Carolena Matus is a classically trained singer, with over 30 years of vocal experience, who spent the majority of her career living and performing in Las Vegas, Nevada. Making her first public appearance as a soloist at 7 years of age (piano and voice duo), she later went on to begin her formal vocal training at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the age of 13.
While having both experience and training in multiple styles of music, JaZz is Carolena's passion with swing, bebop and overall straight-ahead being her preferred genres. However, regardless the style, it is Carolena's distinctive tone quality, exceptional pitch and ear, combined with her artistic lyric interpretation and phrasing that set her apart as a vocal musician of excellence.
In childhood, Carolena developed a passion for big band JaZz due to her father's influence and while she was exposed to other genre's, her love of the standards stayed with her. Although her formative training and experience was based in opera, classical and musical theatre, in the mid-1980's she was introduced, through a friend and former band member, to Frank Sinatra, Jr. and her love of JaZz was reborn anew.
Due to countless hours spent listening to Frank Jr. perform with his big band in the French Quarter Lounge in the Four Queens Hotel and Casino (and developing friendships with both Frank and his musicians along the way), Carolena abruptly changed the focus of her own music – returning to her first love. Her respect for Frank, along with his passion for the music and his own multifaceted talent, greatly inspired and influenced her. Thanks to Frank, the JaZz bug had bitten her; Carolena was thoroughly hooked and her music was forever, joyfully changed.
Following her instincts, Carolena turned to her dear, long-time friend Bobby Scann (trombone), a highly gifted professional Las Vegas musician who has played for numerous renowned artists ranging from Frank Sinatra, Sr. and Tony Bennett to Elvis Presley. "I knew that Bobby was playing Alan Grant's 'Monday Night JaZz at the Four Queens.' (A 13-year nationally syndicated radio program aired on American Public Radio, now Public Radio International.) So I went downtown to meet him and in between sets I poured my heart out about my new love affaire with JaZz."
Carolena had realized that studying under the guidance of expert pro JaZz musician's was what was necessary at that point in her life in order to advance and nurture her passion. Bobby graciously agreed to help her in this new endeavor, taking on the role of mentor and teacher to his friend. Carolena gratefully credits Bobby as being the first person to entrain her ear to hear music as a musician, rather than a vocalist; as well as helping her to begin to navigate the intricate road of JaZz improvisation.
Years later, Carolena left the dry desert behind her and relocated to wet, green Olympia specifically due to the abundance of JaZz throughout Western Washington and her love of the landscape. She had felt deeply honored by her long standing associations with the 'best of the best' pro musicians in the neon jungle that is Las Vegas. Thus, she was extremely delighted to discover extraordinary, world-class piano master, Joe Baque (a Greenwich Village transplant), seemingly hiding in the midst of what, at that time, appeared to her to be a lush forest wilderness. Carolena thrived with the blessing of Joe's expert accompaniment skills and the vast breadth of knowledge he had gained from decades of superlative performing experience with world-renowned artists such as Louis Armstrong, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins and countless others, in addition to masterfully accompanying vocalists such as Lena Horne and Ernestine Anderson.
Building upon the years she has spent working with superior musicians such as Bobby Scann, Joe Baque and others, Carolena continues to expand the scope of her music partnerships to include a variety of expert musicians from Portland to Seattle. Consequently, she has joyfully continued to work with the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer, including internationally renowned JaZz guitarist, composer, clinician and recording artist, John Stowell, whose unique, masterful playing style is loved and respected by both fans and fellow musicians the world over.
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