Geyer gets into the swing
IN her trademark irreverent manner, Renee Geyer is chirpily dismissive of the stats surrounding her latest album, Swing.
Forty years into her singing career, she sees little significance in the advent of a 25th album, or the fact Swing is her first visit into big band territory.
‘‘This is album 25 and there will be albums 26 and 27 . . . this one just happens to have a lot of horns on it,’’ Geyer says.
‘‘Of course this one is being compared to other big band albums but for me it’s just another venture into rhythm and blues.’’
The album is packed with standards – from Sinatra hit Fly Me to the Moon and Chet Baker’s My Funny Valentine to interpretations of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm and the West Side Story classic Somewhere – that all have the hallmark of Geyer’s tempered touch.
Co-produced with bandleader Paul Williamson and trombonist Dave Palmer, Swing includes horns-and-all treatment of two songs from Geyer’s distant past.
Her 1974 cover of James Brown classic It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World was the song that launched Geyer to a mass audience – and resulted in some fans in the US mistaking her husky voice for that of a black artist.
Another to receive the big band treatment is Say I Love You, originally a song by reggae star Eddy Grant. Faces musician Ian McLagan introduced the track to Geyer when he produced her So Lucky album in 1981.
Over the years, the song had been given more of a Latin American flavour in Geyer’s repertoire, so she felt the time was right to give it a calypso overhaul.
‘‘In the end it just proves that rhythm and blues is such a huge genre under which so many different things can appear,’’ Geyer says.
‘‘I might do a song with a reggae feel but it doesn’t mean I’m going reggae all of a sudden.
‘‘On this record I’ve also had people calling me a jazz singer and that’s certainly not the case. I’m just a pop singer who loves rhythm and blues.’’
While Swing has crept up to No.2 on the Jazz Charts, Geyer sees her future as headed back to the pure waters of blues if she’s going to stick her neck out.
She included the ’30s blues classic Baby Please Don’t Go on the advice of her fans and has early plans to produce a Muddy Waters tribute album.
After a troubled few years in which she battled breast cancer, lost her father and was fined for careless driving after smashing into a shop, the singer is looking forward to kicking on.
She swats away the findings of a recent poll that declared her the seventh-best Australian voice of all time (‘‘Since when can you out a number on it? You can’t have a competition for anything in art.’’) and for now is squarely focused on touring her big band.
‘‘I like to think I’ve got good taste in songs and I do what I do quite well,’’ she says.
‘‘That’s my halo. That’s all I’ve got. And I’m very lucky to have a job so many people consider a hobby.’’
– ROSS PURDIE
Swing is out now. Renee Geyer plays the Concert Hall, at QPAC, in Brisbane, on July 20.
Blues belter Renee Geyer’s new album,
sees her visit big band territory.