No Strings might seem a random name for the vocal/piano duo Harriette Wagner started with her grown so Mathew Embry last year.
The decision was made in a bit of last-minute desperation. The pair had a gig and needed a name and “No Strings” just popped into Wagner’s mind.
Yet, the name is also strangely fitting.
“Art is not paint by the numbers and we pretty much do what we want within reason,” Embry says. “There are no strings, in parenthesis, attached.”
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The basics: The mother and son play simple vocal-and-piano numbers. Mostly, they cover the jazz standards and others taken from the Great American songbook, though they have ventured into pop music from the ’60s, ’70 and ’80s and are always looking to expand their repertoire. The duo perform at traditional venues — cafes, clubs and the like — but has created a niche by playing memory care, assisted living and rehabilitation facilities.
“You get a response from people that is unlike anything you get in a club,” Wagner says. “In a club, you are part if the environment.”
Affiliations: Wagner has been singing for as long as she can remember, even when she wasn’t doing it as a professional — she did tour with a Los Angeles rock band for three years. Embry has been playing piano and singing for close to 30 years. His first band, E is For Elephant, formed in the Tower District in 1988 and featured enigmatic local musician Brian Kenney Fresno.
Releases: No Strings released a 13-song self-titled CD in August. The album was taken from a collection of live recordings the band did over the last year and a half.
“We wanted it to be a simple debut album that showcases what we do live,” Embry says.
Find out more: Download music and follow No Strings on the duo’s Bandcamp page, www.nostrings.bandcamp.com
Watch the full video interview with No Strings at www.fresnobee.com/aysk.