BY DAVID BRENT JOHNSON
When it comes to playing music, violinist Sara Caswell and vocalist Rachel Caswell must have heard a steady call of destiny; they grew up in Bloomington with two musicologists for parents. “We were doomed,” Rachel jokes. The sisters both studied under Indiana University jazz studies leader David Baker and formed what has become a long-lasting musical collaboration, the latest result of which is their new CD, Alive in the Singing Air.
Since leaving Bloomington in 2004, Sara has steadily built a sterling reputation in the jazz world, touring with Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, recording with Grammy nominee Roseanna Vitro, and recently landing in JazzTimes magazine’s readers poll as one of the top five jazz violinists.
Rachel, meanwhile, has remained here, working at IU’s Archives of Traditional Music and teaching jazz-vocal master classes at schools and institutions across the U.S. The two sisters have continued to record and perform together, appearing on each other’s CDs (Sara’s First Song and But Beautiful, Rachel’s Some Other Time).
Their new CD is the first released under both their names, with Bloomingtonians Jeremy Allen and Bryson Kern joining on bass and drums, and features a wide-ranging mix of popular songs and jazz standards, as well as two tunes co-written by the CD’s critically renowned pianist, Fred Hersch.
Says Sara, “Fred has had a profound effect on me, not only through his undeniable musical artistry but also through his dedication to the music at hand. His calm, introspective nature inspired us all to listen for what the music needed and wanted, and how we as five individuals might join together to realize this.”
The Caswell Sisters will perform several times in south-central Indiana during the first week of March, including a noontime show on Friday, March 1, at IU’s Archives of Traditional Music in Bloomington and an evening CD-release party at The Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis, followed by a concert on Sunday, March 3, at Bloomington’s First United Church at 3 pm.
“Bloomington has had an indelible effect on who Rachel and I are as musicians and people,” says Sara. “Our entire childhood and early adulthood were experienced with Bloomington as our home base, our source of support and inspiration in what we now do with our lives. Celebrating the release of our CD wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t share it with Bloomington.”