Cameroon RPCV raising cain in a sultry way

August 24th, 2009 by admin

Cindy cain0823

Tulsa World Business Editor
Sunday, August 23, 2009

When Cindy Cain steps up to the mike, temperatures rise.

The Tulsa singer’s stock in trade is the sensual side of jazz, whether wrapping her husky voice around standards such as “Make Love to Me,” “The Man I Love” and “Something Cool,” or leading a spirited call-and-response on the chorus of the jump-blues “Banana Tree.”

Even in that last tune, which Cain wrote, it doesn’t take long to grasp that the object of her desire has an appeal that’s far beyond agriculture.

Those four songs are among the standouts on Cain’s new album, “Rhythm & Romance,” recorded live last spring in the Primo Room at Brookside’s Ciao restaurant. Cain will hold a release party for the CD there Saturday night.

“I guess there can’t be any harm in being perceived as sexy or sultry,” Cain said with a chuckle during an interview. “But, really, the songs on this record are mainly those done by singers whose voices I’m attracted to.”

Cain quickly names Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae as three jazz legends at the top of her list.

Like those vocalists, Cain has an impressive range and power to spare. Another trait the local artist shares with them is she goes full-throttle only when it serves the song. Otherwise, she focuses on such increasingly rare skills as nuance and phrasing.

Cain, who was born in New Mexico but grew up in Pryor, has built an impressive resume. She has a roomful of awards, many earned during years spent performing professionally in Washington, D.C.

The singer decided to return to Tulsa in 2001 after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that involves the central nervous system.

“I didn’t know what trajectory it would take, so I decided to move back home,” she said.

Until now, she hasn’t spoken publicly about the MS. Apart from sapping her energy from time to time, however, the ailment has proved to be manageable. One only has to look at the 50-year-old Cain’s hectic schedule this year to see that’s true.

Along with four months of pre- and post-production on “Rhythm & Romance,” she gigged steadily with a blues band and had one of the lead roles in the SummerStage production “Onstage at the Midnight Social Club,” along with fellow jazz divas Pam Van Dyke Crosby, Rebecca Ungerman and Annie Ellicott.

And, like many musicians, Cain holds down a day job. She handles marketing and public relations for an area telecommunications firm.

Cain’s dual careers are the product of an adventurous streak that started after her graduation from Oklahoma State University in 1983.

She initially spent a few years as a newspaper reporter. Tiring of the crime beat, she volunteered for the Peace Corps and taught English in a government school in Cameroon. That’s when she began to dabble in music, performing in a restaurant for food and drinks.

“I had these cassette tapes that I had stolen from my mother,” Cain remembers. “‘Make Love to Me’ was on one of those tapes. That’s how long I’ve been singing that song.”

In 1989, Cain moved to Washington, D.C., to work as press secretary for U.S. Rep. Dave McCurdy. Her growing love for jazz and blues took her to the area’s many clubs, first to sing for fun and later full-time after McCurdy lost an election.

“From 1995 to 2000, I played about 140 shows a year,” she said. “It was hard work. I had to make about 20 phone calls to get each gig, and I needed 20 gigs a month to make a living.”

During that time, she put together a demo tape, which remains unreleased, and recorded her first album — a rhythm-and-blues-oriented collection called “Love Contest.” That 1998 CD still is for sale on

After returning to Tulsa, her mother took her to Tulsa Jazz Society events, and Cain quickly found her niche on the local scene.

With a weekly shot keeping her MS in check, Cain hasn’t lost her restless nature. Over the past few years, she has maintained a calendar of steady jazz gigs and also can be heard playing cabaret, blues or country-roots as the mood strikes her.

She even recorded an album of original, Americana-flavored songs in 2006. The disk, “In Your Impala,” didn’t stray far from the Cain template, with the cover depicting the bare-shouldered singer canoodling with an admirer in a drop-top version of the title automobile.

For the next few months, however, Cain plans to focus on jazz. After all, she’s got a new record to promote.

“Eventually, I want to get the songs from ‘Rhythm & Romance’ on iTunes and (online retailer) CD Baby,” she said. “The record will be in some local stores as well.”

Until then, your best chance to grab a copy is at a live performance, such as Cain’s show Saturday at Ciao.

Be sure to get plenty of ice in your drink, however. The room is about to heat up.

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