San Francisco Culture & Events: Examiner.com

By Kenneth Fish

 

Here is an event that is not to be missed. Picture it: An intimate setting at a riverside music club located in the heart of downtown Napa, a tasty array of finger-foods to share with your friends, and a fantastic selection of wines, beers and cocktails to get you in the mood for an unforgettable time watching a fabulous cabaret performer sing her heart out for you.

 

Kellie and Mike have been performing together for years, and the energy they have on stage is fun and infectious, drawing crowds from all over the Bay Area to be as much a part of the show as they are spectators. The sense of kinship between Kellie and Mike makes every member of the audience feel like they are part of something really special, and they are.
When the charming Kellie Fuller sings, it is as if she is singing to you and only you. Whether she is singing a Judy Garland tune or a Pop song from the 80s, she brings to the music a sense of style and passion that is uniquely Kellie. Her delivery is like a warm embrace.
Pianist Mike Greensill, well known in his role as a musical director, specially arranged the evening’s music to suit Kellie’s soulful voice and tremendous range. This night of beloved songs and hidden gems is sure to have a little something for everyone.

Kellie Fuller brings romantic tunes to Silo's

Richard Freedman, Vallejo Times Herald

Compared to Kellie Fuller, Pope Francis is a hermit, Chris Rock is bashful, and Donald Trump is a recluse.

And, apparently, it’s never been a family secret for the Vallejo-born Napa resident, who chucked a radio broadcasting career for her lifetime passion of singing.

 

“My mother tells me that when I could barely walk, if she didn’t keep a close eye on me in the grocery store, I’d be gone and she’d find me talking to someone,” Fuller said. “I’d always feel comfortable around people.”

Which, of course, bodes well for someone putting herself up there on stage, which Fuller does with pianist Mike Greensill with two Valentine’s shows Feb. 13 at Silo’s in Napa.

 

It’s familiar surroundings, sure, but it doesn’t matter, Fuller says.

“It sounds really hippy, but all human beings are basically alike,” Fuller continued. “Happiness is happiness. Sadness is sadness.”

 

And when she sings, “I’m taking you on a journey with songs that make you laugh, make you cry, whether I know everybody in the audience or nobody in the audience.”

 

It’s been three years since Fuller shelved “Kellie in the Morning” at KVYN in Napa, returning to her love of music, which was put in deep freeze to raise two kids.

 

“It was hard to give up the radio show but I needed to follow my passion,” Fuller said.

 

Admittedly “not a morning girl,” Fuller conducted a 40-minute phone interview from her bed early Monday. Rising every day for her radio gig “was really rough,” she said. “I had to give up my nights. I had to go to bed at 9 p.m. every night. I couldn’t function otherwise. I’ve always been a night owl and would stay up really late, which works best for a music career.”

 

Fuller figured she hasn’t had anything close to a 9-to-5 job since her days right after Vintage High School working hotel hospitality.

 

Music, however, was always there. One time she switched shifts just saw she could assist the late crooner, Mel Torme.

 

“I really wanted to meet him,” Fuller said, with a “bucket list” that includes exchanging pleasantries with Barbra Streisand, Carole King, and Chaka Khan, adding that she plans on seeing Stevie Wonder’s “first song until his last” at the 2016 BottleRock Napa Valley music festival in May.

“I’m not missing that,” she said.

 

Fuller would also never miss a chance at performing with Greensill, one of her inspirations after returning to music with her kids now in their late teens.

 

It was Greensill and vocalist Wesla Whitfield who offered the best musical advice, Fuller said.

“They worked with me on how to put together a show,” Fuller said, also giving a tip of the cap to performer Terry Bradford “for also being instrumental” in re-launching her music career.

 

What has changed during Fuller’s musical hiatus is promoting a show, she said.

“Getting people out is a challenge. We’re in a digital age of the computer, Netflix, the phone. It’s a little scary” with the entertainment competition, she said.

 

“It’s hard to make a living if you own a venue and hard to get people to come out,” Fuller said. “It’s a challenge to figure out what people want to see. I just do what I love and hopefully that will make it work financially for everybody.”

 

Fuller figured she’s probably done 50 shows with Greensill, a familiar face at Silo’s and other area venues.

