FOCUS introducing Anna Fisher
LeRoy Downs' Album Liner Notes:
It takes courage and a creative soul to see the world and hear the music. Sound can be a friend and foe to the fearful but beautiful collaborations only inspire us all to love and be better humans. The music you will experience on this album is exactly that, an experience. One that visits the familiar as well as new and exciting ways to make that familiarity shape and mold into sounds that soothe from different perspectives. The combination of instruments and sounds are taken from the roots of classical, contemporary, African and Eastern philosophies that mix and blend beauty and sweetness, producing compositions with heart behind the music. Anna Fisher beams with the spirit of the positive, loving her music, her musicians, and possesses a real earth connection to culture that is exuded here musically in many forms. The music is presented to you with open arms - taking you in only to be loved by the tenderness. English horn and oboe are not strange to jazz and certainly are welcome to the complements of vibes, strings, brass triads, percussion and rhythm rooted in a bed of melody. With a contemporary feel, Anna and her host of extraordinary players travel the musical continents making the spirit of “one love” the reason for reaching out to heal the world with music! This is Anna’s first album recording with a jazz band and many of the arrangements are collaborative efforts by her and trombonist Rembert James. They take these works of already magnificent composers such as Yusef Lateef, Dave Grusin , Michael Franks and Stevie Wonder and extend the vision for alternative feelings. Anna also arranged many pieces on the album. Her musicians read like a who’s who of a few of Los Angeles’s finest and together their efforts make the feeling of peace, spirit, and loving tenderness musically universal. LeRoy Downs TheJazzcat.net 88.1 FM KKJZ
Anna Fisher: REVIEWS
VISION MAGAZINE JUNE 2006
35 Alumni to Watch
As National University marks its 35th anniversary, Vision highlights 35 outstanding alumni.
From an Indonesian
media mogul to a
OBOELADY ANNA FISHER featured in DC BeBOP
MUSIC - Oboe and English horn, singer, composer, arranger, teacher and producer Anna Fisher
Originally from Concord, Massachusetts, it has been written that Anna began learning music from birth. Her father was a child prodigy pianist and MIT Physicist. Her gravitation to music was a natural transition, as was her career as an educator - her mother was a teacher.
Anna has "always had a love for the classics" and has studied with legendary classical musicians - Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern and Seiji Ozawa during her musical career. She has studied music her entire life in her quest to be the best at what she does. She studied oboe with Ira Deutsch of the Boston Symphony New England Conservatory Preparatory Division and Boston Ballet Orchestras. She also studied with John Holmes (also of the Boston Symphony) at the Boston University School of Music. She received her Bachelor of Music degree in oboe and English horn from the North Carolina School of the Arts, and a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from National University.
Her musical roots are in the classics, but she said this changed after seeing Rassan Roland Kirk perform; "Actually it was Rasaan Roland Kirk's last concert (he died within two hours of the show) while attending Indiana University's School of Music in Bloomington in 1977. He was improvising with just a few fingers from each hand after a stroke and it was so simple and yet so deep! Thought you had to play lots of notes to improvise and Kirk proved otherwise that minimalism was sweeter".
DCB: I had read an article in which it was written that Yusef Lateef was also a great influence.
AF: Was also influenced by Yusef because he was the one and only to play solo oboe on a recorded Jazz song. Oboe had only been used in the background, not as a solo instrument. Honestly, it was the oboe playing of Paul McCandless who changed my direction (Mother Lode - Loggins and Messina) more than any and Lateef and Kirk affirmed my mission to follow a different path. Listened to that album each day for about a year and a half, loved the way oboe was incorporated into a band. Also had heard an oboe in David Bowie's music which told me it was even possible to play Rock on oboe! : ^ )
DCB: At what point did you study with Bernstein, Previn and Ozawa?
AF: Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, Isaac Stern and Seiji Ozawa were conductors of orchestras I performed in. Technically I studied music with them as they were student orchestras and they were "teaching" us to play the masters or their own compositions. I did perform under many many fabulous conductors while studying oboe but those were the biggest names to date.
DCB: You changed your musical direction to embrace Jazz, Reggae and R&B music. From these styles, you expanded your repertoire to also include Pop, Latin and Hip Hop.
In a SoundClick article it says you met Keyboardist Jawge Hughes at Joe Higgs New Years Eve Show in 1998 and discovered that the both of you mutually knew many people in the Virgin Islands - Jawge from his living there and you from 10 years teaching in the school system there. From this meeting, the two of you became friends and in 2004 collaborated on the "Yin Yang" album. Before the recording of "Yin Yang", did you perform live together?
