Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, GABRIELA MARTINA spent her childhood in a bucolic idyll, amidst a family dairy farm surrounded by orchards. The third of four children in a tight-knit working class family, she grew up in a highly musical environment. At the age of five, she discovered her passion for singing while yodeling with her family’s traditional Swiss group.
Thriving during her two years at Berklee College of Music, she had the opportunity to perform and collaborate with heavyweights like Meshell Ndegeocello, Jack DeJohnette, and Angelique Kidjo. She recorded with veteran drummer J.R. Robinson and performed at 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival with guitarist Lee Ritenour’s band as a semi-finalist in the Shure Voice Competition.
More than a singer/songwriter, Martina is also a savvy bandleader who has attracted a core band featuring some of Boston’s finest players. A working ensemble for about four years, her group’s dynamic depends upon the improvisational skills of her players, who have considerable room to stretch out on many arrangements. And while she is deeply informed by jazz, having immersed herself in the music of Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Dianne Reeves, she is also inspired by artists like The Roots, D’Angelo, Incognito, Cinematic Orchestra and Björk.
Martina released a critically hailed EP in 2010, Curiosity, which included her original song “Ain’t Nobody”, a finalist in the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards 2012. Performing around US East Coast and beyond, she honed her original repertoire with her band at clubs around the region.
In the end Martina isn’t that concerned about whether people call her a jazz singer, but she’s not motivated to embrace the label for herself. As a category jazz may not be a perfect fit, but with her strikingly original sound and potent improvisational imagination, Martina embodies the restless quest at the music’s center. Her upcoming album No White Shoes, slated for release in spring 2015, represents a major step in the singer’s sojourn as a 21st century musician exploring an array of influences, styles and issues, a journey that’s intoxicating and utterly unpredictable.