WORDS by JOANNE SAVAGE
Dana Masters sings straight from the soul, her voice deep yet mellow then soaring upwards towards joy and ecstasy – this is a singer who easily masters a vast vocal range as she moves through a rich moodscape.
Since meeting her husband Andy and moving from South Carolina to Ulster in 2008 and becoming a mum of three, Masters has become a much vaunted name on the jazz circuit performing alongside musicians like Linley Hamilton and even touring with superstar Van Morrison.
Watching her in action you think of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Etta James and blues queen Bessie Smith. Like the members of this pantheon, Dana Masters has vocal power that packs a real punch and the ability to emote during performances so that the audience feels they become a part of the artist’s moodscape.
Next month the hugely popular performer will release her debut EP or album with a bespoke concert at the MAC.
She said: “I’m a soulful singer and growing up in South Carolina I absorbed so many musical influences – especially gospel and jazz – jazz was definitely my real musical heritage and that meant that I had a kind of easy ‘in’ when it came to singing jazz music, but I really describe myself as a soul singer – I don’t think I’m in the same category as the top American jazz singers.
“I am often billed as a jazz singer here in Northern Ireland simply because we have so few of them. I feel I understand soul and jazz in my bones. So that makes it easy to perform in this genre.
“There’s just no better feeling for me as an artist to be able to sing something that the audience is emotionally connecting with. You are saying something to that resonates with the audience on a deep level. I live for those moments, where I as an artist am connecting to the crowd in front of me by singing about shared experience – that’s what I completely love.”
She added: “I love Northern Ireland now and have very much made it my home. I grew up in South Carolina and I don’t miss it or any other part of America, What I do miss is having my Mom around, That is hard. But my husband’s from here and we want to raise our children here and Northern Ireland totally feels like home to me.
Masters became involved in the local jazz circuit when she met with Northern Ireland’s Linley Hamilton; soon the pair joined with some of the best jazz musicians playing in Ireland today for a weekly residency in the basement of McHugh’s Bar in Belfast – an inspiration for Dana’s first EP.
From live work with BBC Radio 4 and Proms in the Park to singing regularly with Van Morrison, Dana’s reputation as one of Ireland’s top vocalists has continued to gain momentum.
Dana will launch her debut original soul EP at The MAC, backed by a band of some of Ireland’s most esteemed musicians including Linley Hamilton on trumpet, David Howell on sax, Johnny Taylor on piano, Gareth Hughes on bass, James Nash on guitar and Paul Hamilton on drums.
See Dana Masters perform at The MAC on April 14. Tickets are now available. Call 02890 245350 or visit themaclive.com