Rich, dulcet vocals…versatility and perseverance. This is the essence of Machan, a performer, singer and songwriter whose extraordinary talent has led her to work with some of the greatest musicians of our time.
Born in Yokohama, Japan with music in her blood, Machan’s parents met after World War II at the army base where her father was stationed. An American bred from European stock, her father met her Japanese mother at the Officer’s Club on base where she performed as a jazz singer.
Relocating with her family to Wharton, New Jersey when she was five years old, Machan was influenced by music from an early age and enjoyed performing show tunes and jazz standards with her sister. As a teenager she taught herself to play guitar and began performing original songs in coffee houses along with covers from artists like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Judy Collins. Graduating from high school at sixteen, she considered attending the Berklee College of Music, but opted instead to continue working as a nightclub singer.
At seventeen Machan became the singer for a Jersey-based band called Za Zu Zaz. A mix of swing, bebop, and jazz, the group enjoyed a huge local following, playing 5-6 nights a week at clubs throughout the New York metropolitan area. By 1979, Machan had left Za Zu Zaz to move to New York City. There, an audition for the Glenn Miller Orchestra landed her a spot on tour as a female vocalist, which she held for two years.
From there it was only a matter of time before Machan was performing backing vocals for well-known groups and artists such as Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin, and George Benson. In addition to singing backup, her chops as a lead vocalist served her well as the front woman for Hiroshima, a jazz ensemble which she appeared with from ’88-’91. After completing a tour with Sting in 2000, Machan decided to pursue her longtime goal of recording as solo artist.
Reconnecting with her love of Brazilian music, along with the early influences of 70s era singer-songwriters and her mother’s jazzy elegance, Machan began writing songs for the album that reflected these styles. With the help of various musician friends and producers including her husband Danny Louis, keyboardist for Gov’t Mule, she recorded the album in her home studio. Eponymously titled Machan, the record was released by A440 Records in 2004 and in the first month reached #35 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Jazz Charts.
In 2007, a second record deal with NuGroove Records saw the release of solo record Motion of Love which featured performances from artists such as John Medeski, John Schofield, Randy Brecker, and Danny Louis. On this record, Machan states that she “really tried to be thoughtful about including songs with different grooves and diverse subject matter to give my audience a broader sense of what I’m about, both musically and personally.” Discussing of the social commentary of the Reggae-influenced “Everyday”, Machan explains that “As I’ve gotten older, I find I can’t ignore what’s happening in the world or the way I feel about it. In order to develop as a songwriter, I want to be a person that speaks her truth.”
Following this solo record, Machan’s experience as a voice teacher earned her a film credit as the vocal coach for Vera Farmiga’s 2011 directorial debut Higher Ground, for which she also served as associate producer. Machan has also been a successful composer for film and television through Sonoton Music, a music library company she has worked with since 1995. Often collaborating with keyboardist and producer Steve Gaboury, her music has been used in such popular programs as The Oprah Winfrey Show and the film American Beauty. In addition to her work as a composer, she has lent her remarkable vocals to commercials for major brands like Toyota, Cottonele and Oil of Olay, as well as on movie soundtracks including Star Trek V, Home Alone II and Natural Born Killers.
In 2011, moved by the events of the Japan Earthquake/Tsunami, Machan produced a CD compilation for the relief efforts entitled Offerings..The Motherland Project. That was followed by a reunion with her old band mates from the group Hiroshima, to play a benefit concert at BB King’s Nightclub in NYC for the Japan relief efforts. This thread of charity work led to her contribution of producing the Hudson Valley Artists Hurricane Relief Project, a collective, digital CD featuring musicians such as Amy Helm, Medeski, Martin & Wood and Gov’t Mule, for the victims of Hurricane Irene in upstate NY.
Currently, Machan performs as a featured singer in various projects and sessions, including bands like Phelonious Phunk for which she is also the featured rhythm guitarist. Phelonious Phunk, the brain child of Machan and her husband Danny Louis, includes drummer Randy Ciarlante and bassist Charlie Kniceley. They serve up a soulful mix of good time funk to packed houses in the Ulster County area. She is also a feature vocalist in David Malakowski’s Woodstock Allstars which sometimes includes the legendary bassist Tony Levin, drummer Gary Burke and keyboardist Pete Levin.
With such a multifaceted career, Machan is the epitome of a hardworking musician whose efforts have served her well throughout her musical journey. Empowered by her role as a strong female artist, she continues to develop and expand her talent, adding more and more accomplishments to her impressive oeuvre.