Vivian here with the premier of my new video Strange Fruit from the LIFE CD.. Will you help me get the word out?
Let’s see if we can make this go viral!
Please like, and share.. Stay tuned for the next video!!
“Vivian Sessoms remakes "Strange Fruit" and she uses the song and accompanying music video to explore injustices both past and present.
With all the political and civil discord, it almost seems as if the experiment that is America is ready to come apart at the seams. Of course, for those of us for whom this country has never been a safe space, this news is nothing new. In fact, it's pretty old hat, with songs like "Strange Fruit" documenting the atrocities that have been a constant feature of life for marginalized groups in the country. Perhaps that's why the song keeps coming around over the decades as new voices opt to wield its power.
The latest in the line of singers bringing their own take to the song is Vivian Sessoms, who uses the song and an accompanying music video to explore injustices both past and present. To illustrate just how long we've been dealing with the issues stemming from systemic racism in the U.S., Vivian dons garb from several different eras — including the turn of the 20th century, the 1920s, the 1960s and present day. They help tell the tale of her soulful, modern take on the track backed by the emotive piano playing of Shedrick Mitchell. Interspersed within the clip are also clips of news reports, protests and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. We also see Vivian acting out a few images of our painful past, including portraying a mourner dressed in black and a particularly provocative scene of her lying face down on the ground with her arms behind her back.
Along with giving us the video to premiere, Vivian also told us a bit about what inspired her to cover the song and the direction of the video. "To be honest, 'Strange Fruit' was not a song I ever thought I would record but after performing it for the first time four years ago, I realized I had to do it," she told us. "My aim was to choose songs from the '60s and '70s and even as far back as the '30s and '40s that speak to what’s happening now, to show a timeline of how long we have been talking, singing, writing marching and fighting about the atrocities we have faced, had to live with and survive as a people. Not many songs tell that story better than 'Strange Fruit.'"
Further elaborating, she said, "We’ve watched so many of us succumb to violence, absolutely unnecessarily so. We are looking at one of the most politically dividing times in our lifetime and possibly in our history, the racial divide seems to be widening instead of closing. Women’s rights are under attack, LGBTQ rights are under attack, voting rights are under attack and everyone is feeling the stress. People are experiencing PTSD. "You can find "Strange Fruit" on her new album, LIFE, which finds her collaborating with Casey Benjamin, Keyon Harrold, Donald Edwards and others as she takes on songs from yesteryear to reinterpret them for modern audiences.
Watch our exclusive world premiere of the video for "Strange Fruit" below and pick up Vivian Sessom's latest album LIFE via Bandcamp now.”
Vivian Sessoms deserves a Coffee Gallery :) Unbelievable talent/artistry/spirit! I put the call out the other day on Facebook - and Mark Rini answered it. The intention: shine a spotlight on a wondrous individual whose music you need to hear. Especially during this gift-giving season. The answer was clear: Vivian. This woman...my GOD! It's as if she has held in a lifetime of grace and giving and feeling and fearlessness. In a voice that comes from the depth of her soul. She has a feel for Jazz, to be sure. As opposed to "cool", however, this singer is HOT. She injects that heat into everything she does. As organic a vocalist as yours truly has heard. She is overflowing with the joy of singing.
It was inevitable. Mom and Dad were jingle/session singer and flautist/percussionist respectively. In Harlem, music was everwhere. Vivian wore it like second skin. By NINE, she was doing TV & Radio jingles. A casting agent paved the way for Broadway auditions - meanwhile, she was classically trained in voice and piano. Around 14, she began composing.
As our guest made her way into the competitive music world, a unique mentor came her way: ethno-musicologist, Ryuichi Sakamoto. He taught Vivian new ways to perform, how to nurture her songwriting and musicianship, and how to sing in Japanese. Another partnership that was and still is intensely valuable is one with fellow visionary Chris Parks. Their chemistry blossomed with "Sunny One Day" - the predecessor to the current "LIFE" project. Fleshing out their previous journey, this new album features the freshest takes on time-honored anthems. And the NEW music is inspired.