“We think a lot alike,” Fuller said. “Not every piano player or accompanist knows how to support a vocalist.”

Greensill excels at that, Fuller said, as does Vallejo’s Wayne De La Cruz, who will jump behind the classic Hammond B3 organ soon to do an R&B and funk recording with Fuller.

 

“He’s a musical genius,” Fuller said. “Music just comes to him. And he’s thoughtful.”

Fuller, saying she gets back to Vallejo when she can — “I love Vallejo,” she said — left the city with her family for Napa when she was 9. Her grandmother ran La Petite Beauty Shop here and her uncle Pete Lofas operated The Food Basket.

 

“I would love to start being involved in the music scene in Vallejo,” said Fuller.

For now, she’s focused on the Valentine’s weekend shows — “Vamp!” — with Greensill.

“It’s paying homage to the vamp of yesterday,” Fuller said, bringing tunes noted as “sexy, romantic and beautiful. Some are funny and light-hearted. It’s a little bit of everything.”

 

Though it’s Valentine’s, it’s far from a “couples only” evening out, Fuller noted.

“It’s a show for everyone,” she said.

Kellie Fuller and Mike Greensill in a Valentine’s Show, “Vamp!” at Silo’s, Sat., Feb. 13, 530 Main St., Napa, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets $20. For information, silosnapa.com or (707) 251-5833.

 

"Too Darn Hot" Kellie Fuller celebrates her debut album at Silo's

David Kerns, Napa Valley Register

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Napa jazz vocalist Kellie Fuller is celebrating the release of her debut CD, “Too Darn Hot,” Saturday night at Silo’s. She will be performing with veteran pianist Mike Greensill, who arranged and produced the album.

Fuller is no stranger to locals. You might know her from her school days at Vintage High or Napa Valley College, or from her former radio show, “Kellie in the Morning.” You might even know her from her work as a doula and childbirth educator. These days, the energetic townie is focused on the fulfillment of her long-delayed, lifelong dream — a professional singing career.

“As a little girl I knew I was meant to be a singer,” Fuller said. “When I was in second grade the teacher said, ‘Draw a picture of what you’re going to be when you grow up,’ and I drew a picture of me standing on a stage with a microphone. Now my kids are almost adults, my daughter is 18, and it’s my dream. It’s been a long, hard road but it’s finally here.”

Fuller credits Greensill and his wife and musical partner, well-known jazz singer Wesla Whitfield, for inspiration and guidance. “Mike and Wesla have mentored me,” Fuller said. “I met them serendipitously, actually had them on my radio show about five years ago. From there I showed up to watch Mike play and he invited me to sing. I did two or three songs and he said we should work together sometime. I think I emailed him the next day.

“Mike and Wesla started coaching me. I knew a lot of The Great American Songbook, but I was only touching the tip of the iceberg. They introduced me to all kinds of songs and then Mike started making my charts. He would arrange the song, ‘Let’s try it like this, try it like that,’ to make it mine. And Wesla helped me find my authentic voice. I was imitating other vocalists a bit, whether it was Doris Day or whomever, and Wesla said ‘I don’t think that’s really you. Let’s find out who you are.’”

Greensill agreed. “I think everyone, when they start out, is obviously influenced by the people that they’re keen on,” he said. “We’re always very big on sending people to the sheet music. The bad thing about the oral tradition is that people learn songs from singers and they alter them and you get further and further away from the composer’s intent.

“We’re sort of sticklers,” he added. “Go to the sheet music, find out what the song really is. When you’ve learned it like that, then you can mess with it. It’s not like we’re purists and you can’t mess with a song. But you need to know what you’re messing with.”

Fuller said that Greensill’s approach has been invaluable. “It has really helped to learn the songs off the page. If you listen to a record, the artist is doing it their own way, and you tend to memorize it and sing it that same way. Now I do my own phrasing and sing the notes that I want to sing.

“I’ve learned that my authentic voice is pretty true to the music,” she said, “not exactly what’s on the page but pretty close. I like to change up the songs a little bit, maybe the tempo or where the bridge comes in or how we start or how we end. So a little bit of Doris Day is in there and little bit of Gladys Knight, too, but it’s molded together to make it me.”

