Geyer gets into the swing

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE ’N’ LOUD -


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.’’


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.

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