How successful a musical collaboration is might be judged by how productive it is. If so, then Cinnamon Twist — Anne James and Jennifer Baltz — is quite a successful collaboration.
The two joined talents after appearing at a holiday program at East West Exchange a little more than two years ago. Since then, they have produced two CDs — “Sobhlasta” (Gaelic for “good taste”) and “Robins of Spring.” They will soon release an expanded version of “Sobhlasta,” with a third version in the planning stages. The recordings include original songs by James, traditional Celtic tunes and more. The upcoming CD will feature inspirational music, Baltz said.
The duo appears regularly at local venues, such as Ayothaya Café and will anchor The Journigan House’s new 6 p.m. Wednesday jam sessions. The event will have no cover, but canned and non-perishable foods for the food bank will be welcomed, along with any “tips” for the performers to contribute to the food bank.
They also perform at the First Friday program at the Community Presbyterian Church and will appear at the Rim Country Celts’ St. Patrick’s Day celebration at The Journigan House from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 16.
“The music scene in the Rim Country just seems to be exploding now,” James said. “When I left a few years ago it was pretty strong, but when I came back it had all but disappeared. It is great to see the resurgence.”
The two have become great friends and one another’s biggest fans.
“Annie’s music just reaches in and grabs your heart. It is phenomenal to be working with her, she is such a talented musician,” Baltz said.
“Jennifer has a knack for my style of writing and I find myself writing for her voice,” James said.
Another musician they both have high praise for is Billy Ichida, of Junction 87; they did both recordings in his studio and consider him their third collaborator.
“You don’t hear him on the tracks, but he was there. He has such a tremendous ear for all types of music, he makes everything we do better,” James said.
The two women came to music at different stages in life. James has been playing professionally in one way or another since the 1970s. Baltz enjoyed singing, but was content to sing in the background of choral groups. Then she took advantage of voice lessons offered to Rim Country residents by Ken Goodenberger, a lyric tenor from Phoenix.
“I learned how to use my air and had the confidence to audition for solos with the Payson Choral Society. I never knew I would like it so much,” Baltz said.
“She has developed a real stage presence and is wonderful at interacting with our audiences,” James said.
“It is such a joy and privilege to work with Annie, not just because she’s such a talented musician, singer and songwriter, but also because she is a wonderful, caring person and a great friend. Over time, we’ve developed a really neat synergy that comes out in our music — and that makes it so much fun for us, and also for our audiences,” Baltz said.