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.

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