The musical journey that brings singer Halie Loren to Corvallis tonight started in Alaska, as a curious young Loren pored through her mother’s album collection.
Geographically isolated as she was from the currents of the day’s pop music, Loren formed an early attachment to her mother’s jazz and blues records.
“I sort of developed my own musical tastes,” Loren said in a recent interview with the Entertainer. “I didn’t know anything about genres. I just knew what I liked.”
On Friday, March 9, Loren and her band perform a bunch of songs that she likes — including some she wrote — in a concert with the Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra. It’s a benefit for the Symphony Society’s Student Musician Scholarship Fund, which supports OSU students who play in the orchestra.
The first big musical influences for the 10-year-old Loren were artists such as Diana Krall, Etta James and Nat “King” Cole. It helped, she said, that “I had a really low voice for a child.“
Other influences followed when Loren moved to Corvallis, where she attended Cheldelin Middle School and both Corvallis high schools: Artists like Fiona Apple, Sarah MacLachlan and Tori Amos opened her eyes and ears to the music being made by smart and independent female songwriters.
Now 27 and based in Eugene, the self-described “Northwest geek” has four jazz albums to her credit; the fourth, “Heart First,” was released just this week in the United States. It’s been out in Asia for weeks now, and Loren and her group are just back from an Asian tour, where they drew sold-out audiences.
For Friday’s concert, mid-valley jazz musician Rob Birdwell again takes to the podium to conduct the orchestra. Birdwell handled the conducting duties last year for the orchestra’s dates with trumpeter Chris Botti.
Playing alongside the orchestra will be Loren’s core band: Musical director and pianist Matt Treder, who wrote many of the orchestral arrangements for this concert; bassist Mark Schneider; and drummer Brian West. Jazz guitarist William Seiji Marsh will sit in with the band on Friday night.
In concert, expect Loren to mix it up: A third of the program will be original material, she said, including tracks from “Heart First.” She’ll also cover her share of jazz standards.
And she plans to perform some songs that have been featured on previous CDs — pop songs in jazzy arrangements, such as the Procol Harum warhorse “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” That song, Loren said, “makes for a great jazz and classical marriage.“
Meanwhile, Loren is charting the next steps in her musical journey. She’s intent on staying in the Northwest, and has little patience for people who advise her to move to New York or Los Angeles or some other bigger city in search of that big break.
“I’m kind of already making a go of it in my own way,” she said. “I want to be based in a place where I’m comfortable and happy.”
“It’s good to go where you feel is home. Where you feel like you can be yourself.”