HER PARENTS MUST HAVE BEEN PSYCHIC. Named after the patron saint of the throat, Blaise Lantana has been lending her silky smooth vocal chords to the Valley’s airwaves on KJZZ, 91.5 FM, for the past 22 years. As music director and host, Lantana compiles five hours’ worth of jazz and blues Monday through Friday nights but still has enough energy to perform her own songs at gigs around town. The fiery redhead says she’s sometimes recognized at the grocery store by her distinctive alto – “People will say, ‘I’ve always wondered what you look like,’ and I’ll go, ‘I’m younger and taller on the air!’”
SO YOU WERE DESTINED TO BE A MUSICAL SOUL?
My father was a singer, we had music in the house growing up. I was in band and choir since I started school… I dropped out of college to hitchhike around the country and sing songs. Then I moved to Florida. In St. Petersburg. That’s where the circus winters – so Barnum & Bailey all over the place. I get a job in a nightclub and I sing Billie Holiday songs with an organ duo on this big beautiful stage and they start adding these [circus] acts to the show. I come out and do a song, and then the circus dogs [perform], and then I come back and then the leopards.
AFTER THAT YOU MOVED TO TEXAS AND GOT A JOB AS A RADIO ANNOUNCER FOR KEDT IN CORPUS CHRISTI, WHERE YOU SAY YOU GOT SOBER. WAS THE GOAL, THOUGH, TO BE A FULL-TIME MUSICIAN?
It’s a hard life. You get to experience these incredible highs. It’s so exciting and mentally stimulating and emotionally stimulating, which is why everybody wants to be a rock star. But with that experience, you come home and, if you’re a regular working musician, it’s 1 a.m. and you’re alone. You’re on the road alone and pretty soon you’re drinking and drugging… You have nobody to share it with.
WE’VE ALL HEARD OF THE NASH FOR LIVE JAZZ, BUT WHAT ELSE DOES PHOENIX HAVE TO OFFER? which other venues do YOU RECOMMEND?
• The MIM [Musical Instrument Museum] brings in a lot of national acts.
• Opa Life Greek Café [in Tempe], where I play once a month, they play jazz a couple times a month.
• Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse [inside the Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ] does jazz every Thursday.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT ON THE AIR CHATTING WITH JAZZ MUSICIANS OR SINGING Jazz and Blues around the Valley?
Hike. I walk around Kiwanis [Park, in Tempe] and I hear so much. If you go walk around Kiwanis on a weekend, you’ll hear the ducks, you hear the different music of parties – you might hear a Latin radio station or you might hear hip-hop. And then you go down by the water and the fishermen have on Vietnamese music or a sports channel. I hear all these different sounds.
YOU ARE SO ENCHANTED BY SOUND, BUT ALSO SENSITIVE TO IT – YOU SAID YOU PLUG YOUR EARS AT BLARING POP MUSIC AT THE MALL. DO YOU EVER CRAVE SILENCE?
Well, I work here. See how silent it is! But I like the music, and I get to pick the music, so that’s cool. I have a great job. What a perfect job for me!
YOU’RE BELOVED BY VALLEY JAZZ FANS FOR YOUR SMOOTH VOICE AND ECLECTIC SET LISTS. WHAT IS THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED ON YOUR RADIO STYLINGS?
It wasn’t on my music choice. But people saying, “You know, I heard you on the radio the other night and I just really enjoy hearing your voice. It sounds warm and friendly, and I don’t feel so alone.” That’s probably the best thing [to hear] because I know what it’s like being alone in the night. I really love that I can bring that warmth to the loneliness of the night.