For Katie Cilluffo, life really is a cabaret


Hendersonville soprano Katie Cilluffo’s expansive resume includes opera, musical theater, bluegrass, jazz and pop. But it’s her jazz diva persona that takes center stage at White Horse Black Mountain on Friday, Feb. 17.

Cilluffo is appearing as part of the venue’s ongoing Cabaret Jazz Series. The program will feature a generous helping of bossa nova classics, with lyrics sung in both English and Brazilian Portuguese, along with favorite jazz standards.

Originally from Michigan, Cilluffo studied vocal performance, with a concentration in opera, at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan. Since moving to Western North Carolina, she has performed with the Asheville Lyric Opera, Flat Rock Playhouse, Parkway Playhouse and elsewhere. She also fronts the Belle Tones, an a cappella trio specializing in 1940s Andrews Sister harmonies and frequently sings with Michael Jefry Stevens’ Mountain Chamber Jazz Ensemble. In addition to jazz and pop gigs, she does regular classical recitals.

An amazing singer needs amazing accompanists, so Cilluffo has assembled a distinguished group for her Cabaret Jazz Series show. The guitar chair will be occupied by multi-instrumentalist Bill Altman, Cilluffo’s partner in music and life. The two frequently perform as a duo, and Altman’s extensive experience in jazz, rock, blues and alternative bands means the music can take many directions. Altman also works as music director and house musician for both locations of the Flat Rock Playhouse.

Rhythm section players Grant Cuthbertson (bass) and Robin Tolleson (drums) have impressive credentials of their own. A UNC Asheville alumnus, Cuthbertson has played jazz throughout the Southeast with the Tyler Ramsey Trio but has shifted his focus lately to Latin music as director/arranger for Nuevo Montuno Salsa Orchestra and Grupo Ahori Si.

Tolleson has played drums most of his life, and his local work ranges from neo-soulsters The Secret B-Sides to flamenco funk with Cabo Verde, world jazz with Klarcnova, and, with Altman, the trio Big Black Dodge.

A lighter touch

Who: Katie Cilluffo and friends

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $15