Although West Country-born singer/songwriter ZENA JAMES (who grew up just outside Bath) studied languages during her time as a student (she read German and Russian alongside linguistics at the University of Surrey), these days her mind is focused on becoming fluent in an altogether different kind of language – a universal one called music.
The daughter of a keen guitar player, Zena was raised on a diet of ’70s pop and soul as a youngster and harboured aspirations of being a singer. That was put on hold until 2003 when Zena – who was earning a living working for a public relations company – sent a demo tape in to Jazz FM. When it received a favourable response, she was determined to pursue a career in music and eventually her perseverance paid off with a record deal.
In 2007, Zena’s debut platter, ‘Tell Me More,’ was released via indie label, Jazzizit, and garnered encouraging praise from not only some of the nation’s specialist magazines but also from a UK broadsheet or two. Now, three years later, the young singer is back with her sophomore set, ‘Captivated,’ which stylistically melds the sophistication of jazz with the emotional directness of soul music. Thanks to Zena’s emotive voice plus the work of her supporting musicians and guiding hand of producer, Derek Nash, it proves a compelling combination, which is made more potent by a soupçon of funk flavouring thrown into the mix to spice up the album’s grooves. Zena’s choice of material, too, is similarly eclectic; she applies a contemporary makeover to a mixture of jazz standards and vintage songs but also includes her own versions of songs penned by Stevie Wonder and the UK blue-eyed soul man, Lewis Taylor. She also penned a couple of songs herself – the opening title track and ‘You Move Me,’ both co-written with pianist Rob Taggart.
SJF’s Charles Waring recently talked to Zena about her new album, which is released in December 2010 via Splash Point Digital…