Lisbon is not only the capital of Portugal; it is also the capital of fado music. The tradition is rich and there are more than a thousand fadistas and guitarristas singing and playing at numerous fado places. My wife and I have visited Lisbon twice in order to experience fado, and we will certainly come back. We have recently returned from the last visit – a one week fado excursion.
This time we travelled together with a small group in order to access the expertise of the group’s fado guide, Ulf Bergqvist. Ulf is the author of a very solid introduction to fado in Swedish – a story about the influences, the history, the fadistas/guitarristas, the fado houses etc. Ulf’s book is not only valuable as an introduction. With all the examples it also serves very well as a book of reference for the experienced fado lover. (FADO, en vägvisare till musiken och musikerna, 2013)
Ulf composed a nice mix of fado houses and fadistas for the group to enjoy. Since the decisions about performing fadistas particular nights sometimes were made as late as the day of the performance the program had to be flexible. Members of the group could also influence the program by individual wishes. One of the nights the group did not go to a fado restaurant but to a concert with Ana Laíns – and another night my wife and I went on our own to a small fado house, following the advice of a Portuguese friend living in Sweden.
Of course we did not have the possibility to record the performances on video, but I nevertheless want to give you a notion of what we experienced during the week. Below you will find music videos with some of the individual fadistas – although with other songs than the ones we heard and with two exceptions not at the fado houses where we met them. Nevertheless – enjoy!
Maria do Carmo Carvalho Rebelo de Andrade was born in Lisbon in 1984. As a child and teenager she spent lots of time in her mother’s fado house, listening to and learning from her mother and other fadistas and guitaristas who performed there. Eventually Carmo started to sing fado herself, and now she is one of maybe four fadistas who usually are mentioned in discussions on who the best female fadista is today. Many see her as the most interesting interpreter in the new generation of fadistas. Carmo is better known as “Carminho” and her mother is Teresa Siqueira.
Carminho’s first solo album Fado was released 2009, and was a huge success. Since then she has released two more albums with a base in fado – Alma (2012) and Canto (2014). Carminho is of course famous in Portugal, but she has also conquered the fado loving part of the world. However, she has over the years also tried other genres, and she is often referred to as a “crossover artist”. In the world of fado, where tradition is important, this is not always looked upon with approval.
Other renowned fadistas have tried to sing jazz and other genres, but it has not always been a successful venture. Often they cannot compete in terms of a pure genre expression and they do not find a fruitful way to utilize their fado character in other genres. Some singers are from the beginning in between genres, which means that they do not have a strong fado expression in the first place.
Carminho is unique in this respect. She has in my view a very strong fado expression and she interprets the traditional fado songs as a true fadista. You can experience this in some of the music videos below. But Carminho can also sing in other genres in a beautiful way. She knows how to use her fado expression within those other genres, and she thereby creates something unique and completely new – like on her latest album with music by Antônio Carlos Jobim. (Carminho Canta Tom Jobim, 2016) Her expressive and modelling way of singing, strong and yet gentle as the long waves of the ocean, rests in a beautiful way in the light Brazilian accompaniment by Banda Nova. Three out of the four members were once members of the original Banda Nova which played with Tom Jobim. It doesn’t get any better than this. It is just beautiful!
Another example of Carminho’s singing within other genres is her collaboration with Brazilian Marisa Monte. Marisa Monte is also a beautiful singer, but two beautiful singers do not guarantee that the combined expression will be beautiful. Duets can be problematic. But the voices and expressions of Carminho and Marisa form a very nice combination, and you can sense that they also have a good time together. Among the music videos below there are a few duets with Carminho and Marisa Monte. Unfortunately, in two of these the technical quality of the recordings is poor. However, I want to include those anyway since they illustrate the beauty of meetings between the Portuguese and Brazilian music cultures. Carminho and Marisa interpret in turns the fado song Saudades do Brasil em Portugal and the Brazilian Dança da Solidão (Desilusão) with their own cultural music accents.
