festival”
Bruce Labadie- Director- San Jose Jazz Festival
“A thin vanilla coating on a chocolate soul”- Lou Rawls- Singer
“The Rightful Heir of Etta James”- At the Crossroads Magazine
“She’s a singer with a remarkably wide range, near-perfect intonation, and amazing breath control. She knows the value of subtlety when the material calls for it and achieves an uncanny balance between tenderness and virtuosity”
Lee Hildebrand- Living Blues Magazine
"Wow" does not even come close! Voices like this are born not trained though I'm sure she has put in the time developing that gift with diligent study"
Paul Schneider- "Seen Scene" article- Sonoma West
“Paula is a superb songwriter and interpreter of the music she sings. Her ability to take and hold center stage is amazing indeed. Her performances are heady, slinky and downright sexy. She mixes Jazz & Blues with ample attitude and sheer joy. There is no room for disappointment when this lady sings the blues”
“There is a lightness and contrasting depth and breadth to Ms. Harris’ singing that gives her an outstanding edge over her contemporaries who only have 2 modes: Quiet and what Taj Majal accurately described as shouting in key.”
Ian McKenzie- Blues Blast Magazine
“Paula is one of the finest modern blues voices today and her interpretation is impeccable”
William Bell- Stax/Volt Recording Artist, WC Handy Award winner, and R&B Pioneer
“Her voice sizzles so hot she could bring a pot of water sitting on a block of ice to a boil. Paula Harris is NOT someone you can forget once you’ve heard her!”
Cascade Blues News
“One of the most Unique and Funky Bands to ever emerge from California”
“She’s sung with symphonies. She’s performed jazz and pop. And now at an age when most singers are thinking about hanging it up, she is set to roar out of the Blues gate There is a reason for her confidence. She has the kind f chops that can handle a ballad or shout down a 12 pc horn band”
Elwood Blues (AKA Dan Aykroyd)- The Blues Mobile Radio Show