Arts and Entertainment

Local Vocalist Sandy Cressman’s Journey Through Song

Sandy Cressman. Courtesy Photograph


A recording by Brazilian musician and composer Ivan Lins led Sandy Cressman on a 30-year journey to become a music educator and prolific vocalist with local and international following.

Cressman, a 17-year resident of the Excelsior, has performed in Brazil, London, Japan and across the United States. While Brazilian music is unquestionably her favorite genre, her recordings and live performances reveal an eclectic repertoire that fuses jazz with other world music styles.

When she was four, Cressman’s family moved from New York to the South Bay, where she attended elementary and high school. Having mastered French, her interest in Brazilian music, prompted her to learn Portuguese. Because she wanted to explore a career as a jazz vocalist, she transferred to San Jose State from UC Berkeley, where she majored in French and political science.

Cressman began her career singing jazz with the vocal group Pastiche in the late 1990s. She and Rio-born jazz pianist and composer Marcos Silva had a long-running duo gig at the Cafe Bastille in San Francisco that greatly expanded her repertoire of Brazilian songs. Silva helped her prepare a quartet for her 1997 debut gig at Yoshi’s. The sold-out show led to the creation of her current band, Homenagem Brasileira. She continues to work the band and with Mistura Fina, a Latin jazz combo led by guitarist Ray Obiedo.

The Cressmans and their daughters moved to the Excelsior in 2000.

“We just love the neighborhood,” she says.  “It’s a hidden, undiscovered gem in the city. So many artistic and interesting people live here. We love the ocean view from our house. We also enjoy watching sports on television at the Dark Horse Inn.”

She recently performed at the clubhouse at  the Glen Eagles Golf Course in McLaren Park to benefit the Saturdays in the Park concerts. Sandy has also helped curate the music at the former Caffe D’Melanio (now the Ocean Ale House) in Ingleside and sang at the funeral of  the late owner, Melanio Duarte.

Latin Beat Magazine described her as a “singer’s singer who has carved a name for herself.” The magazine describes Homenagem Brasileira as a “cool shower of interpretive works that showcases the warmly superb and crystalline voice of this emerging diva.”

She has performed and recorded five albums with Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra, an East Indian/Jazz/Rock band. The band’s 2004 CD release was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best World Music category.

In her long and varied musical career, Sandy has been a vocalist, composer, recording artist and instructor. She has been a guest vocalist on the recordings of Obiedo, Pete Escovedo, Uttal, Andy Narell, Branford Marsalis, Consuelo Luz, Arturo Sandoval, Tom Grant, Michael Spiro and Eddie Money.

She has also recorded several soundtracks and jingles, including commercials for Levi’s Dockers, Haagen Daaz ice cream, Daihatsu, Isuzu, Lucky’s, Reader’s Digest, Delta Airlines and soundtracks for the films “Spy Kids” and “Mimic and Shimmer.”

Recordings of her original compositions have been featured in recent films, including “Lulu on the Bridge” (with Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino); “Play It To The Bone”, starring Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson; and the popular TV series “Sex in the City.”

Cressman and her husband, Jeff, knew each other since their school days but did not start dating until they were in college. Jeff is a recording engineer and accomplished trombonist who played with Carlos Santana’s band for 16 years and now plays with Pete Escovedo and other Latin Jazz artists. He often accompanies his wife on her recordings and when she is on tour.

The Cressmans passed on their musicianship to their daughters Natalie, a professional trombonist and vocalist, and Julianna, a student at UC Irvine majoring in dance. Natalie has accompanied her mother on tour and on some recordings.

Cressman’s new album “Entre Amigos” was presented at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on Feb. 16. She collaborated on the lyrics for all the songs in the album. The Natalie Cressman/Mike Bono duo opened the show.

In February, Cressman, Jeff and Natalie toured Brazil as part of a musical exchange project sponsored by he US Consulate in the city of Recife and the Paco do Frevo museum. Frevo music is the indigenous Carnaval style of music in Recife. The Cressmans performed there in 2015 with their friend Spok, the leader of the Spok /Frevo Big Band. The experience inspired her to write an original Frevo song. She returned to Recife last year to record it with Spok, which led to invitation for the musical exchange and to perform at Carnival.

Cressman’s work has influenced her approach to vocal education and developing the skills of aspiring vocalists.

Cressman has developed her own method of vocal training, which she calls Connected Voice. It blends the development of a “mix” voice with ear training for the melodies of jazz and Brazilian music and focuses on the application of vocal technique to performance.

Currently an adjunct professor at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley and an artist in residence at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, Cressman has also taught classes and held workshops at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, California State University Long Beach and other schools and conferences in the US, Europe and Brazil.

Homenagem Brasileira will perform April 28, 2017 at Doc’s Lab in North Beach.

Learn more about Sandy Cressman by visiting This article first appeared in the Light’s March 2017 print edition.


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