Her vocal abilities are second to none. As a songwriter and producer, she soars. The new body of work is a revelation. So is her website. The collaborations with household names - Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to name a FEW. The jingles that she has done...there is no DOUBT that you have heard her. Where she has played is mind blowing. ALL of this = a veteran professional who has turned heads for YEARS. When you hear this music, I promise: you will stop in your tracks.
Live or in the studio, Vivian has worked with household names and beyond. Countless jingles, venues, television appearances. ONE listen - and you'll know why. She is a GIFT.
Whew! I'm listening for the second time and I CANNOT KEEP UP with this vocal energy! Harlem roots, the niece of Nancy Wilson, and cooking with creativity that you might not expect. Treasured favorites and NEW music - this album is called "LIFE" and that is exactly what Vivian Sessoms does: breathes LIFE into song. Bring a towel - this heat is STRONG. - TRISH HENNESSEY
When the Soulful vocalist Vivian Sessoms visited in June last year, we were stunned by her voice and by her powerhouse delivery. We seldom get to experience American R & B styled vocalists in New Zealand and if we do we never see them in intimate settings like the Backbeat Bar. Her voice carries the history of her music and her vocal range and control are approaching the operatic. Sessoms is a vocalist with serious chops and an interesting backstory. Last week she returned.
Since her last visit, she has released a Soul/Jazz album titled ‘LIFE’. The album is receiving favorable attention and it is not surprising that she has been picked up by the Ropeadope recording label. During her two Auckland gigs, she performed a number of tunes from the album; including a few that were recorded at the same time and will likely appear on a future release. The first set opened with her take on the MJ/Stevie Wonder classic ‘I Can’t Help It’. This was pure R&B, but the set swiftly dived into bold reharmonisations of Jazz standards plus one or two pop tunes (‘Love Is A Losing Game’ – Amy Winehouse and ‘Under The Cherry Moon’ – Prince).
The Standards in that set were the lovely ‘Stella By Starlight’ (Victor Young), ‘Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn) and ‘The Waters Of March’ (Tom Jobim). All of the above were reharmonised and made fresh. ‘Lush Life’ conveyed that sad world-weary vibe that Strayhorn penned so well and ‘The Waters of March’ (Aguas de Marco) was sung in English. Jobim wrote both the Portuguese and the English lyrics and the song is a masterpiece. Sessoms infused it with a subtlety reflecting modern American life. When she came to the line ‘the shot of a gun, in the dead of the night’ you picked that up immediately and understood her message.
Sessoms is an activist for civil rights and this thread runs through all of her shows (and the ‘Life’ album). Last time she came to New Zealand it was her ‘I Can’t Breathe’ number – this time it was her take on ‘People (Make The World Go Round)’, a tune made popular by the Stylistics (composed by Thom Bell + Linda Creed). Before the tune, she spoke a little of her life growing up in Harlem and how normalised that daily struggle was to African-American people at that time. This tune in her hands was a plea for people to do better and to fight on until equality is a reality, not just a distant hope. An interesting song choice which got the Sessoms treatment was ‘I Who Have Nothing’. We associate it with Shirley Bassey or Joe Cocker but long before that Ben E King released it. Actually, it is an old Italian song titled ‘Uno Dei Tanti’ (by Carlo Denida).
This time Sessoms had her husband Chris Parks touring with her. Parks is a well-known bassist and producer on the New York scene and on the album, he is co-credited in all of the arrangements. Parks played a punchy electric bass, Jonathan Crayford and Ron Samsom were the band members for this gig, Crayford having accompanied her convincingly last time she came.
The album is widely available and I have included a Spotify clip from ‘Life’. Her take on Strange Fruit is the standout for me. A harrowing song based on the poem by Abel Meeropol and made famous by Billie Holiday. In light of recent comments made during the US primaries and on the banners of the Alt-Right, these issues are scandalously still with us.
