You recorded the CD at Avatar Studios in New York. What was that experience like?
Avatar was a studio I had heard about for years and seen mentioned on so many recordings I love. I had visited it on two occasions when friends invited me down to their recording sessions. So it was a dream for me to record there. I hoped for some point in the future perhaps in a couple of years but I was delighted to record this album there so soon with a wonderful Grammy award recording engineer friend of mine Todd Whitelock. The studios were all hand-built from wood planking and have such warmth, they are filled with history and echoes of the many fabulous artists that have recorded there and the staff and equipment were just great.
What motivated your choice of songs for the album? Do any of the songs hold any special significance?
All the songs on this album represent a style of songwriting, melody and storytelling I find inspiring and sincere; exactly what I try to accomplish when I compose my own songs. I love and admire Benny Golson’s work, he is one of the few living legends still performing and recording from what I consider the golden era and his ‘Whisper Not’ is a tune we rarely hear sung so that was one I had to record. I also have a great attraction for the blues so ‘Black Coffee’ was a song I have heard and loved for so many years I couldn’t resist it. ‘My Funny Valentine,’ ‘Love For Sale,’ ‘I Thought About You’ all have verses that are rarely sung. All the songs on the album simply have lyrics and imagery that touch and move me.
How did your deal with Venus Records come about?
I was invited down to Avatar to listen to Dezron Douglas’ recording session. He is a great friend and a rising double bassist and recording his first album as a leader. Mr. Hara the owner of Venus Records had flown over from Japan to produce the recording with Todd Barkan. They were on a break and Mr. Hara started talking with me and asking me about my work. Once he arrived back in Japan he listened to my recordings, which he really enjoyed. We exchanged a few emails and he asked me to record and produce a new album for him. A few more emails went back and forth and we set a date. I spent a couple of months rehearsing, preparing and working on arrangement ideas for each song and then we went into the studio and recorded it over a weekend.
You’re originally from the UK so why did you re-locate to the New York? (and how do the US and UK jazz scenes compare?). How are you accepted on the New York jazz scene?
I grew up in England but have spent half my life in France. I originally started performing jazz for fun in France eight years ago and then people started booking me. For several years people such as Freddy Cole (Nat King Cole’s brother) and Bruce Lundvall (Blue Note/EMI) as well as many US musicians visiting Europe listened to me and told me I should move to New York/USA as no one was really doing what I do there. After struggling for several years in and around Europe I decided it was time to follow their advice and check out what was happening in New York. I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in New York this last year studying composing, making guest appearances with some of the New York scene’s finest musicians and I consider I am very blessed as I have been warmly welcomed and have received help, advice and encouragement from many of the musicians and music industry people I have met: they have really made me feel a part of their family and scene in a very short time. It’s a tough and competitive scene but despite that everyone has been very kind. Unfortunately this had not generally been my experience in Europe, with the exception of a few musicians and industry people I met and worked with.
At what age did you show an interest in music?
Very early. Singing was my first love. At home from the moment I could talk, I used to sing everywhere and all the time, then voice training started in church, then in schools, choirs, choral groups, light opera/operetta groups and a National Opera group. I dabbled in various instruments from the age of 11 such as the cornet, the guitar, the violin and then finally the piano… but I have never really felt at ease playing instruments … my voice is my true instrument.
What attracted you to jazz?
I started singing, performing and recording jazz only eight years ago, as I had originally trained as a classical singer, singing opera. However I had grown up listening and hearing jazz at home through my parents who were always singing and both had beautiful voices. I have always loved the rhythm, harmony, humour and story telling jazz represents.
In terms of influences, which singers and musicians have had a big effect on your own style? (and why?)
The singers that have influenced me are Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, Dean Martin and Freddy Cole. As for musicians, well, the list is so long I don’t know where to begin … all the greats… but directly and recently my composing has been influenced firstly by Bobby Durham who helped me in my performance style and also inspired me to write my first song ‘Supa Doopa’ Blues and then since Bobby passed Marcus Miller has become a great friend and mentor to me.
Did you have any other ambitions besides being a musician?
Not really. Everything else I have been involved in or with in my life other than music just happened by chance and satisfied my curiosity and need to be creative temporarily. Making music and making people happy through my music as well as helping children discover and study music has always given me such joy, balance and strength. I find it both rewarding and necessary.