When Fort Wayne native Trinell Armour takes the stage this weekend at Wunderkammer, it will be in a persona of her own making — The Mad Scatter.
Known for both her powerful vocal techniques and for her emotional songwriting, Armour has come a long way since she couldn’t even look at people when she sang.
“I’m a super late bloomer,” the graduate of Paul Harding High School and Purdue University said. “I was a science geek, so I focused mostly on science and math, but I was told that if I wanted to graduate with honors [from Harding], I needed to take a fine arts class. So I chose gospel choir my senior year.”
Coming from a musical family, Armour is one of seven children, and her six sisters had formed a gospel group called the Armour Sisters. But that wasn’t in the young Armour’s plan as she headed to Purdue.
“I was sorry that I had waited until the fourth year at Harding to get into music,” she said. “When I went to Purdue, I wasn’t doing anything in music, either, but one of my girlfriends in my dorm played piano, and there was a piano in our dorm. So my girlfriends encouraged me to sing, but I had to turn my back to them when I sang because I was so bashful.”
Eventually, after her return home from college, Armour was encouraged by her sisters to join their gospel group which led to more ensemble work, a means of performing which suited Armour’s shy stage presence. But her path to abandoning stage fright and becoming The Mad Scatter soon presented itself.
“I’ve been singing jazz for about three years now,” Armour said. “I went with my nieces to see the Alicia Pyle Quartet at Club Soda. I knew Alicia and Derek Reeves, and Alicia asked me to come sing with them. I was terrified, but I couldn’t chicken out in front of my nieces. I sang the only jazz song I knew, which was ‘Autumn Leaves,’ and that’s when I started scatting because I was so nervous I kept forgetting the words. But it worked. It’s really helped get me out of my shell. When I was singing with my sisters, I had a safety net, but now it was just me.”
Now a mother of three, her kids inspire her to continue performing as much as her nieces nudged her into overcoming her fears. Those attending her Sunday performance at Wunderkammer can expect a poised performer with an eclectic setlist.
“People can expect all genres of music, from jazz to country to some songs I sing in French,” she said. “I sing ‘Jolene,’ and I sing songs from Willie Wonka because I love that movie. I’ll also be doing songs from the album I’m working on, which will come out next year.
“I see this as sort of a ‘test kitchen,’ a way to see how the audience responds to the music. I think this will be the perfect audience for that.”
Finding those audiences and providing this kind of musical experience was the plan when Ketu Oladuwa and Michael Patterson formed A Big Apple Jazz Club Series last year. Oladuwa, a native of New York City, missed the kinds of jazz clubs he knew when he lived in Greenwich Village, and Patterson, a long time musical force in Fort Wayne, was looking for a venue to feature jazz.
“Mike and I have a long history of friendship,” Oladuwa said. “We had some musical groups together in the past, and I had been ruminating on my time in New York. It popped into our heads that maybe we could do something similar to what I had experienced in New York.
“We knew jazz was what we wanted to do, but we were thinking particularly of the loft jazz that was prominent when I left New York. It was popular in the late ’70s and early ’80s and was more of a free jazz, but at that time a venue really didn’t exist for that kind of thing. So we decided to create it with A Big Apple Jazz Club Series.”
“We wanted to find a place where people could come and listen to jazz like they would orchestral music,” Patterson said. “There are a lot of musicians in town who are doing some very interesting things. Someone like Colin Boyd will post something on Instagram that’s completely different from what I was seeing him do in other places, and we wanted a way to give artists the opportunity to do those kinds of things, without the constraints of the usual performance events. And the audiences understand what’s going on, and even if they think it’s not their cup of tea, they still find it interesting.”
Both Oladuwa and Patterson are happy with A Big Apple Jazz Club home at Wunderkammer, feeling it fulfills everything they had envisioned when they launched the project in August 2017.
“Wunderkammer has worked perfectly,” Oladuwa said. “It’s the perfect venue for this because it’s an open space, and it’s part of the community. It isn’t downtown, but part of the south side, and it’s the perfect setting for what we’re doing.”
“We wanted a place where we could have jazz played like you would see a symphony orchestra,” Patterson said. “You listen to the music then you take a break. We have vendors so you can get something to drink, visit the Wunderkammer gallery.
“We don’t play canned music during that time because we want you to take a break in between sets so that the only music you hear is their music. We want you to rest your ears between their performances so you come to it fresh.”
Patterson will also be performing with Armour as will Eric Clancy, and both have been important to Armour as she has made the journey to commanding a stage. She looks forward to sharing a stage with them and sharing her music with the audience.
“Michael Patterson has been very nurturing and understands me on an emotional level,” Armour said, “and Eric Clancy, who is working with me on my album, is like a mad scientist in his approach to jazz, so we have a great working relationship. I love working with two musicians like that because it challenges me.”