Of course I hope that Carminho will continue to sing fado with her beautiful and strong fado expression – sincere, emotional and with “sand in her voice” as a Portuguese friend of mine put it. But I am also very expectant to everything that Carminho can do in the future within other genres. So far she has been spot on in whatever she has tried. Her voice and expression lend themselves easily to different styles, but her fado voice is always present as a base and essential ingredient.
I am not Portuguese, but as many I have come to love fado in spite of that fact. I do not even understand the Portuguese language, but I do understand that the poems of fado are important. I have to rely on the fact that the fadistas understand what they are singing about, and that their understanding colours their expression. The expression is the way to my emotional understanding and appreciation of fado. What is said above about the fado expression should be interpreted from this fact. Carminho communicates strongly with my emotions.
The videos below show emotions of pain and joy, musical friendship and professionality. Carminho’s expression, musicality and slightly hoarse fado voice alongside with her beautiful companion musicians make her music irresistible.
How do you enjoy a jazz festival – or any type of festival for that matter? I guess different individuals with different personalities have their different preferences and strategies, and I have mine. Although there usually is an enormous supply of music listening opportunities at a jazz festival I go for selectiveness. Not because there is only a few good musicians there – that is never the fact – but because I have my limits in terms of enjoying music. An important part of my enjoyment takes place in my memories and remaining feelings after the concerts – and too many concerts blur my memory and my feelings. A multitude of concerts (including the ones I pass by on the street) therefor diminish my experience of each one of the concerts.
The reason why I go to a specific festival is normally that an artist who is special to me will perform there. The first time we went to Molde Jazz Festival in Norway was because of Melody Gardot, who was new to Scandinavians by the time. The second time in Molde our main attraction was Kurt Elling. We went to Ystad Jazz Festival when Hiromi Uehara performed in Sweden for the first time, and to Stuttgart and Juan-les-Pins because of Diana Krall, etc. Once at the festival we of course enjoy some other musicians as well, but only a few.
The reason we decided to come to Aarhus Jazz Festival in Denmark this year was Lucy Woodward. I discovered Lucy on YouTube in February 2014 and I have told the story about this very personal, all-round and truly professional singer before at Musik.pm. It is also a story of how I unsuccessfully have tried to see her perform live several times. For the full story and some very nice music videos follow this link!
So when I learned that Lucy was coming to Aarhus, I wanted to give it a new try – and this time I was successful! My wife and I came to Aarhus on Tuesday 18 July, in good time to find our way around in Aarhus before Lucy’s concert the next day together with the TipToe Big Band, a band from Odense in Denmark. The collaboration is new, and I had not heard Lucy sing with a big jazz band before. Her collaboration with the funk-fusion band Snarky Puppy is not quite the same. But I thought that the dynamics of a big jazz band might suit Lucy´s temperament, expression and vocal resources very well.
And so it did! The concert was in my view a big success for the combination of the band and Lucy. I loved the forceful and swinging music they executed together. Although already being all round musicians they both probably added new dimensions to their usual expressions. If Lucy wants to carry on with this type of collaborations, the big bands can queue up.
The day we arrived in Aarhus we enjoyed another beautiful concert. We have listened a lot to Madeleine Peyroux at home, but this was the first time we saw her live. The experience was something quite different from a big band concert. Madeleine’s voice and guitar was accompanied only by another guitar and a bass – Jon Herington on electric guitar and Barak Mori on upright bass – and in a few songs also by the two musicians’ backing up vocals. The concert was beautiful and very low key. (However, Madeleine’s views on politics were not low-key.)
And then we experienced Lars Jansson Trio in a very enjoyable performance – Lars on piano, Peter Vuust on bass and Lars’ son Paul Svanberg on drums. The only problem with that concert was that it came to an end far too quickly. Not because the concert was short – it was standard format – rather it was so pleasant that you did not notice time. The music was beautiful in a relaxed way, and Lars Jansson is a fun person full of positive charisma and humour on stage.
So we visited three very different concerts, all three very enjoyable, and that was it. After all, we only stayed two days. I am sure most visitors stayed longer (or live in Aarhus), and enjoyed many more concerts. As music lovers we have different agendas, preferences, capacities and strategies.
