Many years before her emergence in the contemporary jazz and R&B worlds as the Singing Saxstress of Soul, Ava Lemert remembers the unique approach her father took to encouraging her musical dreams—and helping her get into her first jazz band in high school.
A mechanics instructor at L.A. Trade Technical Collect (LATTC) who taught in the Yamaha Motorcycle program, Ava’s father bartered his instructor wages so that Ava could have a shiny new YAS 23 alto for her very first saxophone, straight off the dock from Japan in Long Beach. Further developing her musical skills, she became the first female drum major at South Hills High in her hometown of Covina, California leading the band in parades and rehearsals, while performing on clarinet in concert band and alto sax in Jazz Band.
The multi-talented performer’s powerful and versatile saxophone and vocal skills have earned her nonstop accolades and a tremendously loyal fan base as an indie artist and live performer since she did her first solo gig in 2008. Launching her recording career with her full length debut From My Soul in 2009, Ava has also released a total of eight popular singles, including her latest, the haunting sax/vocal tune “When The Night Falls, for which she also produced her first music video. The lone cover among the compelling originals on her 2012 full length set 12welve (which, not coincidentally, has 12 cuts), the Neil Sedaka penned “Working On A Groovy Thing,” was produced by Roger Smith, longtime keyboardist for the legendary horn band Tower of Power. Ava’s most recent recording is Ava L Soul, a four track EP of well chosen covers which features a unique reversal of roles on “Me and Mr. Jones,” Sade’s “Your Love Is King,” “If I Can’t Have You” and “Ooh Baby Baby.”
As Ava continues to perform steadily in and around her home region of Citrus Heights (near Sacramento), California—where she was recently appointed to the City of Citrus Heights History and Arts Commission—she has shown contemporary urban jazz audiences in Southern California why she’s been nicknamed “Tiny Dynamite” with several electrifying performances this past year. In October, 2012, she made her debut (twice!) at the 26th Annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival, performing as both a saxophonist and vocalist for keyboardist Brian O’Neal and as a special guest of famed guitarist Peter White during his encore funk medley. Her sold out solo debut performance at the Orange County hotspot Spaghettini Grill in July, 2013, featured bassist Darryl Williams, drummer Tony Moore and keyboardist Hans Zermuehlen; a video of this show has been aired on the popular network Elements of Jazz TV.
Though she pursued other creative endeavors (including graphic design) for a time after she graduated from USC, Ava returned to her first love, music, in the mid-2000s when she learned that Citrus Heights was starting up a community marching band. She found her old YAS 23 and joined up. From 2006-2008, she drew upon her sax and vocal talents to perform alternately with three regional ensembles: the On Air Band, a Tower of Power-styled 13-piece cover group; the 60 piece Capitol Pops Orchestra (which featured horns, woodwinds and a harpist) and Moonlight Swing, a Glen Miller WWII Tribute Band. Ava then began scoring numerous art gallery gigs, singing and playing her horn to backing tracks. While dealing with her mother’s illness and ultimately her passing, she also made a key connection through contacts with the radio station KSSJ in Sacramento to play shows at local retirement communities. This diverse array of live performances ultimately inspired her to start writing and recording her own music.
“Whether I am recording an album in the studio or performing for a live audience, I love to create and move people emotionally,” says Ava. “Every song I play is very personal to me, and whenever possible I love to take the opportunity to share a little of the story behind it before I play. As exciting as it is to be onstage, I also love taking my sax into the audience and feeling closer to those I am playing for. Being able to make eye contact and know that you’ve touched people’s hearts and lives is truly gratifying, and I am grateful for every opportunity to connect with people in this way.’