AF: Jawge Hughes really liked my Reggae version cover of Carole King's "You've Got A Friend" and contacted me after listening to my CD, "Renaissance In Formation" while I helped him get his debut CD, "Come On Back" completed (even added some cameo oboe). Jawge in turn started composing songs for "Yin Yang". Yes, we did perform live together quite a few times. At Reggae Clubs, and many events for the Jamaica Tourist Board with his sister, Eva Hughes, a steel pan virtuoso. We even performed at California Speedway in Fontana! I also carried Jawge on the Bob Marley Festival Tour 2000. One show in Houston, I brought the Fully Fullwood Band to back me. (Fully was both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh's bassie!) My love for Reggae started in the late 70's when I first heard Bob Marley while living in Boston. When my mother relocated to St. John, USVI in 1977, I made six visits there performing free concerts for the school children with a French hornist former member of Toronto Symphony who kept me busy while on vacation. The concerts paid off in that they wanted to hire me to cover the music classes on St. John when their Music Teacher had left. They even paid for me to return to school to get my teaching credential later.
DCB: You are noted as being a universal musician who loves and plays many styles of music, but it appears that "Reggae" has a special place with you. How did this come about?
AF: When I fled to Hawaii, I wanted to write a song that would encourage others to break the silence on abuse. Reggae was the style that seemed most suitable. I also felt that the "Peace and One Love" of the movement as sung by Third World, Steel Pulse and others would embrace my lyrics and story whole heartedly in a way none other would. Reggae/Jawaiian was as popular in Hawaii as it had been in the Virgins. Actually, there was more Reggae on the radio in Hawaii so it was a natural choice. It was also a message for those I left behind without warning. Composing and recording was my salvation. It was all I had for healing through my post traumatic stress and trials with armed guards etc...thus the name change.
DCB: Another article mentioned that Joe Higgs mentored you during the year before his death. How did you meet him and did you have an opportunity to perform with him?
AF:Joe Higgs had me at arms' length from the minute he met me and heard my music and story. He lived blocks away and had many plans for the future as his family will attest to. Only one problem, six months after we started working together (he wanted me to help him publicize his new album, "Black and Green" with Irish multi-talents Sharon Shannon and The Hot House Flowers) Joe's prostate cancer which had been in remission returned. Now, I was taking him for radiation treatments and bringing him juices. Unforeseen circumstances prevented his return to Ireland to mix his beautiful tracks which I understand from family are soon to be released. What energy they have! He DID take me on tour with him, his last actually up to the Bay Area but said we would add me at a later date. He never got better and died Dec 99. The family insisted I perform in Jamaica after they saw me play at the LA Memorial for him. It was in these two memorials where I performed with the most elite in Reggae, Judy Mowatt, Wailing Souls, Roger Steffens, Ras Michael, etc. The family continues to honor me with nominations and awards in Joe Higgs' name. Third World heard about this and wrote their own arrangement of Joe's song, "There's A Reward" with me in mind to play oboe from the start to honor the mentor and cousin to Toots Hibbert. On his deathbed, Bob Marley said, "Remember Joe Higgs!" It was Joe who did more to elevate Bob's career than any other. I was saddened by the fact he got so little reward for his generosity similar to what Trombonist/Arranger Melba Liston has done without accolades and decided to do everything I could to bring these unsung heroes/sheroes to light.
DCB: You have a new CD with songs featured on your MySpace page. Can you tell us something about the music and who is performing with you on the tracks? I also saw the photo with you and violinist Karen Briggs on your MySpace page so know that she is one of the contributing performers.
AF: Trombonist/Arranger Rembert James was introduced to me by Darryl 'Munyungo' Jackson when I called him for a referral to help finish my studio. Munyungo, Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis' percussionist had invited me to his home for The Day after Thanksgiving Jam and that was where I met and jammed with Karen Briggs. Rembert whom Melba Liston called, "son" wanted me to help him get a foundation started in Melba's name to help youth through mentoring and scholarship. We decided to name it, "Let's Hold Hands" and the tracks you hear on myspace will be featured on the CD we plan to use a vehicle to raise awareness and funding for our cause. We have been rehearsing in the studio and plan to record more songs from this project in it as well. Karen has worked with Rembert and Munyungo many times so I am blessed as it was Rembert who arranged for her to come. Many Jazz musicians have welcomed me to perform with them and am invited to sit in with many groups when they hear I love to play, Horace Silver's "Song For My Father" on the oboe. Focusing on the new album, completion of the studio, starting the foundation, at this time we will begin rehearsals this week on the rest of the album.
Musicians on this album so far:
Anna Fisher - English horn
Rembert James - Trombone
Karen Briggs - Violin
Richard Grant - Trumpet
George Harper - Saxophone
Woodrow 'Onaje' Murray - Vibraphone
Harold Land, Jr. - Piano
Nate Morgan - Piano
John Rangel - Piano
Carlitos del Puerto - Bass
Nedra Wheeler - Bass
Jeff Littleton - Bass
Trevor Ware - Bass
Derf Reklaw - Percussion
Leon Mobley - Percussion
Darryl 'Munyungo' Jackson - Percussion
Kharon Harrison - Drums
Marcus Miller - Drums
Cedric Anderson - Drums
Back to the Music page
Anna's MySpace page
Anna Fisher on CD Baby
CARIB PRESS - Albums In Review by Justine Ketola (May-June 2005)
Two veterans of the L.A. music scene, Anna Fisher, the masterful oboist and Jawge Hughes, Sr., the accomplished keyboardist, programmer and engineer, collaborate together on this well structured set. Musicians also featured on this album are Tony Chin, Fully Fullwood, Dale Hauskins, Marcia Higgs, Odel Johnson, and Lesterfari.
