I released my debut album SEASONS OF LOVE in 2012 and I was totally thrilled with the hugely positive response it got, including plays on BBC Introducing and great reviews in Jazz Journal and Jazzwise. I toured the album around the country from Callander Jazz and Blues Festival, Marsden Jazz Festival and Pizza Express, The Pheasantry and had a really great time, with some great live reviews. Now, here we are, 6 years later and I’m releasing my second album, Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun (JJWTHF). It’s a little different…but before I tell you about it, here’s a little bit about myself…
I’m a Yorkshire Lass, with Irish roots. I came to singing because of the absolute joy it gives me. It’s something I’ve always done, singing along to Dad’s jazz records, or Mum’s Abba collection, or to anything actually! It’s just a part of me, I find it deeply soul fulfilling. Professionally, I started singing classically. Which, when I look back, was an excellent beginning, because it gave me a real grounding in the physical elements of singing, a real understanding of how the voice works? I then experimented; being in a Rock Band, musical theatre, but behind all this was my innate love of jazz. I hated to sing a song straight, I always wanted to put my mark on it, sing off the beat, sing the harmony, feel the music my own way, walk my own path.
I think that’s what drew me into jazz more and more, that sense of personal identity, self-expression. That’s why picking the right tunes really is so important, I want to feel it, express it, live that song for that moment. A teacher once told me that you don’t choose the music, it chooses you and I really do believe that. There is a such a sense of destiny about it sometimes.
I studied jazz under Graham Hearn (one of the founders of Leeds College of Music Jazz Course) and on Professional Development Courses, with such Jazz luminaries as Tina May, Lee Gibson, Steve Waterman, Alan Barnes, Trevor Tomkins and I continue to learn every time I sing and with everyone I perform with…
I actually also gained a Drama & English Degree at Surrey University (Roehampton University, Froebel College) and I studied method acting at The Actors Studio in Halifax.
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I’ve been influenced by so many singers over the years, the greatest teachers, those I’ve listened to, those I’ve admired, Sarah, Ella, Frank, Mel Torme, I’m pretty sure they’re responsible my sense of timing and swing. Of todays current singers, Tierney Sutton, Nneena Freelon, Kurt Elling, Ian Shaw, Claire Martin, Liane Carroll and more recently the fabulous Aubrey Logan. I see a lot of live gigs and listen and watch a lot of music, so my influences continue to grow pretty much daily.
I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to song-writers, I like a strong melody, strong harmony, great lyrics, something I can really connect to. I love to take songs from other genres and put my own spin on them, I did this on SEASONS OF LOVE, with the track ‘Walk On By’ turning it into a haunting ballad, I’d wanted to make the lyrics more poignant. I also like to dig around in the past for songs that might be a little less known, I love singing my bluesy version of ‘You Made Me Love You’. I also recently did a Hoagy Carmichael set playing with some of his tunes, Blue Orchids, Skylark, Stardust, you really are in the hands of a master song-writer here, which then gives you so many musical choices and I love to put my own spin on these great tunes.
I’ve been incredibly lucky since the success of SEASONS OF LOVE to enjoy so many wonderful gigs with so many amazing musicians. Jazz musicians are really just the best and there’s just nothing like being with a band when you all gel together and the whole thing just pulses, like a live thing. Meeting and playing with the band on JJWTHF was a great experience at Pizza Express, The Pheasantry, London, Sam Watt’s (piano), Flo Moore (bass), Ben Brown (Drums and percussion), Rob Hughes (Sax, Bari, Flute). I knew there was something really special about this team the first gig we did. They’re all very special, exceptionally talented musicians and lovely people. Being in the studio with them was amazing too.
NEW ALBUM JJWTHF
Why JJWTHF? Why now? Well, it had been in my head that I really wanted to record another album and I had a few ideas but the one that really just resonated with me the most was Jazz Just Wants. I get a lot of deep personal joy from taking songs from other genres and tinkering with them, to see if I can turn them into a jazz tune. It’s something that I’d been inco-orporating into my gigs for a while. The first song on JJWTHF ‘Come On Feel The Noize’ I first did about 4 years ago at Matt & Phreds, Manchester at a Christmas gig, the audiences reaction to this was really inspirational and just got me thinking and wondering. My last album being 2012, it was about time I did another. The songs on JJWTHF are the result of 2 years of playing with a variety of tunes from that time. It was really important that I kept the spirit of the original tune, even if it sounded quite different, the lyrics were also very important to me, these had to resonate with me too.
