Harvard alumna Candice Hoyes dazzles listeners in new album

Candice Hoyes/Courtesy

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Candice Hoyes’ On a Turquoise Cloud begins with the familiar sound of Duke Ellington’s delicate jazz piano, performed by Adam Birnbaum. Subtle plucks of the bass emerge as bright clashes of cymbals splash into your ears. And just when you think you’re listening to an old recording of traditional Ellington tunes, something amazing happens: Hoyes’ bold yet expertly restrained soprano voice enters and floats atop the delicate harmonies of a brass ensemble.

After an extensive series of acclaimed classical performances ranging from Baroque to contemporary, Hoyes began to work with jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) under artistic director Wynton Marsalis, and was exposed to the distinctive sound of soprano voice in jazz.

“Touring with Wynton Marsalis and the remarkable JALC orchestra, and the joy and freedom I found in that environment, pressed me to find a project of my own using both styles,” Hoyes said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I was fascinated, and hit the Smithsonian’s Duke Ellington Archive to dig for more.”

On a Turquoise Cloud, the product of Hoyes’ inspired fascination with Ellington, is as much an achievement in archive digging as it is a musical tour de force. Each of the 13 songs recorded — some of them obscure for decades — adds another layer to our understanding of Ellington, bringing his rarest compositions to light and exposing the beautiful potential of a soprano voice in jazz.

On quieter tracks (“Heaven,” “Come Sunday,” “Single Petal of a Rose”), Hoyes’ luxurious voice soars into the clouds, reaching for the beauty of the past, as delicate instrumentals stay grounded in the present, invoking an intense nostalgia. And the powerfully multi-faceted side of Hoyes’ voice is brought to life in wilder, more vibrant songs (“Baby,” “Far Away Star,” “Blues I Love to Sing”), as she jumps from high notes to deep growls, playfully dueling with energetic trumpets and crisp piano keys — a style Hoyes calls “soar and swing.”

On a Turquoise Cloud seems to be a more personal effort than anything Hoyes has done in the past. After graduating from Harvard (where she won the prestigious Fitzie Prize, a grant awarded to extraordinary women), Hoyes dove right into the strict world of classical performance, sacrificing her individual expression in order to “fit in” and “book jobs.” But in the recording of On a Turquoise Cloud, Hoyes was able to reconnect with her love of music. “I was able to fully be myself artistically,” she said.

Featuring a more jaded and inspired Hoyes, On a Turquoise Cloud is an album that allows the spectacular soprano vocalist to soar, leaving no aspect of her individuality behind — a personal triumph and a breakthrough in the fusion of jazz and classical music.

Purchase and listen to ‘On a Turquoise Cloud’ here

Contact Jeremy Siegel at [email protected]