Fri., 9/2 • Brooklyn Arts Center
Doors 6:30 p.m. • Show 7:30 p.m.
$20 • www.brooklynartsnc.com
Kim Pacheco first learned to sing when she was 3 years old. Each afternoon, her older brother returned home from Roland-Grise Middle School where he participated in glee club. Placing his sister and their other brother on their grandmother’s steps, he taught them the songs he learned at school. Filling the roles of tenor, alto and soprano, the three children offered their voices up to the tops of the Wilmington pines. Literally, he told them to sing to the trees.
As time went on, Pacheco grew from singing on the stoop to singing gospel with the church choir—mainly out of her grandmother’s annoyance that the three sang on her steps every day. Though her brother has since passed, he instilled in Pacheco a desire to give her talent to the world.
Today she is internationally renowned, performing with a 4.5-octave range from North America to Europe. She believes jazz, her genre of choice, means “permission,” and it is why she is so attracted to it.
“There are no rules in jazz music,” Pacheco expresses. “When people say they ‘jazzed’ something up, they mean they added a sprinkle of something different. When a composer writes a song, it is his original idea, but he is giving you permission to see where it goes from there.”
With her team of instrumentalists, she has been known to cover country songs from Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Conway Twitty and Garth Brooks, tossing in a dash of canorous flair. Pacheco also performs tunes from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and fun musicals.
“We are like kids in a playground,” she says. “There’s the slide, the monkey bars, the sandbox—but no one’s taught us how we’re supposed to use those things. Everybody’s creating something new. We’re allowed to be free.”
It makes sense that an artist who adores the imaginitive nature of her genre would dabble in similar activities. Before she began touring the world, she was an actress in the port city. From theatrical productions (usually of the musical kind) to filming major motion pictures in the early ‘90s, she built quite a résumé in this town.
“I am the type of person allergic to structure,” Pacheco explains. “I respect order, but liberty and freedom appeal to me. There is so much permisson in theatre. The actor can choose to perform in any way; it’s random at will. I respect the fact that a playwright would release that much permission to a character.”
Actually, it was acting that Pacheco pursued first, which led her to a run-in with an experienced musician. “One day on the set of a movie, while waiting around between scenes, Taj Mahal was picking his guitar,” she recalls. “He approached me and said, ‘Hey you! Sing something.’”
With a laugh she explains her naïveté—she had no idea he was a major blues artist, a legend even. “I started singing ‘Summertime’ [ed. note: of George Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald fame],” she continues. “We were just playing around, but he said, ‘You should do this.’ Over the course of time, [singing professionally] just naturally floated into my life.”
Thus, she has now sung within Belgian churches, British Columbian music halls and many venues in between. Still, she’s humble about her international fame. In Victoria, BC, listeners are wildly receptive to her music, along with that of her pianist Richard White.
“The audience understands and appreciates what jazz music lent to America,” she says. “When we look out, people are sitting with their heads down, some even crying. When it is done, they walk away. But we know that for some short time, time stopped for them. I just want to celebrate the world through music and give people a small amount of themselves back.”
A spiritual woman, Pacheco places faith in the actions of the universe. She often says it takes people where they can do the most good at that time. As naturally as performing fell into her lap, it brings her back to her roots to sing once more.
“This is my home,” she says of Wilmington. “There is something about being received in a place that’s your own. The Bible says a hero is not honored in his own hometown. But it is honorable to bring me back home so I can celebrate what this city gave me.”