There are elements of jazz, soca, R&B, and steel pan keyboard sounds with a delicate seasoning of tasteful bells and other unique reggae keyboard elements. Several songs have dub versions which serve as gentle reminders of the companion songs heard earlier in the set.
The lead tracks, a bright cover of Horace Silver's "Song For My Father" and Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" (and its Spanish version sung by Anna) have a smooth Jazz feel.
St. Thomas-native Jawge contributes original writing on the title track and then moves into a reggae vibe with "Jamaica" which has a sort of melancholy energy to it.
The sound of the oboe lends itself to this feeling and evokes emotions of lands far away.
Anna Fisher and Jawge Hughes - she of the reggae oboe and he who balances a solo career with keyboard duties in the Fully Fullwood band - are paired on the very interesting Yin Yang (Molin Music) with guests including the aforementioned Fully Fullwood, Tony Chin, Marcia Higgs, Lesterfari, Dale Hauskins, and Odel Johnson.
Mainly an instrumental release featuring Anna's jazzy leads and Jawge's keys and programming the guests offer spicy solos like Marcia's "Hip Hop Hooray Oh" with Tony Chin's distinctive guitar in particular featured on about half the tracks. Cornerstone cuts include instrumental and vocal versions of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" with Anna doing the vocal as well as oboe honors (the song is also delivered in Espanol as "Puedo Ver Claro"), and instrumental "Life In The Arena" reworking a foundational Jamaican riddim, original riddims from Jawge and a tasty rendering of Horace Silver's "Song For My Father." A very pleasurable outing featuring some stalwarts of the L.A. reggae scene. - Chuck Foster THE BEAT MAGAZINE
Gentle reggae with a strong message
Renaissance in Formation
Review by Norm Dixon
Many musicians dabble in support for “worthy causes”. Some are genuinely committed, many others do it for the marketing benefits. Few really devote themselves to an issue to the extent that it defines their music. Anna Fisher is one of those few.
Fisher uses her gentle -- dare I say, “easy listening” -- reggae to educate about domestic violence and offer encouragement to survivors. While her instruments -- the oboe and English horn -- are not those usually associated with the music made famous by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, the sentiments Fisher drives home are no less intense and sincere.
In “Break the Silence -- Stop the Violence”, Fisher appeals to the listener to understand the difficult situation women in violent relationships face: “The question isn't `Why does she stay?'/ But `How can she flee?'/ Unless you've been the victim/ Of power and control/ You may not ever sympathise/ With the ones who will not go .../ But those who leave run the greatest risk/ Of dying on the floor.”
Fisher also offers advice to survivors: “If you find yourself in that same dark hole .../ Find someone to talk to/ A friend you trust/ Anyone who believes in you/ You mustn't be ashamed/ Call a crisis shelter/ Don't risk your life!”
Fisher knows something about the subject. In 1992, she fled, with her children, from a violent partner. She took a new name, fearing her husband would kill her if he discovered her whereabouts. For a time she lived in homeless shelters. To this day, Fisher does not reveal where she lives. The experience led her to devote her music to the plight of battered women.
Fisher spends a lot of time playing benefits throughout the US for groups that tackle domestic violence and violence within the community and promote women's rights. She participates in workshops to raise awareness about domestic violence, promotes music education in schools and advocates the use of music to help bring social change.
The album contains a number of instrumental tracks that highlight Fisher's versatility and reggae's universal appeal. There is also a lovely version of Carole King's “You've Got a Friend” (a Spanish-language version is also available).
If you like your music on the mellower end of the spectrum, but with a message that is strong and necessary, then Fisher's album is worth a listen.
From: Cultural Dissent, Green Left Weekly issue #356 14 April 1999.
From: Cultural Dissent
GLW issue #356 - 14 April 1999:
absolutly awesome album
author: Chris Everett
With this album I love the way Anna blends the oboe into the Reggae rhythm making it a awesome sound each track of this cd compliments each other good music for our listening pleasure.
Smooth Reggae Jazz!!! Even with a little steel drum - Cool, man!!!
author: Etienne A. Gibbs
This is the first time I recall hearing your music. Love it! Smooth Reggae Jazz!!! Even with a little steel drum - Cool, man!!!
Listening to your cool music makes me regret that I didn't study music in school. Anyhow, no big lost as long as I have friends like you creating such cool music!
author: Beatriz Stacy Silva
What can I say,I love to hear this CD since I was in 5th grade,now I am 18 years old.She was my teacher and she is the best teacher I ever had.
* Third World - Black, Gold & Green
Great new album from the veterans; actually it's so good that they nominated it for this year's Grammy. I am not sure if this will be the winner, but Third World's version of Joe Higgs "There's A Reward" featuring Anna Fisher on Oboe would be worth a Grammy on its own.