Detroit is a city that has a rich musical history, filled with powerful voices from a variety of genres. The legacy created here does not end with Motown, as a new era of talented musicians are producing the kind of noise to make you stop and take a listen.
Not just a jazz artist, vocalist Isis Damil is making a name for herself in Detroit. This young treasure got her start sitting in with her father (and jazz great), Zion Yisrael, at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe. He was so impressed that he helped Damil secure her first real gig playing at the legendary Baker’s Keyboard Lounge every Tuesday.
Four years later, Damil hosts the only lunchtime jazz session at Baker’s every Tuesday from 12 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. with Yisrael, her mother Mecca Lathan, and uncle Alexander “AB” Brooks, gracing the very stage on which musical giants Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan and many other notable jazz musicians performed.
Although music clearly runs in her blood, Damil was not always certain about her path as an artist. Being the child of two talented jazz musicians proved to be very intimidating. But the quest to find her true passion continuously lead her right back to music. Damil eventually stopped running and embraced her true calling. Influenced by the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Sarah Vaughan, Chaka Khan and jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy, Damil has found a sound that is her very own.
At the age of just 26, Damil has surprised mature jazz enthusiasts with her mastery of the art. However, it is Damil’s intention to introduce the younger generation to jazz, citing the genre as the foundation of popular music. Damil wants youth to see the value in using real instruments, as live music provides the listener with a different reaction that just cannot be achieved by music created using today’s technology.
“There’s nothing wrong with using technology,” Damil says, “but it’s OK to use real instruments.”
Damil has showcased her vocal stylings all over the metro Detroit area, performing at Bert’s Warehouse Theatre, Willis Village Block Party, Aloft Detroit Hotel, Campus Martius Park, Grand Circus Park, Arts Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, as well as Small’s in Hamtramck and Cleopatra’s Needle in New York City. Damil plans to eventually tour globally, and looks forward to sharing her music with people from all over the world, but Detroit will always be home.
A native, Damil says that being from Detroit gives her a “raw and gritty edge that is distinctive to the city even though the music is smooth.” She also cites Detroit as “the spirit and soul behind her music.”
Damil’s debut studio album, “Higher Standards,” was released in 2015. It’s a jazz-filled project featuring popular standards along with some original material. Now, Damil is gearing up to release her second studio album, “Civil Love.” The album has seven original songs, which gave the mezzo-soprano an opportunity to get creative musically and try some new things. A mixture of fusion, jazz, funk, neo soul and R&B, Damil even tests the waters by rapping on one of the tracks, proving that she is much more than just a jazz singer.
Her single from the new album, “I Love You,” is available now on iTunes.