Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Duran, Becca (Rebecca Rose)

Duran, Becca (Rebecca Rose), jazz vocalist, educator, composer, lyrcist; b. Montebello, CA, 16 June 1944. Following six years in the war, her father (born Ruben Duran, 1924) played baritone and alto in a big band while completing his undergraduate studies on the GI Bill in California. Her mother, a civil rights activist (born Rita J. Gonzales, 1926) gave birth to five other children (Alicia, b. 1945, Celinda, b. 1954, Dennis, b. 1956, Therese, b. 1962 and Katy, b. 1966).  As a child Becca completed almost a year of piano lessons. In 1954 her family moved to Washington State where her father earned a Phd. In 1959 the family relocated back to California. In 1962 the family returned to Washington state where Becca earned a bachelors and masters degree in languages and early childhood education respectively. She attended school for one year in Veracruz, Mexico in 1965. During a brief visit to California Bobby Troupe and Julie London heard Becca sing at a private party. Both encouraged her to pursue a vocal career.

Finding herself a resident of Seattle, Washington in the early 1970s, Becca in addition to a full-time career in state and federal government education agencies, pursued jazz vocal study with Joni Metcalf, who directed the jazz vocal curriculum at Cornish Institute at the time.  After only 3 months of study Metcalf hired Becca to sing with the Joni Metcalf Group and it was during this period from 1974-1980 that Becca sang part-time in Seattle jazz clubs and acquired studio experience. She worked with seasoned players like Julian Priester, Basie alum, Bill Ramsay, Red Kelly as well as with younger players like Denny Goodhew and Jim Knapp and many more. She continued to focus on vocal study working with Jay Clayton, George Peckham, Marie Weltman, Paul Ingham and Tom Blaylock. From 1980-1984 she sang on television commercials, recorded background vocals for television films and performed in jazz duos, trios and quartets. Still employed in her education career in 1980 she was named Supervisor of Music and Arts Education for the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1984 she retired from state government and decided to pursue a full-time career in jazz music.

At this time she met and worked with Jay Thomas, jazz trumpeter and together they traveled to perform throughout the Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and began to tour in Japan working jazz festivals, clubs and hotel venues until the 1990s. In 1994 she and Jay Thomas married. From 1994-1999 in addition to gigs and recordings she taught Music History and Music Fundamentals classes part-time in the music department of South Seattle Community College. In this period Becca also began singing with two Seattle big bands, Friendly Fire and the Usual Suspects, both directed by Jay Thomas. She continues to sing with these bands as well as with Acquired Involuntary Narsicissm, an innovative, contemporary jazz orchestra directed by trombonist, writer arranger, Chris Stover. She has conducted vocal jazz clinics at universities and high schools including Central Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, Roosevelt High School in Seattle and the University of Alaska.

Throughout her career she has composed her own material and has co-authored songs with her husband, Jay Thomas.  She has credits as a lyricist having written text for Richie Beirach, Bernie Senensky (Canadian pianist), Danny Embry (guitarist) and Jack Van Poll (Dutch pianist). She continues to perform, record and tour. She won Seattle's Earshot Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award in 2001. In 2002 she was named by the Washington State Business Women of Color Hispanic Woman of the Year in the Arts for her achievements as a jazz vocalist. Her most recent Japanese tour was in summer of 2002 where she played the Miyazaki Jazz Festival and sang in jazz clubs and larger performance spaces throughout Kyushu, in Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Nagoya. She continues to perform in the Seattle area at well-known venues like Tula's, the New Orleans Jazz Restaurant and Patty Summer's Cabaret.

She is currently engaged as a lyricist and is slated for a new recording in Los Angeles with Bill Cunliffe (pianist, arranger) sometime in 2004.

Recordings:
Hide and Seek (1991); Song For Rita (2000); If You Could Seem Me Now (2001)
As sideperson:
Stash Sampler (1987); Jay Thomas: Easy Does It (1987); Seattle's Best New Brew (1996); Jay Thomas: Blues for McVouty (1997); Randy Halberstadt: Clockwork (1998); Cynthia Mullis: Inside Job (2002)

Television broadcasts:
Seattle Today Show, Channel 5 King TV, 1998; Music Magic Show, Channel 5 King TV, 1980; Mt. St. Helens Documentary, Channel 5 King TV, 1980

Radio broadcasts:
Jim Wilke Show, Jazz Northwest host, 1991

Bibliography:
Jazz Times, March 2002 Issue
Seattle Post Intellegencer, What's Happening, April1991
L. A. Jazz Weekly, Issue 51, November 1991
Earshot Jazz, Vol. 7, No. 4, March 1991
Jazz Times, September 1991 Issue

Contact information:
beccaduranjazz@comcast.net
beccaduran.com
Phone: 206-548-9439

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