Jazz Vocalist Hale Baskin of Menlo-Atherton High School Wins Her Second DOWNBEAT Magazine Student Music Award

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Menlo-Atherton High School student Hale Baskin is awarded an “outstanding performance” for her submission to the 29th DOWNBEAT Student music awards.

Menlo-Atherton High School student Hale Baskin is awarded an “outstanding performance” for her submission to the 29th DOWNBEAT Student music awards.

DOWNBEAT Magazine was first impressed with Hale’s vocal talents when they awarded her first place in the Junior High School division of their 2002 Student Music Awards. Her prize: a scholarship to Berklee College of Music's summer program, which she completed in 2003.

This years winning offering to DOWNBEAT consisted of three songs. First was a powerful Wayne Wallace arrangement of Billie Holliday’s “God Bless The Child” with six horns, B-3 organ, guitar and drums. Hale’s impressive rendition of this classic put her in the winners circle. The second was a Dr. Ronnell Bright tune called “Sweet Pumpkin” which was arranged by her current mentor, Nate Pruitt. This lively swing number has great chord changes and is seldom heard as a vocal. Hale digs into the pocket while building the vocal intensity from beginning to end. The third song was the bluesy tune “Gee Baby.” Hale does a great trombone sounding scat on this one which surely drew the adjudicator’s attention to her versatility.

Hale is no stranger to the recording studio either. She actually began her recording career at the Annex digital studio in Menlo Park in December, 2001 with pianist Larry Dunlap, bassist Seward McCain and drummer Jim Zimmerman. This recording session produced her previous winning submission to the 2002 DOWNBEAT contest.

Listening to Baskin's sophisticated voice and nuanced phrasings, it's hard to believe she was only 13 when her first CD "Forecast Calls For Hale" was completed. Boasting mostly jazz standards ("My repertoire was more limited then, so I sang the ones I thought I could do best"), the album sparkles with a talent-in-the-making.

It stood out from the competition when Suzanne Warren, coordinator of the City of Palo Alto's summer concert series, first heard it. "I did not know her age initially when I listened to the CD. When I found out how young she was, I was definitely blown away!" Warren said.

Hale is also lead vocalist in the Menlo-Atherton High School Advanced Jazz Ensemble. She has won numerous International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) performance awards at competitions with her school band. Singing in a big band, Baskin said, has helped her sing with a smaller ensemble. "There's so much energy in a big band, and it's helped me transpose that energy to a smaller group."

Hale has been performing at festivals, corporate and private parties, fundraisers, clubs and concerts. She is always accompanied by Bay Area pro jazz musicians who love to perform with her.

Hale ended her busy 2005 gig calendar as guest vocalist with Arturo Sandoval’s band performing 12 shows through New Years Day at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square in Oakland. Hale said, “That band is crazy good and you really have to stay on top of it when performing with them. There’s no room for error.”

Hale’s view of the future of jazz is following the tradition of the great musicians who have developed the true American music form. “I love to sing the songbook and I also really like to try new things like scatting ‘Scrapple From the Apple’ to a Hip Hop beat.”

"The kids who are into jazz want to change it in some way, to make it newer," Baskin said. "As you become more accomplished as a musician, you hear more possibilities." The new generation of jazz musicians, according to Baskin, are putting their own spin on the genre, updating it for the 21st century.

Hale also attends Stanford Jazz Workshop. “Dena DeRose taught me the basics of jazz singing. She was the first teacher I had. In the beginning I was pretty shy, but by the end I wasn't shy at all. I was excited about discovering my talent."

Hale’s parents, Bill and Judi Baskin, have been instrumental in nurturing their daughter's love of music. "My Dad always knew I could sing. He taught me my first jazz song, 'Route 66.'"

But Baskin has other support, as well, such as Frank Moura, director of Menlo-Atherton's Advanced Jazz Ensemble (and two of the school's other jazz bands as well as concert band). She has known Moura ever since she started singing with the ensemble while she was still in middle school. Moura recognized the Redwood City resident's talent and Hale has thoroughly enjoyed his enthusiastic leadership.

Baskin has also sat in with vocalist Kim Nalley, owner of Jazz at Pearl's in San Francisco. The experience has taught Baskin how hard it is to master the genre's improvisational nature.

Check out Hale’s Bio on her web site. It reads like that of a pro three times her age.

More Info on Hale Baskin see http://www.halebaskin.com

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