Cassia DeMayo is an American-born jazz vocalist with a deep velvet resonance, a sparkling facility and a distinctive style that truly sets her apart from her contemporaries. Forgoing excessive adornment, she favors a simpler, minimalist approach, using space, patience and finessed phrasing to open up the lyric and express the bare emotion therein.
In May of 2015, Cassia released her debut CD “Heart, We Will Forget Him,” a thoughtfully-crafted showcase for a voice that jazz critic Ivan Rod (Gaffa, Denmark) describes as “full, mellow and soft like butter.” The nine-track collection features original songs that reflect Cassia’s musical aesthetic – nicely exemplified in the tender languish of “My Party”– as well as her talents as a composer. Cassia’s selection and treatment of jazz standards is equally fresh; her interpretation of “So This is Love,” from the Disney classic “Cinderella,” is an evocative musing that is both playful and nostalgic.
While her repertoire includes original compositions and jazz standards, Cassia steers away from road worn chestnuts, preferring more obscure gems that other vocalists often overlook. She is upbeat in nature but drawn to wistful themes, which she feels best resonate with her sensibilities. “I need there to be some heartbreak in it,” she explains, “Some vulnerability. I want to feel the longing in the song.”
Cassia is definitely the focal point of “Heart, We Will Forget Him,” but she is the first to qualify that the project would not have come together as cohesively as it did without the support and gifted performances of Alex Olesen, Tejs Dragheim and Kristoffer Lysgaard Madsen, on guitar, bass and drums respectively. Critic Martin Loft describes the trio as “the best backing one upcoming jazz diva could wish for.”
Cassia’s first formal training came when she was 11-years old. After Cassia announced that she wanted to be a “rock ‘n roller,” her mother enrolled her in the Pasadena Conservatory of Music to study classical voice. She continued her classical studies throughout most of her childhood, subsequently entering the classical voice program at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) upon graduation from high school. During her first year at Cal Arts, Cassia found herself gravitating towards jazz. “When singing jazz, I could express myself the way I needed and wanted to. It all just clicked.” Cassia transferred to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA and in 2009, received a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies. During her time at Cornish, Cassia studied with notable Northwest musicians such as Dawn Clement, Julien Priester, Jovino Santos Neto, Kelley Harland and Becca Duran. Duran was of particular influence, mentoring Cassia and introducing her to the Seattle jazz scene, where she would ultimately launch her career.
Since her arrival in Denmark, where she has been residing since 2011, Cassia has appeared at jazz clubs, venues and notable jazz festivals such as Riverboat Jazz Festival, Aarhus Jazz Festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Vinter Jazz Festival and Bayerisches Jazz Weekend in Germany, where she was one of three featured performers. Cassia’s debut album continues to receive positive reviews, and her music is being played on numerous radio stations, including “The Jazz UK” and “Virginia Music,” an Amsterdam station that features female artists exclusively.
Cassia’s master musicianship is balanced with a lucent humanity that touches the very soul of the listener. She creates an alluring emotional landscape that lingers long after the song is over. As her music continues to reach new audiences, her artistic impact will be recognized, celebrated and deeply felt. Cassia DeMayo is a rising star to keep an eye on.