Life Tour: Vivian Sessoms (vocals), Chris Parks (electric bass), Jonathan Crayford (keys), Ron Samsom (drums) – Backbeat Bar for the CJC (Creative Jazz Club), 22nd November 2018). - John Fenton
She has worked with Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, P.Diddy, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Michael Jackson, Cher, and many others and released the album “Sunny One Day” in 2007. Now she comes up with “Life”, an album of standards old and new plus original compositions – just about the perfect repertoire for an admirable album. The arrangements on the album here are both unique and innovative, spot-on and delicious, like on the album opener “There Is No Greater Love” or on “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. Chris Parks and Dave Archer are responsible for the haunting, mystical arrangements. The former classic gets a pumping, driving force working effectively with two drummers (Eric Brown and Adam Jackson) with Casey Benjamin on vocoder and the latter is almost not recognizable anymore thanks to the fancy interpretation and mixture of acoustic (very cool piano solo by Dave Archer) and electric.
Vivian’s voice is especially strong and powerful on Stevie Wonder‘s “Superwoman” where she’s easily taking it to the skies, underscored by fantastic drum work courtesy of Donald Edwards and piano by Shedrick Mitchell. She can both sound like an angel, but also more of a siren where necessary, but never takes it too far which is highly appreciated. But she’s not only a brilliant singer, but also a veritable songwriter as witnessed in the heavenly “Dreaming Of A Boy” where her tender and soft spot comes to the fore and where she’s accompanied by trumpeter Keyon Herrold and harpist Brandee Younger. The combination of Rhodes, harp, and trumpet and her angel-like voice is truly a highlight on the album and a 6:30 minute masterpiece.
The intro to the Nina Simone classic “See Line Woman” sounds like a Masters At Work production with its minimal percussion/electro workout and the track itself is treated more like a jam or a groove than a proper song (and features Donny McCaslin on tenor sax) and is yet another showcase for Vivian’s immensely fluctuating voice. Here’s another highlight: I have rarely heard such an amazing version of “People Make The World Go Round” than the one on this album. Warm Rhodes (Shedrick Mitchell), very hip drum work (Chris Parks/Martin Valihora) and Vivian is shining bright on this one. Just to hear her sing the one word “people” in the second chorus of the song is just so funky.
Her fresh take on “Lush Life” is another amazing add to this collection – it is easily the best version of the Billy Strayhorn classic I’ve heard since Donna Summer‘s Quincy Jones-produced interpretation from 1982. Here again, many singers would have struggled with the word “too” which Vivian easily bends and stretches and floats around with, with Rhodes and brass/string arrangements just adding a lot of urgency and immediacy, turning the outro into something highly mesmerizing. Still relevant today is the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit” – not only (and disappointingly so) because of its lyrics, but also because Vivian has come up with a haunting, formidable arrangement putting things into perspective.
Rating: 5 Paw Prints 🐾🐾🐾 🐾🐾
Her new album is ‘LIFE’ with brilliant new arrangements on classic songs and standards. - Jazz FM
Musical sensation Vivian Sessoms held a listening party at The Django in New York City for her highly anticipated album, LIFE, making it’s debut on Friday, November 2nd. Vivian’s sound has been described as the “sophisticated sound draws on jazz, R&B, and pop”. The album will encompasses all aspects from love to loss. This is Vivan’s first full album in over ten years, surprising listeners with an arrangement of classics. The remastered work of artists such as Billy Strayhorn, Stevie Wonder, Cole Porter, The Stylistics, and Frank Sinatra will appear on LIFE.
This Harlem native has worked with talents such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Pink, P. Diddy, and many more! After Chris Parks formed a partnership with Sessoms it give her a new stage presence. Also, they’ve collaborated to writte several songs for other artists that has been produced through their production company, Red Music.
The evening was a very intimate gathering that left guest in awe. Vivian explained, “I wanted to be very particular about the songs that I chose. I wanted to include songs that I love that I felt had a particular message about things that fit in with what I wanted to say about life. That is on the surface, but at the heart of LIFE, it’s a record about black people in America today. It’s a record about politics, it’s a record about government failing, a record about people being displaced and trying to figure out where they belong. And I tried to choose songs that I felt had meaning 40, 50, 60, years ago where the artists were saying the same exact thing as now. To make the point that these songs are still very relevant because the times have not changed.”
It was definitely a night to remember!
- Krysten Harris