If you go to a jazz festival you usually stay a couple of days or maybe a full week. This means that there has to be something more than music to enjoy, not least if you want to be selective in your attendance of concerts. Aarhus is indeed a very nice city to host a festival. Big enough to have lots of nice restaurants and pubs, good hotels, nice parks and shops – but small enough to give a feeling of nearness and intimacy. The venues are located close to the centre of the city, which means that you can cover most of them strolling around on a nice summer evening walk. During the festival week the festival colours the feeling of the city, but it does not dominate it. Ordinary city life and the festival co-exist in harmony and with a very nice balance. We fully enjoyed our days in Aarhus!
The band La Màgia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble comes from, and is still related to, the youth band Sant Andreu Jazz Band. Both are led by the musical magician Joan Chamorro, and members perform in both constellations.
I found Sant Andreu Jazz Band through a video on YouTube in September 2016. I have since then introduced the band on Musik.pm twice – last time after having experienced a lovely performance by Sant Andreu Jazz Band in Premià de Mar, a small town close to Barcelona. In these introductions I have linked to a number of YouTube videos with both constellations. But La Màgia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble deserves a post of its own. This is it!
In the beginning I saw the constellation as a group of senior, but still young, band members from Sant Andreu Jazz Band (La Màgia de la Veu) playing together with the Joan Chamorro Quartet (Jazz Ensemble), but after having enjoyed the band for a while I acknowledge that they should be looked upon as one band – the band La Màgia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble. You could not imagine the band without the young members from Sant Andreu Jazz Band or the experienced musician from the Joan Chamorro Quartet. They unite in their love of music and their joy of playing and singing together – for us to enjoy.
The way the young female members take turns as vocal front figures and backing up singers and instrumentalists is very nice – and impressive. They sing excellent and play several instruments. Since the four young man of the band are not featured as vocalists they do not get in the spot light as much as the girls, but they are of course qualified musicians and they are very important to the expression and energy of the band – like the experienced musicians from the Joan Chamorro Quartet are.
La Màgia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble performed last night (July 7) in Premià de Mar, and of course I would very much have liked to be there. I am convinced that the lucky ones who managed to get tickets to the performance had a great night, just like I had with the Sant Andreu Jazz band in April 21. I compensate myself, and all others who were not there, by providing links to YouTube videos where the band perform all songs (but the last) from the beautiful album Joan Chamorro presents La Màgia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble.
Members Joan Chamorro double bass and leader, Andrea Motis sax, trumpet and vocals, Rita Payés trombone and vocals, Alba Armengou sax, trumpet and vocals, Alba Esteban vocals, saxes and clarinet, Elia Bastida vocals, violin and tenor sax, Abril Saurí vocals and trumpet, Joan Mar Sauqué trumpet and trombone, Joan Codina trombone, Joan Martí saxes and flute, Marçal Perramon clarinet and saxes, Josep Traver guitars, Ignasi Terraza piano, Esteve Pi drums
Angie Wells is a wonderful American jazz vocalist, who recently has released her first album, Love and Mischief. We found each other on Facebook last August, and met for the first time in Paris May 17. My wife and I came to Paris to enjoy and cover another artist (which we did), but during the planning of the trip I learned that Angie was going to perform at Chez Papa Jazz Club & Restaurant on our arriving day. We changed our hotel booking to a hotel nearby, and managed to arrive at the restaurant a few minutes into Angie’s first set.
Walking into Chez Papa we see her sitting on a bar stool by the grand piano in a stunning red dress, enjoying the piano solo of the song. She pays attention to what happens in the place, and when we pass by she recognises me from Facebook and waves happily to us. And in between songs she later introduces us to the other guests in the restaurant. This is a kind of reception I am not used to, and I suspect few are!
Angie’s first album has received some very good reviews, and you can find some of them on Angie’s web site. Her alto voice and singing style is praised, and critics say that this is a very promising debut.
“This terrific debut release features an impressive range of styles on a mix of covers (some well-known, some less so) and original tunes. Wells’ voice is warm & pleasing.”
“She sings with expressive conviction.”
“She has her own unique sound and style.”
