The long winter will finally be over on Tuesday, recent weather conditions notwithstanding. Regardless of the outdoor temperature on Tuesday night, those seeking a respite from winter’s bleakness and the attendant cabin fever are advised to visit Pierre’s in Bridgehampton.
Many a winter night was considerably warmed by the sultry voice and vintage jazz of Vanessa Trouble, a vocalist who has performed there regularly for a decade. As she did on Sunday, Ms. Trouble will perform again on Tuesday, accompanied by Steve Salerno on guitar, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Patrons of Pierre’s, as well as Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, Manna Restaurant and Bar in Water Mill, Starr Boggs in Westhampton, and other venues on the East End have long enjoyed Ms. Trouble’s velvety timbre, impeccable phrasing, and classic repertoire. They are not alone: Tony Bennett, Julie Andrews, Alicia Keys, Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Selleck, Rudolph Giuliani, and the late trumpeter Clark Terry are among the high-profile figures that have seen her perform.
A resident of Manhattan’s Lower East Side and owner of a 1969 Nautaline houseboat docked in Riverhead, Ms. Trouble has performed at city venues including the Rainbow Room, the Carlyle Hotel, Birdland, Swing 46, and Opia, and at the United Nations, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. Farther afield, she has performed in Macau, at the grand opening of the Venetian Macao; Granada, Spain, at the Retroback classic film festival; Florence, Italy; Puerto Rico, and aboard a cruise ship, during a two-and-a-half-month engagement in the Caribbean.
Her albums include “The Summer Sessions” and “Too Darn Hot,” and an EP with her five-piece band, the Red Hot Swing. She hopes to record another collection of songs this year.
“Between New York and the Hamptons, I’m really lucky,” the Winona, Minn., native said. “I just do things people like to hear.”
To some restaurant or winery patrons, her performances could be considered background music, she said. “People say, ‘How can you?’ Well, I can be in an office, or I can be singing music. And that’s where I get my singing chops: You really have to concentrate. Also, sometimes when people see you in a casual environment, they think, ‘This is great, I love the atmosphere. Would you do this for a party?’ That’s how I can make a living through restaurant work.”
Until a few years ago, Ms. Trouble performed vintage jazz almost exclusively, a path forged in no small part from her grandparents’ record collection, particularly “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.”
“I would listen continually as I was doing my homework,” Ms. Trouble recalled. “The thing about those Ella tunes is, that’s where my natural voice lies. But people try to sing music that isn’t in their key. I love singing along to the Eagles, classic ’70s music, but that’s not where I’m supposed to be singing. You can be versatile and have a super range, but people have a specific range where it suits their instrument best.”
Her mother was also a singer. “She taught, though I didn’t really take lessons from her,” Ms. Trouble said. “I took lessons minimally, as part of my theater training, but never really had a mentor vocally.” But, she added, “My grandmother had an amazing sense of style. Growing up with someone like that, and my mother too — they understood the importance of being well turned out, dressing for things, which people don’t do anymore. That’s something I have always and will always do. I collect beautiful clothes, and I use them.”
The Ella Fitzgerald album aside, Ms. Trouble grew up immersed in the pop music of the era, and while she remains known as a jazz singer, in recent years she has broadened her repertoire to suit shifting tastes. “The most important thing for me is to connect with people,” she said. “People respond to songs they know. I was doing a lot of the standards 25 years ago. The 60, 70, 80-year-olds I was performing parties for are not going out anymore, or are not even around anymore.” Songs by Carole King, James Taylor, and the Police are now part of the repertoire. On a recent, frigid night in Bridgehampton, she demonstrated a remarkable versatility by performing, in response to a request from the audience, songs by a diverse trio of vocalists spanning many decades — Dinah Washington to Amy Winehouse to Blossom Dearie.
In addition to Tuesday’s appearance at Pierre’s, Ms. Trouble will be there on April 9, 11, and 25. On April 28, she will sing at Centro Trattoria in Hampton Bays. On July 12, she will be at Agawam Park in Southampton. Dates in Manhattan and elsewhere are on her website, vanessatrouble.com.
As for “Trouble,” there are a few reasons she adopted the curious surname. Going simply by “Vanessa” sounds “like I would be really full of myself,” Vanessa Gernes explained. “And no one gets ‘Gernes’ right, ever. I’ve never had my name pronounced right.”
Soon after she moved to New York, and with an imminent gig at Torch, then a popular nightclub on the Lower East Side, she sought the counsel of her then-boyfriend. “He was drunk on champagne, and said, ‘You should be Vanessa Trouble.’ “
“For a lark, I introduced myself as Vanessa Trouble,” she said. The response was overwhelming, and the rest is history.