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(Naama Kates)

Naama Kates

When I say that Naama Kates is the name of a very “talented” singer-songwriter-pianist based in Los Angeles, I risk that description coming off generically complimentary and maybe even back-handed. But I’m simply taking back the word talented and saying that Naama Kates can boast several gifts and skills, and really the only reason I mention it is that her particular ones happen to be of superior, high grade. She is at least a triple-threat, maybe quintuple, and it’s all thriller…no filler.

Originally from some tiny town somewhere in the Middle West, Kates did what a lot of young, beautiful and talented people from tiny towns in the Midwest do at a certain destined point in their lives: Why, of course they go hustling a semi-living in NYC, tending bar, acting in indie films, making synth-dance demo tapes for anyone who’ll listen, etc., etc. etc. Well, in Kates’ case the rest is not history, not yet anyway, so let’s just say that the Big Apple wasn’t rotten at core, exactly, but her natural-born claustrophobia and innate ambition, ability to see the Big Picture and most likely extreme poverty gave her the gumption to pack her bags and trek herway out West, to try her luck in…Hollywood!

Now, Kates found out that she could earn a little dough here and there with her varied acting chops, so she pursued that and continues to do that; with several indie films and TV appearances notched on her belt, she acts not with a vengeance, more a hunger for the experience and a way to know herself better and all that, and just possibly to make enough scratch to allow her to do what’s she really wants to do: compose and perform music.

I was made aware of Kates’ unusual charisma and chutzpah when she contacted me via email late one night and pitched her wares. She was a musician/actress, she said, and frankly, she said, she liked being a musician a whole lot more. Why? Because she can go deep: Kates' songs are inside/outside things, often ruminative tunes when played solo on piano and delivered in a soulful and artful yet refreshingly unmannered vocal style. With her small ensemble she lays into complexly structured pieces whose violin, cello and trombone ornaments bring a cabaretlike charm and mystique to the proceedings. The songs stop and start again, thoughts and impressions intrude; they accelerate and explode and collapse and fall to the floor to catch their breath and reassess. What she’s doing, you could say, is viewing scenarios from multiple angles –– the moods ebb and flow like a tempest in her mind, in her heart, in her soul.

Naama Kates makes a pleasingly accessible music that tries to mask yet invariably spills over with raging passion and quirky intelligence and sheer spunky, idiosyncratic imagination. Her songs are like mini-films, never merely personal sentiments sung aloud but experiences in sound and word and energy that can take you to faraway places…and right back home again.

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