I cannot but agree. For me, I especially like the two original songs of the album – the ballad The Moon Is Swinging on a Line by Raphael Lemonnier, Mathis Haug and Angie Wells, and the blues She Ain’t the Kinda girl by Wells and Lemonnier. We have listened to the album a number of times at home, and now we are here to listen to Angie live for the first time – today together with the French pianist Philippe Duchemin, who during the night proves to be a very good match with Angie’s voice and expression.
Angie does not disappoint us. On the contrary, what is said in the reviews about her singing on the album does show even more at this live performance. And a live performance also lets her add pleasant small talk and a beautiful outfit to her singing. Angie takes it seriously to be an entertainer, with a platform in jazz. She is a lady who combines hard work with a happy flavour of glamour.
In the break between the two first sets Angie comes to our table to talk to us, but not only to us. During the two breaks during the night I believe she tries to cover every table in the place and she talks to almost everyone. She does not actually take a break herself from the beginning of the first set to the end of the third and last set. She performs or talks to people.
This little story tells a lot about Angie and her personality. She likes people. Of course you can say that making contacts and talking to people is part of her work, but every artist doesn’t see it like that. And you can see that socializing comes natural to Angie. In spite of the stunning dress, Angie is not a diva.
We have a nice meal and of course we stay through all three sets. Angie singing ballads, swing and blues accompanied by Philippe Duchemin is a real treat. In a year or two we might not be able to enjoy Angie’s music in this kind of small places any longer, so we are happy we were in time to do that. Before we leave the club for the night we decide with Angie to meet for coffee and a talk next morning.
And so we do. During a long coffee session we learn a lot about Angie. When I in the end of our conversation ask Angie what she particularly would like to see in the text I am going to write, she points out her varied background. She does not point out that she is outstanding in this or that – it is the varied background she wants to highlight.
And she really has a varied background. Angie comes from Philadelphia where she in high school took a major in science. In college she continued with science for two years, and then took a business degree. During college Angie was working as a corporate trainer, but shortly after graduation the company downsized and she lost her job.
Angie’s father had a barber shop, and maybe that is one reason why she is also interested in makeup. She went to cosmetology school and became a hairdresser, and worked as such in Philadelphia for some years. Eventually she moved to Los Angeles and attended a makeup school to become a professional makeup artist. Then she started to work as a makeup artist in Hollywood.
During this time Angie visited a friend in Paris (2006), and one night they went to Chez Papa. The friend told the people in the restaurant that Angie was an American jazz vocalist, and that she could sing with the band that played there that night. Well, Angie liked singing but she was not the established vocalist that her friend’s recommendation implied. But Angie was offered to sing a song, which became three songs, and her performance was appreciated. But that was that, and the next week she went home.
Well at home she wanted to give singing a chance and started to take singing lessons. Those were interrupted for a short while when she had her baby. When her son was six months old Angie made a demo with Bill Cunliffe on piano, Tom Warrington on base and Joe LaBarbera on drums – three established musicians. The songs were When Sunny Gets Blue, The Man I Love and Too Close for Comfort. She distributed the demo and clubs started to book her.
Cover image of Love and Mischief
And now we are at present time. Angie has released her first album on her own label, and she tours in France with French musicians. The appreciation she received at her unplanned debut at Chez Papa is spreading in France. So she comes here once in a while to sing. And she of course also sings at clubs in the US.
But she keeps her job in Hollywood as a makeup artist, and works as such six months a year. The job is a union job, gives pension, and in general provides good conditions. It also gives her the freedom to devote herself to music the rest of the year. But this combination is not only a way to raise the money needed to invest in her music career. Angie likes to combine tasks on both sides of show business – the performing side and the supporting side, and she likes her work as a make-up artist. This interest also shows in the way she profiles herself on stage and photos. (Have a look at the cover of Love and Mischief and other photos on her web site!)
It will be interesting to follow Angie in the years to come. If my prophecy will come true she might at one point have to reconsider her combination of careers. But if that happens I am sure that Angie with her drive and creativity will find a new interesting way to combine her interests. I will certainly follow what happens with great interest!
So far there are only a few videos with Angie Wells on YouTube, but you can listen to Love and Mischief on Spotify and other streaming services. Or you can, of course, buy the album.
