In memory of Cynthia Layne, leading Indy vocalists offer tribute

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Jazz vocalist Cynthia Layne, a staple at Indianapolis clubs and events, died on Sunday, Jan. 18 at age 51.

In tribute, I asked some of Indianapolis’ other leading female vocalists to offer their thoughts.

“I thought she had beat it,” said Stacie Sandoval. “I really admired her singing and I would go see her at Tastings because it was very casual and she would come and hang out with me on her break. She was such a warm person and always sang with such feeling and warmth. I love how she effortlessly switched from low to high notes.”

“One night last year she had a performance at The Cabaret,” recalled Shannon Forsell. “She had just completed a round of chemo treatments and I could tell that she was not feeling well and she was very weak. I remember thinking there was no way she was going to be able to perform that evening and anyone else would have cancelled the performance. When the lights went up and she stepped on the stage not one person in the room would ever know she was sick. She sang with as much strength and power.”   

“I was awe-inspired by Cynthia's incredible talent and by her vibrant spirit,” Forsell added. “I always stood amazed at her ability to so freely and openly express her soul both on and off the stage. Her ability to improvise vocally was unparalleled.  I remember sitting in the Jazz Kitchen watching her improvise ‘Summertime’ and thinking ‘Wow. It just doesn't get any better than that…’”  

“When I first moved to Indianapolis looking to kickstart my music career, I spent a lot of time researching the artists who were working in town at the time. At every turn, Cynthia Layne was the woman of the hour,” said Heather Ramsey Clark. “Her legendary reputation didn't even do justice to her incredible talent, and in meeting her in person, I found her to be just as kind, outgoing, driven and charismatic as she was on stage.”

“I was walking to a meeting in downtown Carmel one weekend this past summer when I heard her improvising with her band at Jazz on the Monon, and I just had to stop for several minutes and enjoy hearing (and seeing!) the power she brought to the stage,” Clark added. “She could turn a phrase in a hundred ways, bring honesty to a moment like no other singer I've heard in town, give her all at every single show, and have the audience in the palm of her hand every single time.  They loved her, and you could tell she loved them  and loved what she was doing. There is no better life lived than that, musically or otherwise, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to witness her talent in person.”

“Beautiful and talented,” said Brenda Williams. “A lady with a heart of gold who gave so much of herself to others and asked nothing in return. We all should bare a light so bright that it will shine for some time to come. [She was] an incredible personality—always joking with me. I use to end many of my performances: ‘If you liked my show my name is Brenda Williams; if you didn't, I'm Cynthia Layne!’ She loved it. I loved her.”

Feel free to add your thoughts below.

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