Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks perform at Jamesport Vineyard during the 2014 Winterfest.The six-week event returns this year with headline acts The Smithereens and guitarist Stanley Jordan. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)
As a vocalist and band leader, Vanessa Trouble brings energy and sensuality to the American Jazz and swing songbook. She has gained her vocal and performance skills from all over the country and abroad, fronting numerous jazz ensembles in America, Europe and Asia.
Playing mostly in the Manhattan and Long Island, Vanessa currently fronts her New York City based swing band, The Red Hot Swing. She has performed with notable guitarists Nick Demopoulus and James Chirillo and has released two albums, The Summer Sessions (1999) and Too Darn Hot (2004).
Vanessa will bring her talent to Winterfest when she performs at Sherwood House in Jamesport at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about playing on the North Fork? Either on stage or just playing as in having fun in general?
Vanessa: I’m very connected to the North Fork as I have relatives in Greenport whom I’ve spent many holidays with after I moved to New York City from Los Angeles 1996. In the summer I’m really into swimming in the Sound or the Bay, and hitting yard sales and church thrift shops for treasure.
Q: Tell us about your first ever gig on (or visit to) the North Fork.
Vanessa: I had been going to Greenport since 1996, but I’d never been to Riverhead, and 7 summers ago I visited my friend Danielle Gisiger who was living there (weekends) on a fabulous loft-like barge on the Peconic River. Two weeks I bought a little “fixer-upper” houseboat (that’s putting it mildly) which I still have and LOVE, and I use that as a summer headquarters/dressing room between my gigs on the North and South Forks. My first performance in the area was at Tweeds Restaurant in Riverhead. The owner keeps his boat in the same marina where I keep mine, three slips down or up, depending on how you look at it.
Q: Are there any North Fork locations or attributes that inspire your music?
Vanessa: My happy place is definitely my houseboat.
Q: What do you think about Winterfest expanding genres by changing from “Jazz on the Vine” to “Live on the Vine”?
Vanessa: I think changing the programming to “Live on the Vine” is a fabulous idea. In my opinion it will bring in a much bigger audience.
Q: Do you like winters on Long Island?
Vanessa: Yes. I’m out often, since I have regular engagements at Pierre’s Bridgehampton and at Wolffer Estate Vineyards on the South Fork. The light is incredible and the peace and quiet off-season makes the frequent trips from NYC to the East End well worth the (sometimes) hellacious drive on the LIE.
I love winters on Long Island.
Q: Do you drink wine? If so, do you have a favorite North Fork wine (or vineyard)?
Vanessa: I do drink wine, but prefer spirits these days so when I perform at Sherwood House Vineyards, my go-to elixer is their XO Brandy. I also like the sparkling Brut from Lenz, and when I perform at Martha Clara, I dig their cabernet and usually get a bottle for the band, unless they are going for beer that day as they also offer great tap beer from a local craft brewery in Riverhead, I think, which is very good. In terms of a favorite vineyard, hard to say. They are are all so different and each offers up a completely different vibe, but I frequent Comtesse Therese fairly often for their Fois Gras Fridays. They have an excellent restaurant specializing in French cuisine and on Fridays you get a glass of wine when you order the seared fois gras, which is my all-time favorite indulgence. It’s awesome.
Q: What can people expect to hear at your shows?
Vanessa: People can expect to hear exceptionally good music that they connect with. My back-up musicians are professionals from NYC and Long Island and my usual combination is guitar, bass and drums, since I think it’s the the most versatile for my material. I perform a lot of classic jazz standards from the 20’s 30’s and 40’s but currently I’ve interspersed that with “modern-retro,” songs by Patsy Cline, Van Morrison, Janice Joplin, Carol King and even some Whitney Houston and Sting. I also do a couple of Amy Winehouse songs, one of which she re-interpreted from the 60’s classic, “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby and the Romantics. I like to mix it up. People go nuts for the movie songs, and I do everything from “My Favorite Things” to “You Only Live Twice.” Most all of the songs I sing were hits in their day, so they speak to a large number of people and get them emotionally involved. I interpret them in way that complements the songwriting, the instrumentation and obviously my voice.
Q: How do North Fork audiences differ from other areas you play, whether up Island or the city or wherever?
Vanessa: At the vineyards the music is not necessarily the focal point, versus a concert or jazz club work, or at my private party gigs so it can be less of a listening crowd, but generally speaking, I get a pretty good turnout as I have a lot of friends and family on the North Fork who come out to my shows, and they tell their friends, and so on. I try to always make it my own party.
Q: What do you think the North Fork needs? Or what would you do if you were elected mayor (or supreme ruler) of the North Fork?
Vanessa: This Supreme ruler thinks the North Fork needs some shoe repair shops.
Q: Is there anything about the North Fork that you dislike or would like to see improve?
Vanessa: I’d like to see the empty storefronts in downtown Riverhead gone, gone, gone and replaced with successful small businesses!