We are on our way to Théâtre des étoiles in Paris. There, the singer-songwriter Keren Ann will perform on her own in a concert called One night alone with Keren Ann. It’s Keren Ann and her guitar, nothing more.
I found Keren Ann last year. The French found her fifteen years earlier, which tells something about the separation of music cultures. Now we have a warm relation to Keren Ann and her music. She has been sort of a “family member” for a year, represented at our dinner table by her music. Music is an important part of our dinners, and since the day we found Keren Ann she has been our regular music guest. Now we look forward to see her in real life, singing the songs we have come to love. We plan to come back tomorrow, since we have tickets also to the next day’s extra concert.
Les Étoiles is a small venue and today’s event is a standing concert. We enter, buy drinks, and stay by the bar to have something to lean on. Soon les Étoiles is full, and after a while Keren Ann enters the stage with her guitar. No one introduces her. She just enters quietly. Keren Ann has been with us intensively for one year, but only through speakers and behind screens. To see her in real life is almost unreal. And without any spoken words she begins her first song.
The guitar she uses is an electric one. The way she plays it does not contribute to the soft side of her music. On the contrary, the strong and sometimes forceful electric sounds stand out in sharp contrast to the soft guitar from her early career. At first I am a little bit disappointed, but after some time I acknowledge that this is an alley which Keren Ann wants to explore, and then I want to follow her. I trust her and she seems so much to enjoy what she is doing. Her usual shy expression is still there, but it is mingled with happiness for the strong music she is making.
Even though she often uses the rough and loud possibilities of the electric guitar, she uses them with discernment to emphasize certain passages of the songs. She is alone on stage, and she sculptures the songs only with her voice and the guitar. It is a very special experience.
Maybe half way into the concert she changes to her acoustic guitar, and thereby to her softer expression. But there is something that is different. At first I cannot put my finger on it, but when she sings her old songs I realise that the way she sings nowadays is different from the way she sang early in her career. The concert experience makes this very clear. On her first albums one could say that part of the soft melancholy she created came from her singing style that sometimes was close to talking. It created an extra dimension of seriousness and intimacy. Now the singing/talking style is gone, and Keren Ann sings with a clear and beautiful voice in a more melodic way. The beauty of her old melodies gets even more accentuated with her singing them this way. And the live performance adds strength and warmth to the expression. There is strength in her voice even in the old soft ballads, and I come to think that the difference between the expressions is the difference between a young woman and a more mature woman.
The title of the concert, One night alone with Keren Ann, refers to the fact that Keren Ann is alone on the stage. But I suppose that the choice of title also is supposed to convey the meaning that each and every individual in the audience will be alone with Keren Ann. A play with words and meanings. But in the soft parts of the concert this is actually what happens. I have never before experienced an artist who so genuinely can relate to each and every one in an audience. I can feel it myself, and I can see it in the serious and open expressions of the faces around me, fully concentrated on Keren Ann not to miss anything. The relation is created by the qualities of the songs and by Keren Ann’s serious and low-key personality. You can trust and relate to a person who gives you all those things that Keren Ann gives you, without being intrusive or self-obsessed.
Before the end of the concert Keren Ann turns back to the electric guitar, but the acoustic guitar returns in the encores. After four encores she finishes with a beautiful a capella song – only her voice and no guitar. We get even closer to Keren Ann, and to each other.
The concert is over, but my wife and I will return to a “full concert encore” tomorrow. And when we come home we will listen to Keren Ann’s albums with the new feeling of actually having met our regular dinner guest in real life. And we sense that we now know her a little bit better.
Read also my introductory post about Keren Ann from 8 June, 2016.
Below is a sample of Keren Ann videos, available on YouTube. Gathering them I realise how much I appreciate Keren Ann and her music.
It is a special experience to enjoy the performance of musicians at their home base. We are tonight in Premià de Mar to do exactly that. We will attend the concert of the youth band Sant Andreu Jazz Band.
