Vocal and composer Caity Gyorgy is a Juno Award winner and a 2023 nominee for her latest recording Featuring.
Described as “a 100 per cent dream project,” Featuring includes 11 of Gyorgy’s own original compositions with a sound that’s fresh yet timeless.
Gyorgy is also part of our Sound of Jazz concert series for They Say It’s Spring on Thursday, March 9, at Lula Lounge.
Gyorgy joined us to talk about her latest gigs and accomplishments.
You were in Mexico doing a pretty long run of dates. Tell me a little bit about that.
I was in this beautiful village called Ajijic on Lago de Chapala, the largest freshwater lake in the country. I was there for the Northern Lights Festival de Febrero, which is a wonderful festival made up of classical and jazz musicians. There were a lot of Toronto players like Richard Underhill, Reg Schwager, Joe Phillips and Tim Shia. It was a blast.
The Junos are coming up on March 13 in Edmonton. Congratulations on your latest nomination. Tell me about where you were when you heard the news and what it means to you when you find out you’re nominated.
I was in Toronto, actually. I drove back from New York City where I was visiting, a very long drive in a snowstorm. It was all worth it when I went to the CBC building and saw my name on that screen amongst the other nominees. What an incredible group of nominees it is.
If you hadn’t gotten the nomination, would you have regretted the trip in the snowstorm?
No, I don’t think so. I love Toronto so much, so it’s always a treat to come and visit.
You won the Juno last year. Is there something tangible to an artist like yourself when you win that award?
It meant so much to me to be recognized among the Canadian jazz scene. I really couldn’t believe it. It was a very humbling experience and it was so wonderful to be amongst so many wonderful people at the awards. I’ve booked a lot more dates under my own name since then. I’ve had students come up to me and say, “I’m really inspired that you won this award. It makes it seem like I can win it.” If I can be an inspiration to young musicians, that is incredible.
You’re actually from Alberta. Are you going to the awards this year?
Yes I am. I’m so excited to go back home. Alberta holds a huge spot in my heart. I’m a born-and-raised Calgarian, so to have the awards in Edmonton this year is very special. I mean, as a Calgarian, we’re kind of born to not like Edmonton, but I like Edmonton.
You completed your master’s degree last year at McGill. How do you juggle that along with a very busy music career?
It was a little bit stressful, I’m not going to lie. I survived it by using a lot of to-do lists. If anybody needs time management tips, I’m probably not the person to give them. But I do use a lot of to-do lists and a lot of prioritizing. Booking gigs, finishing a thesis and all that stuff, it’s a lot. But I made it through and graduated with my master’s in jazz performance, and here we are. It’s around six months from graduation and I’m living my dream life.
Do you use Post-it Notes all over the place, or is it digital?
Oh, I have written-down lists, because there’s something so incredibly satisfying about using a little checkmark to mark everything off.
I feel like you’re a bit of an old soul as an artist. The way you write your material, it has this contemporary spin on what feels familiar from the Great American Songbook. You released Featuring on double vinyl. Why was it important to have you music available in that format?
I’ve always, always wanted vinyl. I listen to a lot of it. I’ve got my record player here in Montreal and I’ve got one in Calgary, and I’m slowly but surely moving my collection to Montreal. I love visiting record stores. It’s such a treasure hunt to find an album that you may not have seen before, one that was maybe only released on vinyl in the ’50s or ’60s. I’ve always wanted to have my music on vinyl. As soon as I got the test pressings, I almost started crying. I was so excited about it. I love the medium, I love how it sounds, and I love how you can see the music being played as well as hear it.
You’re back from Mexico and I see you’re heading to Japan. Have you been there before?
This will be my first time in Japan. I am so very, very excited. A couple of years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to record an album with Pat LaBarbera and Don Thompson which is only available in Japan. We were supposed to tour the music in April of 2020 but obviously that didn’t happen. Now I’m doing the tour, which I’m really excited about. There are going to be a couple Italian musicians on the tour, a couple of local musicians from Japan, and Joe LaBarbera will also be on the tour, which I’m thrilled about because he’s played on a bunch of records I really like. It’s going to be so fun.
We’re so happy that you’re part of our Sound of Jazz concert series on Thursday, March 9. Tell me about how you’re approaching this — the musicians you’ll be with and the material you’ll be tackling.
Since the theme of the concert is spring, I’ll be playing my recording of “It Might As Well Be Spring” as well as some other wonderful spring songs. I had a request for “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and “They Say It’s Spring.” I’ll also be including some more music from my Juno-nominated album Featuring. I’ve got Anthony D’Alessandro on piano, Thomas Hainbuch on bass and Jacob Wutzke on drums.
You just talked about playing in Mexico and Japan with a different slate of musicians. What’s it like when you pivot from one group to another group?
It’s really special to get my arrangements and original music played by so many different people. I love getting the opportunity to hear how different people interpret the music. In Mexico, I was playing with a bunch of absolutely incredible players, so it was a treat for me. I was a little bit nervous because the people I was playing with, I really look up to and am inspired by. It was quite an honour to have my arrangements played by them and to get to sing with them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.