The album, “Too Darn Hot,” is a collection of 10 songs, from composers as traditional as Fats Waller, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen to the more contemporary music of Carole King, Leon Russell, Paul Simon and Burt Bacharach. Recorded in Sebastapol and Marin, Fuller is accompanied by Greensill on piano, John Wiitala on bass, Vince Lateano on drums and Mads Tolling on violin.

Fuller hopes that the CD will create new opportunities for her. “I’d like to get on jazz radio,” she said. “I would like to play jazz festivals, I want to do a Pacific Northwest tour this summer, and one of my biggest dreams is to play on a jazz cruise.

“But I believe that whatever happens, I’m always going to be able to sing. So whether it’s just for charity or in retirement homes bringing joy to those people, or if I get to do the jazz cruise or the festivals, it’s all good. I’m blessed no matter what.”

At Silo’s, Fuller will be performing with Greensill on piano, Carla Kaufman on bass and Bob Blankenship on drums. “It’s a party,” the singer said. “Everyone’s invited to don their finest duds from their favorite era.” 

 

For the Love of Singing: Fuller's Career Strives for a Higher Note

Evy Warshawski, Napa Valley Register

 

 

Kellie Fuller’s ever-cheerful voice never sounded tired in the mornings, despite her need to rise by 5 a.m. each weekday to host “Kellie in the Morning,” the popular 6 to 10 a.m. radio program on 99.3 The Vine/1440 KVON.

Five years and “circles under my eyes” later, Fuller is eagerly anticipating time to catch up on sleep and expand her professional singing career.

Becoming a radio personality was, she admits, a lucky accident. Making it as a jazz singer, however, has always remained at the heart of her wish list.

“My mom says I was singing before I could walk,” Fuller noted, “and my dad’s band rehearsed in our garage since I was in the womb. I knew all the top 40 songs, and as I got older, I sang in church and took any music classes possible in school. We didn’t have much money, so I always did what I could to sing or play an instrument.”

That instrument is now her voice, which she hopes will land her an agent and secure touring dates that include Bay Area venues, private parties, appearances in regional presenting series and a CD — or three.

Fuller’s musical journey has encompassed a road filled with focus and determination. At Vintage High, she earned a spot in the Vocal Music Workshop and was taken under wing by its director, Kathy Blumer.

“She gave me her own extra time to coach me in singing,” said Fuller. “She believed in my ability to make it my career, and that meant so much. It still does!”

At 18, Fuller won scholarship pageants to pay her way through Napa Valley College where she majored in humanities and fine arts. “I won enough to pay for college and take private voice lessons,” Fuller explained, “and I ended up studying opera and classical voice with William Gorton for seven years.”

Other mentors along the way have included blues guitarist/singer Jan Tangen, singers Terry Bradford and Wesla Whitfield.

A busy mother to son Adam, 13 and daughter Alex, 16, and wife of public relations specialist Tom Fuller, the always-effervescent songstress is familiar with the local performing arts scene.

You might catch Fuller’s gigs at Silo’s in downtown Napa where she often sells out evening-length shows, accompanied by celebrated pianist/arranger (and mentor) Mike Greensill and his trio. Kenneth Fish in Examiner.comdescribed Fuller’s show as “charming” and that she brought to the music “a sense of style and passion” with her delivery “like a warm embrace.”

She’s also a featured artist at events throughout Napa Valley and recently opened for vocal quartet Manhattan Transfer at the Uptown Theatre.

And, for an evening of pure nostalgia, you might catch Fuller with her dad and uncle in a band called “Familiar Soul,” a musical revue featuring rhythm and blues, soul artists and bands from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

At center stage, Fuller’s favorite repertoire includes jazz standards made famous by idols such as Barbra Streisand, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Marilyn Maye and Ella Fitzgerald.

“They sing timeless songs that span decades, and the classics never go out of style,” Fuller said. “Think of songs made famous by Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee. I also like to mix it up so that someone not familiar with the Great American Songbook will also hear songs they know. And maybe they will get turned on to some of the older classics, too.”

Does she miss being the “voice” of morning radio?

