Even as they sit around the kitchen table practising songs for an upcoming concert, there’s laughter in their voices. In mid-song, one of the four women gives a knowing nod to the other ladies. Huge smiles spread across their faces, but they never drop a note.
These women are the Satin Dolls, an all-female vocal jazz quartet. The group consists of Ilana Waldston, Donna Green, Liz Tansey — all of whom live in East York — and Karen Bell.
No one doubts that these women love what they are doing.
“This is why we all do it, right? We love the music, we love making the audience happy,” Waldston said. “There is nothing like creating harmony with other voices.”
The four women contribute not only the power of their voices but also the strength of their friendship to the success of the group.
“We all got along really well,” Waldston said. “The hardest part was actually buckling down to singing, as opposed to chatting and yakking and laughing and eating.”
According to Waldston, this combination of friendship and music helps to create a better show.
“You can make beautiful music with people that you’re not particularly friendly with,” she said with a laugh, but “this is a different experience. This is where you are making music and you are looking across the stage at one another and going ‘Ya, that’s good, all right.’”
Three of the four women have children. They sing in other groups and meet once or twice a week for rehearsals. They work with voice coaches and choreographers. Through all this, they still find time to just enjoy the music.
“You have a full day and then we get here and we all look like the dog’s breakfast and then you start singing and it makes you feel so much better,” Bell said. “It just makes everything go away.”
The group, which has a ‘40s and ‘50s feel to it, performs for a variety of audiences — from private functions to community work, as well as their annual showcase concert.
Last spring, they had their largest show, at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.
Everyone tries to bring their personalities to the stage when performing.
“We have lived a lot and you get to a certain age where you kind of don’t really care any more. You just be yourself and you just let it hang out,” Waldston said. “Let’s do this because it’s fun, let’s let it rip and have a good time. If they love us, they love us.”
“And I think that’s what you see up there. It’s just us being us individually.”
Waldston said they always receive great reactions to their shows and they are always looking for a way to make it feel more authentic. They recently replaced their water bottles with martini glasses (but they still drink water). Bell is working on a bar made out of pizza boxes for the glasses to sit on.
“We’re all a bunch of wild and crazy gals,” Waldston said.