2010: The Year of BC’s Jazz & Blues Queen, Maureen Washington!

CD Reviews
Title: Here We Go Again
Artist: Daniel Cook and Maureen Washington
Label: Independent
Released: 2010
Stars: 4.0

Maureen Washington is a very busy woman. In 2010, she produced two new albums, worked full time as a jazz and blues singer, took 8 music classes, worked part-time as a bookkeeper and continued to raise her five children! Throughout it all she maintains a stellar smile, a sense of humour and carries herself with grace and style. She has also recently been nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year in the Vancouver Island Music Awards and is #1 on the ReverbNation Jazz Charts for Canada.

Here We Go Again is a slickly produced, “funkified urban jazz” album filled with classy, mature material presented by Victoria, BC’s accomplished guitarist Daniel Cook and the velvety smooth, clear and impassioned alto vocals of Maureen Washington. Six of the eight featured songs are written by Cook and Washington with the exception of “The Right Stuff” (Cook & Kosowick) and “Love This Life” (Cook) and all of them are about the complexities of the romantic relationship – the struggles, fears, hopes and heartbreaks that make up that rollercoaster ride known as love.

Cook and Washington’s partnership is practiced, professional and extremely comfortable which is evident not only from their collaborations on the CD but also in the cover artwork (the friends are bound together by what appears to be a white cable) which illustrates their sense of playfulness and humour. It is obvious that this pair have a great time making music together! From the opening chords of “Twisted” through to the positively uplifting gospel jazz closing number, “Love This Life”, Here We Go Again is an absolute joy to the ears!

Backed by superb musicians including Ross MacDonald (bass), Damian Graham (drums), Bryn Badel (trumpet), Jerry Cook (saxophone), Brad Hawkins (percussion), Nick La Riviere (trombone) and Chris Van Sickle (keyboards), each track is a testament to the fact that Maureen Washington not only has the right stuff and all that you need, but she’s definitely learned some lessons from her misery and bliss as well.

Perfect for a dinner party or a night of sensual dance, standouts include: “Here We Go Again” – an island calypso number with fabulous horns; “Shooting Star” which brings a reggae beat and prominent bass line to light; “Forget Me Not” – a waltz that summons memories of the finest offerings from Billie Holiday or Roberta Flack; and my favourite, “Let’s Make It Happen” which sizzles with a sexy, blues/funk reverberation (and excellent guitar solo by Cook) that will have you shaking your booty from one end of the dance floor to the other! I LOVE this album!

Title: Blues In The Night…and stories my Mama told me
Artist: Maureen Washington
Label: Independent
Released: 2010
Stars: 3.0

Maureen took a completely different direction with Blues In The Night…and stories my Mama told me, a collection in which she pays tribute to 10 superlative blues and jazz classics and records them with stripped down production that includes only her seamless vocals and Karel Roessingh’s expert keys.

On this CD, Maureen pays homage to her mother by singing some of her all-time favourite “breaka my heart songs” including “At Last”, “You Don’t Know Me”, “Georgia On My Mind” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Although she hits every note perfectly, most of her performances have a restrained feel to them and I was left wishing she would have let go and allowed herself to get a bit more wild and passionate.

My favourite tracks include “Peel Me A Grape”, “Blues In The Night” (which includes an excellent piano solo by Roessingh) and “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.” While not unpleasant by any means, most of the other songs are comprised of such a mellow tempo and quiet atmosphere that I could fall asleep listening to them. The CD ends with a sassier, growling version of “Stormy Monday” that wakes you up and does Maureen proud.

The only regrettable thing about Maureen Washington is that she lives on Vancouver Island and performs primarily in British Columbia so the rest of us in Canada are missing out on the opportunity to experience her talent and charm live and in person. However, I will keep looking forward to the day that the opportunity arises!