Premià de Mar is a small town half an hour train ride from Barcelona, and on the way there you pass Sant Andreu. The performance tonight will take place in Sala Gran at Teatre L’Amistat in the new local culture centre L’Amistat de Premià de Mar. Sala Gran has 268 seats. Since I am in the company of my wife and six Swedish friends, this leaves 260 seats for the locals. Some of them are probably relatives or friends of band members. I bought the tickets very early so we have excellent seats in the middle of row 4. Doesn’t this sound like a perfect setting?
Well, maybe not if the band would have been an ordinary local school band. Then maybe you have to be a close relative or friend to come and enjoy the performance. But Sant Andreu Jazz Band is not an ordinary school band. It started from a music class, and now it is the base in an independant music project with young musicians performing on a very high level, led by Joan Chamorro.
I found the band through a clip on YouTube in September 2016. On the very first clip that I saw, the band member Andrea Motis was singing In My Solitude, backed up by the Joan Chamorro Quartet and Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès. I was astonished. She was so young and had the expression of youth, but she was nevertheless so sophisticated. The setting was grand like a jazz ballad performed by Diana Krall backed up by her usual jazz group and a string orchestra. And like Diana Krall this young lady proved to be not only a vocalist. She also played a solo on trumpet.
I soon found out that Andrea Motis was a member of Joan Chamorro’s creation the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, a big band with children and teenagers playing music with emphasis on a classic jazz repertoire with lots of swing. After this discovery I enjoyed the band many times on YouTube. They have made an effort of publishing a lot of clips with sound and picture of as high quality as the music itself.
The band has many vocalists and like Andrea they also play an instrument, sometimes two. The members often change roles in the band. Sometimes you are the front figure as vocalist/instrumentalist, sometimes you sit in the band backing up other band members who are the front figures in those songs. And several members also play more than one instrument.
In this way the band really works as a school where everybody is supposed to have his or her chance, but the band uses this modus operandi and still keeps up an exceptional quality. This is not to say that everyone in every way and all the time performs at a high professional level. But the quality of the band as a whole is exceptionally high, and together with the charm of youth the band is irresistible. You just have to love them.
Another feature of the general concept is that the band, or parts of the band, sometimes play together with professional musicians – often the Joan Chamorro Quartet. This is a really good concept, and it mixes the educational side of playing together with having fun together. The latter goes for both band members and experienced musicians, as you can see in the clips below. Some senior band members have been featured as ”La Màgia de la Veu” (The Magic of the Voice) and they often play and sing together with the Joan Chamorro Quartet under the name La Magia de la Veu & Jazz Ensemble. Again, the way they take turns as vocal front figures and backing up musicians is very nice – and impressive.
The clips that can be seen on YouTube originate from different phases of the band history, and you can thereby see the band members grow and develop as human beings and musicians. This is in itself a joy to experience, and in watching them mature you sort of adopt the identity of a distant relative to the band members.
Well, what happened in Premià de Mar? We arrived there an hour before the concert started. We passed the time in a small market place close to the church, where two bars served drinks and children ran around and played. When it was time for the concert we walked in the middle of the peaceful street (no cars passed) the short way back to Teatre L’Amistat. It all was a truly and lovely experience of local life, not an experience that you would expect when you are to attend a concert with a band who has become an international Internet phenomenon through YouTube and social media.
The concert proved to be a wonderful performance by the band, led by Joan Chamorro. It was as good as the recordings I have seen, but a live performance of course creates a much closer relation between band and audience, especially when the hall is as small as the one in Teatre L’Amistat. Since many of the YouTube clips that I have enjoyed are several years old I found that there were some new members in the band, and that some of the old members did not participate. This is of course the natural evolution of a youth band, and it is nice to see that the band can keep up the high quality although it has to cope with regeneration. Of course Joan Chamorro is to be congratulated for the successful development of the band – but the band members themselves are also to be credited for the successful regeneration process. They are all part of a living and sustainable music culture that goes on and creates new experiences for us to enjoy. Their YouTube clips are of a very high quality, but if you ever have the possibility – go and see Sant Andreu Jazz Band live!
Thank you, Joan Chamorro!
Thank you band members, here represented by Rita Payés!
The clips below mirror many different contexts where the band or part of the band performs or rehearse, often together with professional musicians. In Premià de Mar the band performed on its own, led by Joan Chamorro.
