All That Jazz

Sophie Milman is the new jazz starlet — and one hell of an interview

Oprah Winfrey says she doesn't believe in the term luck. Luck is merely the juncture in life where hard work and opportunity intersect, she says. It's a nice theory, and it could explain the rise to prominence that 24-year-old singing sensation Sophie Milman has had in the jazz world. The Russian-born, Israeli-bred, and now Canadian citizen didn't have any formal training in singing or jazz, but she's about as Type A as it gets. Once she set her sights on becoming a jazz star, she achieved it almost instantly. She got a record contract at 19 after only three live performances. She was a hit at last year's Montreal Jazz Fest, and her debut, self-titled album reached number 12 on the U.S. Billboard jazz charts. Not bad. We caught up with her in between classes at her favorite vegan restaurant and found out she's adapted to the Canadian sense of humor rather quickly.

Outtakes:We hear that you're still taking classes at the university; what are you studying?

Sophie Milman:Yeah, I'm at the University of Toronto studying commerce.

Commerce? You mean you're a jazz singer with no training, and you're not even a music major?

Exactly! (She laughs.) I've never really studied music before, except for the school of gigging and being on stage with musicians that humble me every time.

So how does a girl from Russia who grew up in Haifa, Israel, get interested in jazz?

My dad is a huge jazz fan. He got me into it since I was a little girl. Originally, my dad's record collection was all I had. I wasn't singing in Haifa. There wasn't a scene. My love for jazz was really confined to my parents' apartment.

Have you always believed in yourself and your singing ability?

Not really. I never thought I was good enough. My dad said I was good, but what the hell did that mean? He's supposed to say that. I was shocked when I got a record contract after my third solo gig. And even then, I still thought it was happening too fast.

Uh, yeah! Do you get a lot of negative feedback or jealousy because of your age?

Definitely! If some people think jazz singing ended with Ella and Sarah, then they shouldn't buy any new records. But I think lots of people still like going out to jazz clubs and seeing new artists. Of course, I don't have what Billie Holiday had. And I used to play that destructive psychological game with myself. You sit there and say... I can't sing like Ella — what am I contributing to the world? I think there are a lot of forces out there that try to corrupt young singers and say that we don't have a right to make an impact on the genre. But if I can make people smile and sing along and they want to buy my album, that's my contribution. Jonathan Cunningham

Sophie Milman performs at 6:15 p.m. Sunday, April 15, as part of the Palm Beach International Jazz Festival at the Cultural Campus, 2175 Wellington Green Dr., Wellington. Call 877-772-5425, or visit www.culturaltrustpb.com.The Tax Man Cometh

Tax day isn't exactly most Americans' favorite day of the year. Although some people hope for a sizable return, most of us don't have too much to celebrate. Not only can tax day be a pain in the ass for slackers (though this year, it's actually on April 17); after turning on CNN and hearing the latest death toll in Iraq, you can see where your share of tax money is going. All told, it's not that much fun.

So if you're a musician, especially if you're a rock star — and, therefore, predisposed to civil disobedience — it's your moral and ethical duty to fight back any way you can. Here's a little list of tips for the rock stars out there on how to stick it to the man:

Claim a deduction, do a shot.

Deduct weekly STD tests as a (cost of doing) business expense rather than as a medical expense. Then, of course, do a shot.

"Professional Society Meetings" are an acceptable claim and, therefore, a deduction. Loosely interpreted, this means a night of hard drinking with musical cohorts or partying with strippers while discussing your career with your manager and bandmates is deductible. Mötley Crüe almost bankrupted the IRS in the 1980s with these sorts of writeoffs.

Move to California, get a marijuana prescription, and deduct your pot habit as a medical expense. Do a shot.

Beg your government (say, Ireland) to contribute more aid to Africa. Second, relocate your mega-lucrative music-publishing biz (say, from Ireland) to a tax shelter (like, say, the Netherlands) to protect your songwriting royalties from taxation. Third, marvel at the fact that nobody really paid attention to what your allegedly progressive band (say, U2) did.

Can't pay? Take a page from Willie Nelson's book and give them a royalty percentage of your next album. Remember Who'll Buy My Memories? (The IRS Tapes)?

Don't forget about that rough night you spent in Poughkeepsie. Your head was killing you, and the only way to get to sleep was to pay that hooker with the limp to service you while you smoked crack from her pipe? That was a medical expense, in a manner of speaking, which kind of makes it a deduction. Do a shot. Cole HaddonGold Chain Music

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