Lady of jazz is all about the songs
Two singer/songwriters, both women, both solo artists with great support, have launched their latest CDs and are touring to put the work out there. Diane de Beer asked some questions about their songs and their souls.
TELL me about your last CD, how you got to this one, and how the former influenced the latter. The previous CD, Jazz Live 2012, was a live recording of a recital at the Musaion, University of Pretoria, where I teach jazz and singing in the Music and Drama departments. The album features some of the finest in South African jazz – Prof Marc Duby, Rob Watson, Juan Oosthuizen, Justin Holcroft and Grammy-nominated John Fresk on piano. It also features the UP Jazz Vocal Ensemble in their finest moment. We experienced tremendous technical difficulties in the Musaion last year, and with a large budget spent on recording and filming, were unable to use any of the material. So John and I started talking about a studio album. Tell me about the songwriting and how you went about writing and performing it? Deuce, Tellinger & Fresk is an intimate studio album. With this one we wanted a gentler sound for easier listening any time and anywhere. With recent changes in my life (I am going through a divorce) I have had far more inspiration to compose, and this album features six original tracks, which are quite revealing, and eight of our favourites by Irving Berlin, Hoagy Charmichael, Carol King, Gershwin, Noel Coward and James Taylor. It’s with tremendously good fortune that I met John Fresk at this stage of my life as I really couldn’t imagine a more compatible pianist, in style and taste. We wanted to focus on the songs, to make them as simple as possible. Who are the musos who join you and why? Deuce features mainly piano and voice, with some contributions from big band leader Adam Howard on muted trumpet, the delicate playing of Michael Bester on guitar and Graeme Curry on bass. John added cello on three songs. We recorded piano and voice together, but John and I were in separate rooms. We recorded three takes of each song and chose the best. Ludwig Bouwer of One Big Room did the mix. Describe your style of music and where it’s at now. My style of music is very much steeped in jazz. I like nothing better than a good bebop swing, but my strength is in the jazz ballad. I love the storytelling and the smooth tones. Latin rhythms are also some of my favourites. But for right now I’m all about the songs, simple and beautiful. I also love taking a song that never was jazz and turning it into jazz. Who and what influences you and how has your music changed since you started? Melody and rhythm are definitely big influences. Good songwriting too. Growing up it was Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Sting, Led Zep, Paul Simon, Gino Vannelli, Duke Ellington, Ella, James Taylor and Queen. And John Fresk inspires me to strive for the ultimate tone. What do you think of music as a career with what is happening in the industry? I’m ambivalent about the music industry, particularly radio play listing and electronic media. Our industry is very much divided right now, with independent, English artists enjoying by far the smallest piece of the pie and media support, with our fan base having dispersed all over the world in recent years. Women and song? Positive or negative? Definitely a positive! Women have a different way of seeing the world and of talking about it. Music needs our perspective. Performance and what that means especially with new CDs and in the shows you are doing. As independent artists we have to perform and play live. It’s the only way of getting your music heard and of selling CDs. And there’s nothing like a live performance to keep you on your toes. Playing live allows you to improvise a bit more and it helps to keep it interesting. When you have just released a CD, does your head turn to what’s ahead? I look to what’s ahead, and what’s ahead is definitely the CD. What music do you listen to? Most working musicians will tell you they actually have little chance to listen to music and seldom do. At home I’ll play music when cooking or such, and that will mostly be jazz, for inspiration, because I’m looking for repertoire, or just for the sake of nostalgia. There is something about the early ’70s, and even the trashy pop songs from that era have the ability to warm my heart.
Gigs: Pta’s Asbos, Fri, The Library, Brazen Head, Sandton, Sun, 1.30 for 2pm; Perigators, Pringle Bay, Jan 2, 7pm; Slow Life Cafe, Muizenburg, Jan 4; The Crypt, CT, Jan 8, 7pm.