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Independent News (Feb. 2006)
By Sam Baltrusis
It's not what singer-songwriter Robin Stine does during her live performance that takes our breath away. It's what she doesn't do.
"Shirley Horn is one of those jazz vocalists that has always resonated for me," she says, sitting in the Independent News' office on Palafox. "I obviously don't have the pauses and the pain, but I identify with her style. You don't consciously try to sound like another singer and I don't think I sound like anybody in particular, but her music is always in the back of my mind."
Working in a genre that easily could be all about style over substance, Stine's true talent lies within her subtle nuances coupled with complex crescendos that could easily be executed with a blonde-haired bravado dressed in fishnet stockings. Stine doesn't knock us over the head with her vocal ability. She teases us. Pulls away. And then brings us back wanting more.
Yes, a little mystery is good.
Armed with a new CD of originals called "Daydream" that's slowly earning spins on NPR stations across the country, Stine says her full-time focus has shifted to music after Hurricane Ivan.
"I lost my job for six months after the hurricane and I had lots of time to start writing," she says with a laugh. "I had all of this free time and no job. As far as giving me the skeleton to create this space in my life, it definitely gave me that. I could easily dedicate this whole thing to Ivan."
With "Daydream," Stine creates a truly unique sound infusing traditional jazz with a youthful, bluesy folk vibe. As far as industry labels, the 35-year-old says she's been warned to stay away from the "jazz vocalist" moniker.
"When I met with managers in New York, they told me I had to be a mix between Ella Fitzgerald and Mariah Carey for them to be able to do anything with me," she says. "It's extremely difficult to simply be a jazz vocalist singing the old songs. I knew that for me to go to the next level, I had to write my own music."
Stine's successful live-performance formula is her ability to weave the standards with her magical originals, including the single "Sweet Blossom."
"I don't play an instrument," she explains. "In January after the hurricane, I started to be open to the idea of writing songs. It's really weird how the whole thing happened. The songs started coming to me and I came up with the melodies in my head."
The vocalist, who attended the University of Miami in the late '90s, enlisted the help of her old college friends to collaborate with the music.
"The fuel was there. I was going through difficult relationships in my life," she says. "It just started flowing."
As for the "Lust for the Arts" performance on Monday, Feb. 13, Stine says she's excited to unleash "Daydream" to the masses with Cynthia Nieves-Decarie on keyboards. "I was hoping that somebody would nominate me," she jokes about the upcoming Independent News' Lust List bash. "Maybe I'll win 'Most Lust-Worthy Vocalist' that night."