“The very best thing was getting to make a positive difference in the community — it meant everything to me,” Fuller said. “I was allowed to cover a wide range of topics, and it was a great joy to highlight so many incredible people in our community. And, I learned to be a better listener. Now when I meet someone, I can’t wait to ask what makes them tick, or what wonderful stories they might have tucked away.”

As Fuller embarks on her “day job,” she’s setting in motion the business of the music business: creating a new website; researching agents; re-vitalizing a lapsed exercise program; working with fashion consultant (daughter Alex) on new outfits; and, when the house is quiet, practicing scales and singing opera in the shower.

“The business can be a challenge,” Fuller admits. “It’s not necessarily easy to get people to step away from computers and televisions to see live entertainment.”

“The best part of singing for me is that it is such a joyful thing to do,” Fuller said. “That joy spills over onto others, whether I am singing to the residents of retirement homes or on the stage of the Uptown Theatre, it’s just pure love for me.”

 

Well known Napan show club crowd playful musical side

L. Pierce Carson, Napa Valley Register

 

Those of us addicted to morning radio wake up with Kellie Fuller every workday.

Once the sun goes down, however, there’s a lot more to this Napa mother of two than “Kellie in the Morning.”

Fuller loves to sing and, in recent years, has hooked up with pianist/arranger par excellence Mike Greensill to help realize her songbird dream.

Last Saturday night, the statuesque Napa chanteuse enchanted a goodly crowd at Silo’s Napa, the night spot in the Napa Mill complex at the foot of Main Street.

Fuller presented a two-set show titled “Any Place I Hang My Hat,” which she told her audience referenced her taste in music — a palate that savors Tin Pan Alley tunes written throughout the 20th century, from the teens to the 1990s.

Fuller used her warm, inviting alto voice to welcome listeners with the theme song, “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home,” the enduring Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen tune from their post-World War II Broadway show, “St. Louis Woman.”

The love affair continued as the headliner displayed her sunny disposition on the Peggy Lee tune, “It’s A Good Day” (which the celebrated singer wrote with her first husband, Dave Barbour, guitarist with the Benny Goodman band), a good choice as she took off on her journey across musical meantime.

Looking like a model set to prance down a catwalk, Fuller demonstrated to her audience that she is a woman of many moods and many persuasions.

There was the sassy Kellie, tucking into the artfully crafted Greensill bossa nova arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “One Note Samba.” We also got to know Kellie, the sex kitten, as she slinked, in her stylish black cocktail dress and dangly earrings, atop the polished Steinway to purr, “Daddy,” a hit song from the early ’40s written by Bobby Troup and made popular by the Andrews Sisters.

She slid comfortably into the urban sophisticate for “Look at Me Now,” and introduced Kellie the entertainer with the Gershwin brothers triumph, “I Got Rhythm.”

But it was the vulnerable, lovelorn woman who tugged at our heartstrings with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “A House is Not a Home.” It was a brilliant rendition of the Dionne Warwick hit from 1964, thanks, in part, to the gorgeous arrangement from pianist Greensill. Fuller should include this song in every show she does.

We also enjoyed Kellie the Broadway belter (“On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”), Kellie the Hipster (“Route 66”), Kellie the Cynic (“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”), as well as Kellie the Mystic — here delivering Nat King Cole’s celebrated hit, “Nature Boy,” again a song she captures beautifully in a understated Greensill orchestration.

Greensill and a first-rate rhythm section — Carla Kaufman on bass and Tom Hayashi on drums — opened both sets with some tasty jazz. The trio kicked off the evening with “Love Letters,” a 1945 hit for Dick Haymes that enjoyed a Top 10 revival by Ketty Lester in the early ’60s, and gave us a delicious jazzy waltz arrangement of the title song from Cy Coleman’s “I Love My Wife,” a musical that spoofed the sexual revolution of the ’70s.

It was a night for music lovers to treasure. Here was a young woman who loves to entertain, who loves to sing all types of music and, as we all learned, does it very well. Fuller filled Silo’s with wonderful music. What’s more, she sparkled.

In her opening number, Fuller said:

“I'm going where a welcome mat is, No matter where that is, 'Cause any place I hang my hat is home.”

I’m sure fans have spread the welcome mat from Highway 29 to Silverado Trail by now. And that hatrack is just inside the front door of her Napa home. I know ... I checked. She’s ours.

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