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Ford City singer takes talents to Moscow

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 1:11 a.m.
SUBMITTED Katt Hefner and her brother Stanley Heffner.

At age 4, Katt Hefner sang before an audience of perhaps a few dozen people at Second Baptist Church, Ford City. Later this week, Hefner will be singing to a much larger audience in Moscow.

On a hectic two-day whirlwind tour, Hefner will perform at the 16th annual Moscow International Jazz Festival as the featured artist with the Evgeny Ryaboy Trio at Moscow's Hermitage Garden. Hefner said she is very excited and hopes she will be well received.

She added that she has already been invited back to Russia for a two-week tour sometime in the near future.

However, international travel and performing before jazz loving audiences in far flung places on the globe is nothing new for Hefner. In 2000, she sang at a jazz festival in Tokyo on a three-month tour. She was also booked as the headline performer on various cruises visiting Denmark, England, Norway and the Caribbean, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. She is considering an invitation to perform in Beijing sometime next year.

“I think music has always been part of my life even before I was born,” she said. “My mother, Juanita Carr, said that when she was carrying me, she would play gospel music on the stereo so that I would hear it even in the womb. The first solo I sang at Second Baptist was ‘Surely God is Able.' I was so short that I had to stand on a box so the congregation could see me.”

Hefner's brother, Stanley Heffner (spelled with another “f”) plays an important part in his sister's career.

“When we were kids, we were always involved in something musical at Second Baptist,” he said. “Our mother, who is now 83, has been the church organist since age 11. As teenagers, we formed a band called The Versatiles and performed for several years. My late uncle, Frank Tolliver, was our manager and did much to encourage us. Later we formed a new band, LEG, which stood for the ‘Lower End Gang.' After that, I enlisted in the Navy and did a tour in Vietnam.”

Heffner, a self-taught organist, has been playing for more than 46 years. Together, the brother and sister have cut several CDs. Their latest is “Over and Under Blues,” available through Amazon.com or CDbaby.com.

Although Heffner won't be accompanying his sister to Russia, the duo began producing CDs in 2010 and they are top-rated sellers to easy listening jazz fans around the world. They are produced by SKATTAN Productions. Heffner said that “Skattan” is an anagram for Stan and Katt.

“In May 2010, my sister called me from Florida. It was on our mother's birthday. She said she was sending me a few CDs to listen to and then invited me to Florida.

“She said we were going to the Path of Palms Studio in Sarasota to cut a CD. Other musicians were involved. I had never met them, but we just ‘clicked' right from the start.”

The brother and sister duo will perform on Sept. 27 in Pittsburgh. They, along with other band musicians, will perform at the James Street Gastro Pub and Speakeasy, 422 Foreland St., at 8 p.m. Heffner said he expects a full-capacity crowd and urges anyone who plans to attend to make reservations by calling the pub at 412-904-3335.

Tom Mitchell is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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