Her latest CD, "Wonderland Escapades," is based upon Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland." Travel down the rabbit hole with pianist/arranger Maria Russell.
What does Maria Russell's music sound like?
"My newest CD, 'Wonderland Escapades,' blends together many different musical styles. I wanted to make the arrangements fit how I envisioned each character. The mischievous Cheshire Cat, for example, I portrayed with a jazzy blues style, and the brothers, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, as being more characteristic with a hip-hop style. There's also a tango, a tap number, waltzes, pop and the high-energy 'Wacky Hot Wheels' as the Mad Hatter's wild entrance. The CD is broken into three acts with several scenes and songs with guest vocals by Shelley Martinsen and Dan Frank bringing Alice and the various characters to life. 'Wonderland Escapades' creates a journey through a musical dream with hilarious capers of characters full of fun, folly and surprises entertained with songs and dance madness in a nonsensical wonderland."
What originally inspired this project?
"The story behind this project began when my mom, Gloria V. Russell, composed these original songs when I was a child taking ballet lessons in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. She sang the songs on cassette tapes that she then had transcribed to sheet music by a friend, Francis Garziglia. Unfortunately, Francis passed away before he could finish transcribing and the project remained unfinished for many years. About five years ago, we brought the songs out of storage and started the process of developing a CD that the whole family could enjoy. Having graduated with a bachelor's of music degree, I was now able to create the arrangements and transcribed the 'Cheshire Cat Blues,' one of the unfinished songs. While the songs were originally conceived for a ballet, we wanted to revive them using more contemporary and upbeat rhythms. We look forward to seeing the songs come to life onstage as a musical production one day, but are excited to have the CDs produced and selling on the Internet at CDbaby.com and on iTunes."
Did making a CD oriented toward kids make you reflect on the music that you enjoyed as a child? Do you remember what first whet your appetite for music to begin with?
"Yes, I remember enjoying the Disney and 'Sesame Street' sing-along songs as a child. I wanted to make a CD that children of all ages would enjoy dancing and singing along with the songs and music."
Time for the most obvious question, what did you think of Tim Burton's recent take on "Alice in Wonderland"?
"I enjoyed the movie and thought the scenery and special effects were extraordinary. Tim Burton put his unique spin on the classic story creating an exciting new story line while intertwining some of the classic lines and scenes from the original book."
Check Maria Russell's music out at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/MariaRussell
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@review journal.com or 702-383-0476.