I toyed with just putting one or two interpretations on an album of standards and maybe one or two of my own, but in the end I just had this gut feeling that I should just go the whole hog and do a full album of these. I had about 90 at the time I was tinkering with and I just felt they were really strong and I should be courageous and do the whole album. Part of me felt it might be a bit of a risk, as people do like their jazz singers to sing standards, which believe me I love, but this was in me and it had to come out…a homage to my childhood in many ways, a mixture of both jazz and 70’s and 80’s pop and as I say, I do like to walk my own path…
Recording an album is a real joy, you lock yourself away for a couple of days to a week and you’re in this bubble of creativity and excitement. But for this next album I really wanted a producer and I was really lucky to have NY Grammy Winning Producer Jason Miles in the studio with me in Red Gables Studio, London. It was such a great experience and I sang ‘live’ in the studio with the band, so to all extents and purposes it’s pretty much how it would sound at a gig, other than some additional instruments that were added on a couple of tracks. Which is exactly what I wanted. You can’t beat that ‘live’ vibe. I think being a jazz singer is all about the live performance, connecting with the musicians and audience, so you have to try to capture that in the studio and I think with Jason’s help and these phenomenal musicians we all did a great job.
Jason then took the album back to NY and got the fantastic Grammy Winning Jimmy Bralower on board to mix the album and Mike Fossenkempr to master as well as adding a touch of magic to the mix with leading Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo on ‘Cruel Summer’, Dean Brown on ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ and it’s what is really special, adding himself playing Hammond Organ on ‘Deeply Dippy’ and ‘Waiting for A Girl/Man Like You’.
ANOTHER IN THE CAN…
When Jason Miles came over to London to record JJWTHF with me, we also recorded a second album in the same week and so we have one album in the can ‘DREAM DANCER’ also produced by Jason Miles. Jason calls this the ‘Heroin Album.’ For this album we have some of my favourite standards and other songs that I’ve created some great arrangements for (co-arranged with Sam Watts) along with a very special guest appearance by Duncan Lamont playing sax on two of his own songs that I’ve performed in ‘The Duncan Lamont Songbook.’ We also recorded Bowie’s tune ‘Let’s Dance’ on this album which was just a few weeks before he died, so this feels very special.
One of the other really great things about this scene, is getting the opportunity to work on other people’s projects. It was a real thrill for me to be asked to sing the Northern leg of London singer Esther Bennett’s project ‘The Duncan Lamont Songbook’. Singing the saxophone legends own songs. Duncan has an extensive catalogue of phenomenal songs and singing with Duncan Lamont for the first time, at Pizza Express, Soho, was a really special night. I’d never stood on stage and sung a song with the person who has written it playing sax next to me before. But Duncan is such an exquisite songwriter and such a warm, generous player, it was such a magical moment for me and of course this then led to Duncan being on DREAM DANCER. Singing with Esther is just great and we’ve since become firm friends, there’s a very special connection between the two of us on stage too.
This summer 2018 I’ll also be recording another, very different album ‘THE ILKLEY SUITE’ a piece by composer and head of Leeds College of Music Jazz Course, Jamil Sheriff, commissioned by Ilkley Jazz Festival (that I also run with my husband Mark – see PROJECTS for more Info) to mark the festivals 5th year. It has some leading UK Jazz musicians playing on it and we’re using my voice as an instrument with this, so it will incorporate a little free jazz and more improv, so I’m really excited to get my teeth into it. We’ll also be performing this for the first time at this year’s Ilkley Jazz Festival (August 18th).
Performing to me is a great feeling. I love to put myself completely into a song, tell the story and get wholly into the groove. It’s never just me up front on a gig, we’re all in this together, band, audience, me. The audience are really important to me and I always like to get to know them and hope by the end of the evening they feel they know me a little bit too. I’ve always loved performing in intimate venues where the audience are quite close to me, I love to engage with the audience, but I do also love big stages, there’s a whole different vibe and energy on large stages that really gets the adrenalin going.
The next step is touring with JJWTHF. Already getting some great reviews and airplay, the full album releases June 15th. Everyone who listens to this album just really digs the energy and vibe of it, jazz aficionado and non jazz fans alike. It’s just a fabulous experience to perform this, there’s a lot of excitement and joy. I’m working on even more arrangements as I speak for the show, which is a lot of fun. All of the the people I choose to work with are great people, so there are a lot of laughs. We take the music seriously, but not ourselves and that’s a good recipe for enjoying every moment. There’s a lot of humour and great spirit.
The six years since my first album have been a great musical adventure and I’m looking forward to many more adventures to come. Thank you to all the wonderful musicians and artists I’ve worked wit and the fantastic venues and festivals who have booked us. Jazz is an ever changing, living, breathing, growing scene, as vibrant today as it’s ever been and I’m really happy to continue to be a part of it…Here’s to lots more musical adventures…!
See you at a show…come and say hello, your support means the world to me!