It all began with Diana Krall. Or rather, started again.
Like many others I discovered new music almost every day in the intense years of youth. The music we discovered was sometimes genuinely new, but sometimes only new to our ears. We conquered new and old musical continents, and made them part of our lives. However, at some point my musical expansion was stalled, and I believe that happened for many in my generation. Maybe it happened because we were to establish our adult roles in society, and many new things demanded our attention.
Some of us tried to compensate this loss by buying albums with compilations of music from our youth, but those albums never brought us new inspiration. They just repeated what we already knew. Music outside our well known scope did not awake our musical curiosity, if there still was any curiosity to wake up. Other experiences and impressions took over the role of music in the journey towards new worlds. Nothing wrong with that, but something was nonetheless lost.
It was not until some twenty years later that I was ready again. One day at the beginning of the new millennium, I heard on the radio a Burt Bacharach song in an interpretation that was new to me. The vocalist had a deep and sensual voice, and she sang slowly with a strong sense of presence and with a serious emotional expression. And then there was the beautiful and restrained piano. The expression of this interpretation reached something in me that hadn’t been reached for a long time. The song was The Look of Love, and the singer was Diana Krall. Right there in life I was struck by music again, and it was Diana Krall who hit me.
However, I did not catch her name. It took me a few days to identify Diana, and it was not until I bought the only album that the big record store in Gothenburg (there were such at the time) had in stock that I realized that the singer and pianist was one and the same person. The album was Love Scenes. I listened eagerly and wanted more. I bought The Look of Love, When I Look In Your Eyes and the tribute to Nat King Cole, All For You. By then I had become a dedicated fan and wanted to have all of Diana’s albums, also the two earlier, Stepping Out and Only Trust Your Heart. That was my first collection of Diana Krall albums, and I have continued to buy her albums and DVDs.
So, Diana Krall made music important to me again. I noticed that a piano jazz trio or quartet was the kind of music I enjoyed the most. I often saw in my mind’s eye a bar where the overly lively guests had moved on, and a piano trio played to entertain themselves and a few remaining guests. I was one of them. This type of scene requires a certain kind of music. That music and the setting probably say something about me, and what role music can play in my life. At least by the time I discovered Diana Krall.
Actually, early in her career Diana played the piano in a hotel bar in my home town Gothenburg. Now I sometimes go there, sip a drink, watch the piano and try to image how it once was. When I write this story, music has become a major theme in my life again, and I search for and discover new music all the time. In 2012 I started the music site Musik.pm. But Diana is still very much the starting point for what I do, and from time to time I come back to her music.
There is one album, or rather a DVD that is like a milestone in Diana’s production of music. It is Live in Paris (2002), a concert at l’Olympia in 2001 that was released on both DVD and CD. The recording of that concert released on DVD is magnificent. It is simply the best concert recording I have experienced. Diana and her fellow musicians deliver a wide range of fine interpretations of jazz classics in a masterly concert production.
It is as an interpreter of classics Diana has her strength. Her interpretations are of such high quality that they sometimes make renowned colleagues’ versions to appear insensitive and almost banal. When she, for example, slows down the tempo of I’ve Got You Under My Skin it makes the “I” of the song a more vulnerable and far more interesting person than the “I” of the swinging and more lightweight version that many American male singers have made theirs.
Diana’s music eventually formed bridges for me to other kinds of music. You can find many of them at Musik.pm. I believe bridges are necessary for us to move forward in our development, be it in music, literature or something else. There needs to be a part of the new which links to something we already know and appreciate, for us to move on and appreciate the elements that are more alien. Diana’s music has for me formed a bridge to many other kinds of music, but what was the bridge to hers? Obviously the beautiful Burt Bacharach song from my youth and Diana’s expression. Once that bridge was passed, I could learn to enjoy everything else Diana’s music has to offer. And it isn’t difficult music – quite the contrary. It is not even new – far from it. I had heard many of those songs before in other versions, but they had been more or less indifferent to my ear. But with Diana well known composers, such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin, became important also to me. She simply became my bridge to a treasury of songs. Diana made the songs become alive to me more than any other artist I previously had heard.
