Shock waves reverberated through Indy's music community after family announced jazz and neo-soul singer Cynthia Layne died this weekend after a long illness.
Layne was a constant presence in Indy's jazz scene, performing at Indy Jazz Fest yearly and in clubs all around town. She was regularly in demand live and on recording, releasing 2008's acclaimed album Beautiful Soul via Owl Studios (now Owl Music Group). Layne lent her voice to collaborations with all manner of characters in Indy's jazz scene.
A public memorial is scheduled for Saturday evening at Crown Hill Cemetery. We'll update with more details as they are released. An Ohio native, Layne will be laid to rest in her home state early next week.
I reached out to players who collaborated with Layne and scene figures for their memories and thoughts.
"I cannot think of a more talented, hard-working and determined-to-grow person. Her versatility and sense of exploration set her apart as someone who was always re-inventing herself. We're beyond heartbroken with the loss of such a jewel and at such a young age. She was just getting started."
- Dave Allee, Jazz Kitchen owner and Indy Jazz Fest festival director
"I had the honor of knowing Cynthia and of singing with her on countless gigs over the years and recently we were in a band together called The Blue Side. As a singer the main thing you need is a sound, and Cynthia just had a gorgeous tone to her voice. But you also need empathy and when Cynthia sang a song you really felt like she believed it; she cut right through to the humanity inside the song. But, in addition to being a great musician, the thing about her that made her such a charming performer and wonderful friend was the great warmth that she possessed and the genuine caring for other people. She had a heart of gold and was always really concerned for the well-being of the people around her way more than she was concerned about herself. There was not a mean bone in her body. I loved her."
- Tad Robinson, Layne's bandmate in The Blue Side
"Cynthia was not only a world-class vocalist and performer who dazzled audiences in Indianapolis and far beyond, she was also a beautiful soul and person. I've known her for over 20 years and got to perform with her frequently as well as share our motherhood experiences from when all of our girls were born up to the current teenage years. I'm not sure if our community can ever recover from such a loss!"
- Monika Herzig, performer and educator
"Cynthia and I knew and worked with each other for over 20 years. I was just a kid then. She was always a great singer, and a better person. There aren't a whole lot of musicians I have more history with, more respect for, or more time spent working with. Through all the gigs, all the fun times, all the great music, the best part about Cynthia, to me, was being able to call her my friend."
- Kevin Anker, Layne's bandmate in The Blue Side, performer and producer
"I miss Cynthia's smile already. The idea of not seeing her at The Jazz Kitchen anymore is heartbreaking. The last time I saw her, she was singing (SANGIN) her tail off. I hugged her after the show and told her how great she was. She smiled and hugged me as hard as anything. She was a vision and image of effortless grace, undeniable soul, incredible strength and absolute class. Indianapolis lost an icon. They only made one Cynthia Layne and I'm so grateful I knew her."
- Rusty Redenbacher, performer and DJ
"One of the first Daddy-Daughter Dates I had with my Emma was at the now-long-gone restaurant Urban Element on Pennsylvania Street. On this particular Friday night, Cynthia Layne was performing. When the music started, Emma (the only child in attendance) bolted out of her chair and started dancing in front of the bandstand (OK, a corner of the dining area), much to the delight of Cynthia and her band and a full restaurant of patrons. From then on, whenever I saw Cynthia, she would ask how my 'Little Dancer' was doing.
"Over the last couple decades, Central Indiana has been fortunate to have a diverse variety of female musicians, Cynthia being one of them. Cynthia Layne was one of the best representatives, female or male, of the Indianapolis music scene. The woman could sing anything and she did. I am proud to have seen her perform as an MC and as a fan and to be able to call her a friend."
- Matthew Socey, host of the Blues House Party on WFYI
"Cynthia was a dear friend to me and an amazing talent to Indianapolis and the world. To say a thousand things about how great she was or about how many people she moved with her music would not be enough. My heart is broken that she is gone and I will miss her dearly."
- Rob Dixon, bandmate
"Cynthia was a dear friend, bandmate, a caring mother, a thoughtful composer with a voice like an angel. She selflessly gave every ounce of herself to the music and her friends. Her performances were stirring, heartfelt, emotional, soulful and often magical. We always felt her support for us on and off the bandstand. She was strong and inspirational in her courageous battle with her illness. Cynthia always looked forward to new musical and personal challenges with her beautiful smile. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and all of her friends at this most difficult time. We love you Cynthia."
- Steve Allee, bandmate
"When I arrived at Butler University in 2003, Cynthia Layne was the first artist from Indianapolis I saw live. I was amazed and totally in love with what she was doing with her singing and fantastic band. When Rusty Redenbacher and I were selected as featured artists for Art & Soul, I was so excited because I knew Cynthia Layne was going to be playing after we did our interview. I got to meet her and she was so amazing. And then she sang so beautifully.
"This past October, I finally worked with her on a wedding reception. Her band (Reggie Bishop, Rob Dixon and Kenny Phelps) was amazing and she led them so graciously through a range of music. I just watched with a big grin and felt just like I did when I first saw her perform. She truly brought a light to music and I'm so, so, so very thankful that I can say 'I saw her live and in person.' She is a legend and one of the very best."
- Marc Williams, performer and educator
"Cynthia was a beautiful person, an excellent entertainer and embodied all that was good on the Indianapolis music scene. I'm honored to have known her and call her friend. She was the FIRST vocalist to sit me down and talk with me about 'singing what I feel,' and I'm all the better for having her as a musician colleague!"
- Bashiri Asad, soul singer
"Cynthia Layne was pure substance. The kind of substance that fills a jazz club and outdoor venues with an embracing aura of welcome, stay a while, spread joy, do good, seek peace. Known for her silky voice carrying us into interpretations of jazz and neo-soul, known for her zest to learn, expand, express more fully the words and music of others and her own original compositions. Known for her fellowship and inspiration for others. It has been, is, and will be her spirit to keep on going, just keep on going that will sustain our entire community as we absorb the tremendous loss of her continuing artistry. Up to the last she was working on new material, a new album, a new initiative. At age 51, Cynthia Layne did not give up the fight — she simply went with the eventuality of the recurrence of breast cancer. Cynthia came from Dayton, Ohio in 1987 to compete in Jazz Expo's StarQuest. She won the female vocalist competition and never stopped giving back as a life-long thank you for the doors that opened for her and through which she walked in a singular career that took her worldwide and back home."
- Rita Kohn