Edgewalker.

a revelation.

“This is the album I always wanted to make. Pure, raw, real. My heart, my soul. Expressed. Out loud. Unapologetic.”

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It began before we were born there was a beat
The heart beat that's the birth of the drum
You hear it, you feel it , propelling you through the womb into life
The next musical note comes from your entry into this world
a primal scream.

Midwest Records CD Review

Kind of an old school, soulful sister with a lot of first call jazzy friends, this righteously performed outing might just be a little too real for people who are not darker than blue to fully appreciate. Through it all, this former ex-patriot knows how to find the soul in such 'oppressed' writers like Cole Porter, Will Holt, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and others of that calibre. This is kind of a standard bearer of a date for an age that's supposed to be finding us tearing down walls---no matter what some people profess. Hot stuff throughout.

// CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher

Jazz Weekly | George W. Harris

Molasses toned vocalist Phyllis Blanford delivers a rich read of standards with a peppy team of Ted Brancato/key, Denny Davis/b, Winard Harper/dr, Don Braden/wwinds, Vic Juris/g, Mayra Casales/perc, James Gibbs/tp, Vincent Gardner/tb, Jason Jackson/tp and Stefon Harris/vib. She makes some wise choices in picking some more recent material by female composers like Carmen Lundy and Abbey Lincoln as she sounds firm in convictions on "Blue Woman," "Good Morning Kiss" and the classic "Throw It Away." She handles rhythm tunes well with a sultry read of the vintage " Save Your Love For Me" and gets intimate with Brancato on "You Don't Know What Love Is." She mixes and matches with snappy horns or delicate small groups, and can put new breath into pieces like "Night and Day" and "Speak Low." Impressive!

What does "edgewalker" mean?

The term Edgewalker became part of my vocabulary in 1994, when I was living in Amsterdam. I’d gotten a role in an opera written and directed by Peter Greenaway with Music Composed by Louis Andriessen.

I'd begun to feel a schism in my soul at that time, as if I was walking on the edge of an abyss. This feeling of walking on a very, very narrow precipice, from which I could fall into self-realization or self-destruction, was not new. I’d always felt it. But now it felt as if a shadow was hovering over my spirit and I was going to fall into self-destruction.

I called it “walking on the edge”, and those who felt this way were “edgewalkers”.

I began to conceptualize a show around the great artists who I felt walked this edge too, and fell. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Jean Basquait (painter), and others.

In this state, I was unable to see or feel the uniqueness of who I was. I wanted to sing opera. I wanted to be what I was not. I wanted to grab the spotlight in a skin that would never be mine. I was lost… groundless, homeless, and being ruled more and more by addiction.

And yet in the true spirit of an Edgewalker, I managed to climb out. I reclaimed the core Phyllis. The Edgewalker likes to soar beyond normal boundaries. She chooses to see what is beyond the obvious, and make a connection to the reality that’s before her.

My Edgewalker today is one who takes huge risks… it’s giving up my safe job to pursue a dream in a field where I’m not even a pebble on the musical radar. Edgewalkers are people who do what they know they have to deep inside. They walk between worlds, building bridges between opposing world views, going after what seems impossible.

This EDGEWALKER is still walking a fine line between chaos and harmony. But whichever way I fall it will be into a deeper realization of the world around me and of myself. This path has helped me see love, light and peace where before I only saw darkness.

But this side of me refuses to be put into a “box” or confined to mere words. It needs music to spread its wings, and fly.

After taking such a long break from music, what inspired you to come back, and why with this album?

I came back to this country in Oct. of 2000. I’d been traveling the world, making my living as a performer. But I was lost. I'd hit rock bottom with poor, self-destructive choices. My mother had to pull me out of Guyana, South America, and bring me home.

Even though I had performed at Lincoln Center and many of the major stages in Europe, when I came home without a pot, a penny or clothes to put on my back, the shame devastated my already damaged spirit.

So I did the only thing I could at that time: I decided to play it safe. I recreated myself, putting the performer inside me aside. I began a career in education, and did what it took to make money and survive in America. In the process I became more and more fearful of living my dream: music.

Through every open window, in every church on any given Sunday, I heard voices from the soul that could lift you up beyond the clouds and set you down in a field of hope. And I cringed. My achievements became nothing. I buried my desire to sing, to perform, to step on a stage and be the guiding light

However you can't hide from who you are. Step by step, guided by the Source, Oldumare, Allah, God or whatever name you choose to call that something bigger than us, I began to try and sing again.

I remember the night it all came to a head. I think it was in 2006 I went to hear Carrie Jackson sing at Trumpets, which is a jazz club in Montclair, New Jersey. I was mesmerized by her ability to tell a story without all of the runs that you hear in top 40 songs. She told the story and a light bulb went off.

I guess you can say I began to stalk her! I went to her concerts. I made a very strong connection to a wonderful pianist, Lou Rainone, who was working with her. I sent him an email and set up a session to jam with them. I was so scared that I was crying on the train going from Newark, NJ into New York. When I got to his studio my music was all disorganized, but I had music. Because even though I didn’t have a penny to my name somehow I'd held on to my sheet music.

Well, I sang a song. I think it was "Black Coffee". When I was finished he just looked at me and said, "I thought you said you couldn't sing and then you come in here and take the roof off!”

So it's taken me from that moment until now to have the confidence and to perform again and record a CD. I want my authentic self back. I want to tour Europe. I want to work in Jazz festivals. I’ve invested every dime that I don't have in the realization that I was born to perform.

Carrie Jackson was instrumental in helping me to get my chops back. She started a Jazz Vocal Collective that gave me a safe place to sing. It has been a very long road with numerous pitfalls, and I'm still climbing over obstacles, tortured with self-doubt, but I'm being reborn again and again, everyday, as I get closer to my ultimate goal.

Why now? Why not?

How did you choose the songs for the CD?

First, I wanted to choose songs that I've sung many, many, many times live. I wanted songs I was familiar and intimate with inside and out, so I didn’t have to think about the music so much, and I could just “let it flow” from the heart. And I chose to include three songs by my favorite song / songwriter / producer / arranger Carmen Lundy.

"You don't know what love is" has special meaning for me. It's not about “romantic" love. it's about choosing what you were born to do without having the tools or the knowledge to do it. It’s about faith in yourself and in life.

In working on this song a spontaneous spoken word literally jumped out of my mouth. I knew it was a sign of support for my path, and a beautiful reflection on all music that swings.

Each song has a story behind it. The lyrics have depth. Each song reflects and tugs on the heart regardless of one’s social, emotional, religious, or economical background. We’re all the same. We’re all people.

Does this album contain any deeper messages for your fans?

Creating this album has changed me for the better. It's brought more fun into my life. It's opened me up to a deeper understanding of the world around me. It's transformed me from top to bottom. That transformation is what I'd really like to share with the world, because maybe some of that energy will pass through the music and impact their lives in wonderful, unexpected ways.