Mizz Absurd’s debut CD plays on the portable stereo as we sip coffee in the singer’s dining room. Absurd (real name: Jill Avilez) is a coffee connoisseur, and she’s got all the gadgets to make you a mean pour-over. As our conversation unfolds, it’s increasingly clear she’s a wealth of knowledge on many other subjects, from rabbits—her bunny Dizzy eats quietly in the corner—to old Hollywood, jazz and philosophy.
Originally from LA, Absurd played in a 12-piece big band for seven years before she began her solo project, which led her to Vegas three years ago. “I was sitting at the Beat Coffeehouse and I was like, ‘I could do this,’” she thought. “There’s so much love here … There are 200 hotels, one of them has gotta give me a gig.”
A guitar player by trade, Absurd decided to play the upright bass to stand out from the many singers with guitars at the open mic she frequented. On her debut album, Where’s and Why’s, the musician blends jazz, scat and slap with the avant garde, hooking up a wah pedal to her bass for a rich, funked-out effect.
Born in Hollywood to a jazz musician father, Absurd grew up around music but threw herself into rock ’n’ roll until she studied under John Hatton of The Brian Setzer Orchestra. That brought her back to the classics—Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and more. “I don’t do the rockabilly slap,” she says, her fingers plucking imaginary strings on the air bass. “It’s a Milt Hinton style.”
Throughout Absurd’s debut, her intoxicating vocals swim and bend around her stirring basslines, weaving stories and posing questions to which she hopes listeners find answers. “Mizz Absurd is performance art; it’s an act. I try to keep it as movements, like classical music. It’s a story.”
And for her CD release show inside the Artisan—she’s had a residency there for the past year—she’ll blend stand-up poetry, music, philosophy, comedy and burlesque into one. “[French philosopher] Albert Camus said, ‘Art is our way to rebel against the absurd.’ I’m Mizz Absurd, and this is my journey.”
Mizz Absurd with Lisa Mac, Dark Mark. March 2, 8 p.m., free. Artisan Hotel, 702-214-4000.