Maureen Washington & Karrel Roessingh perform “Blues In The Night”

How To Create A Great Facebook Page

I’ve been using Facebook since December 2006 and have been working as a social media marketer, manager and internet promoter of authors, musicians and other artists for almost three years. I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to create a great Facebook page. I learned a lot about this by being regularly present on one of my favourite Facebook pages since its inception in May of this year: the Awesome Women Hub which was founded by Robin Rice and has been extremely successful (today they are at 10,859 members) because of the generosity model she uses for it.

The generosity model is essentially that the page is a place where you are encouraged to post about YOU. The Awesome Women Hub page is dedicated to women entrepreneurs and it is a place where they are welcome to go to talk about themselves in a personal way as well as about their business without spamming anyone. It’s a feminine entrepreneurial collective filled with good will, encouragement, and support. It’s also a very inspirational, positive place to be and Robin Rice knows what she’s doing when it comes to creating a great Facebook page, as does her business partner, Randy Grossman of Randy Grossman’s Amazing Musician Portal.

Here are some of the things you can do to increase membership on your page:

• BE PRESENT! Show up and post on your page every day if you can but at least a couple times a week
• Ask questions
• Provide engaging content
• Inspire your readers
• Offer GOOD information
• Host an incentive contest or giveaway
• Host a “virtual tea” event (an event where you invite people to join you on your Facebook page to discuss a specific topic or just to get to know each other)
• Give your page members something back, including allowing them a place to share their voice.

It’s that simple. I’ve been doing this with my Scully Love Promo page and I haven’t had the page for more than 6 months. I’m almost at 800 members. Most of those people are not my personal Facebook friends and I don’t know them. They join the page and I believe they stay because of the content I provide. I rarely send email updates and I try to offer them something useful (like notes and free PDFs about social media) once in a while aside from just posting links to information.

The one thing that I don’t agree with Robin Rice about is that you need to brand your name with a clever phrase attached to it, although it may not hurt. Every author and musician client I work with uses their name as their brand – all authors and musicians’ names are their brand. Why should that be different on Facebook? I mean Elton John doesn’t have a Facebook page that says Elton John’s Magical World of Tinkling Ivories, now does he? No, because he’s Elton John and people recognize his name. Everyone who is an author, musician or artist has to brand their NAME, not some phrase that includes their name. “Music IS the message and the musician IS the brand – anything else is extraneous and blurs the message.” My job as a social media manager is to foster awareness of the brand and message and I do that by promoting brands via social media.

You might not be the same person in five years. Do you want to have a phrase that’s attached to your name – stuck to it as your brand – in five years on Facebook when you may not be in that same place anymore? I wouldn’t. Now, for example, if you want to think of something that encompasses everything musically that you are involved with: solo, duo, trio, band, different genres of music, etc., then calling yourself West Coast Chanteuse Maureen Washington isn’t horrible. Unless you already are a household name, maybe it is a good idea to somehow distinguish yourself on Facebook as a singer/musician by including words in the phrase that support that.

I think it’s important to have all your social media ducks in a row, including your website. Musicians should still be on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube and have their own website as well because each of those sites does something different and is used for a slightly different purpose. Facebook is the most powerful of all the sites and it should be managed properly.

You just have to be patient, be REAL, and work hard at it.

So, how do you build your Facebook page membership and increase those numbers? The key is to show up and post great content and get your friends and other authors and musicians, etc. to support you by having them suggest your page to their network. Give them a good reason for doing this…do it for them as well!

This Christmas you can spread holiday cheer, good will and bring great joy to your Facebook friends at NO COST by simply choosing your favourite Facebook pages (not your own) and actually suggesting them to your friends! It will make those friends VERY HAPPY and you will have a Merry Christmas too!

Sometimes people who friend me on Facebook on my personal profile also delete me as a friend – maybe because I invite them to lots of pages – I don’t know. However, if they don’t like me for who I am, too bad so sad. Their loss.

So, the bottom line is, use your social networking sites in the right way and remember that social media is just that…social!