True self

Trio Bembe/Papa Mambo singer Amber Epp delivers Latin/Jazz hybrid on solo debut

Lindsey Bond

When listening to such singers as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, with their powerful yet velvety singing voices, it might make you momentarily wish you had the ability to sing like that.

Even though it wasn’t until later in her life, Amber Epp knew when she was first exposed to jazz music, she had an immediate affinity towards it.

“I kind of grew up under a rock. A lot of people ask me ‘What’s a Mennonite girl from Steinbach doing playing jazz and Latin music?’ I love to shock people with that,” Epp says during an interview this writer originally conducted for CKUW 95.9 FM.

“Ever since I discovered jazz I knew one day I wanted to make an album, and it just seemed like now was the time to do it.”

Epp combined her experience singing to Latin beats in the Western Canadian Music Award winning Trio Bembe and salsa orchestra Papa Mambo, with her education from the University of Manitoba in vocal jazz, to create her debut LP, Inside Outside

“I’ve spent quite a few years getting into Latin music and this new album is a jazz album, so it’s like going back to my first love,” Epp said. “Jazz music is part of who I am, but with that being said, I love Latin music and I can’t just put that away, so there are a few songs on the album that have a Latin feel to them.”

Though she’s recorded with these well known groups, Epp felt it important to take the lead here.

“It’s different because I’m calling the shots in the end, but I’m still getting input from all the musicians that play with me. I trust their judgment,” she says. “It’s still the group that has to play the music, but I’m the one coming in with the original idea.

“Each artist has a unique sound or voice, and you might sound a little bit like someone else, but every person has their own story to tell. For me, I grew up in a pretty conservative environment and it’s about discovering what else there is in the world”

The album’s title, Inside Outside, comes from one of its tracks, and its meaning will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

“We all want someone to love us for the person we are inside and not just as the perfect person we try to show on the outside, that’s really what it’s about,” Epp says. 

“Outside, I’m always playing Latin music, but inside of me there was something else that wanted to come out too, and here it is!”

Published in Volume 68, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 27, 2013)

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