But love is never unconditional or complete. On the contrary, love of a personality or an expression might make you extra sensitive to deviations from that personality or expression. One characteristic of Diana Krall that is important to me is her ability to be both strong and intimate, both intense and low-key. In one of her albums, Quiet Nights (2009), she lets the intimate and sensual dimension take the upper hand of the expression, and I think that she thereby diminishes both herself and the songs. Fortunately, Diana is back with the strong dimension of her personality and voice on later albums.
Although I on the whole have stopped buying CDs I have continued to buy Diana’s albums and DVD’s. This is a collection I want to be complete. I have also attended a number of Diana’s concerts in various places in Europe. The best of the ones I attended before 2015 was probably the concert at the jazz festival in Juan-les-Pins in July 2006. But I think it is not a daring guess that her best concert might have been the one at l’Olympia in 2001. I had very much wanted to be there, but I have instead enjoyed it numerous times on DVD. This DVD is a must to anyone who likes the music of Diana Krall.
But I would not say that Diana peaked in 2001. Her strength lies in taking well known songs to a new level of beauty, presence and serious expression. In 2015 she did exactly that with the album Wall Flower – where Diana swings her magic wand of interpretative genius over a number of pop ballads as she previously has done over a number of jazz standards and ballads in the American Songbook. And at last I got my experience of ”Diana Krall live in Paris” when I saw her at l’Olympia on her “Wall Flower Tour” 2015. It was a beautiful concert.
In the beginning of May comes her next album, Turn Up The Quiet, and I will see her when she comes to Stockholm in October. The new album will bring us more of what Diana does best – interpretations of jazz standards and songs from the American song book. Look for the album and her upcoming concerts on her world tour 2017-2018!
“Who is Lucy Woodward? And why did I notice her only a few days ago?” This is how I started a post (in Swedish) about Lucy Woodward in February 2014 – and this is how I answered my questions.
Lucy is a young American music entertainer with a great feeling for jazz, funk, soul, R&B and other related genres. The reason why you should call her an entertainer, and not just a singer, is her ability to engage both herself and the audience in an entertaining mix of musicality, soul and humour. This is something you have to experience. Attempts to describe her in words will not do her justice. Therefore I stop trying here, and instead refer you to the links below. But why have I not noticed this wonderful artist until recently? Of course it has to do with my ignorance, but I think I share that ignorance with most people in my country. This is yet another example of our common failure to see what is happening on the music scene in other countries. However, it is a bit surprising this time because Lucy is based in a country we usually have our attention on, the US.As usual, I let Internet’s music associations lead my way when I found Lucy. I started with Gin Wigmore, but might just as well have started with Amy Winehouse, Bette Midler or Caro Emerald. Perhaps I could have found her also by starting with one of my other favourites, Nellie McKay, who is said to be one of Lucy’s sources of inspiration. You can find some traits of these artists in Lucy – but above all, Lucy is very much her own genuine Lucy Woodward.
Lucy was born in England 1977 in a musical family with a focus on opera and serious music. Her father is English and her mother American. They eventually moved to the Netherlands, where her father was the leader of a chamber choir. When the parents separated Lucy moved with her mother and brother to the US. Lucy’s mother earned her living there as a music teacher, choir director – and professional belly dancer. Lucy early took piano and flute lessons, and she took her first singing lessons when she was twelve. In the summer holidays she visited her father in Holland, and there frequently locked herself up in his studio and listened to jazz and R&B. At sixteen she became a student at the Manhattan School of Music in order to study jazz, but left school after a year. She wanted to try her wings as a singer-songwriter.
The next few years she performed in various configurations, and in between made her living as a waitress. In 2003, she had got enough attention to get a contract with Atlantic Records, where she recorded her first album – While You Can. The album met with some success, and Lucy toured and appeared on national television. However, Lucy was not totally happy with what she had accomplished, and further searched her musical identity. Her second album came in 2008, now on her own label – Lucy Woodward Is … Hot and Bothered, and her third album came in 2010 – Hooked. Both albums are very good, but I think that the force of her charisma should be enjoyed live during a club gig rather than on a well edited album. I think you will agree with me when you experience the songs below. Enjoy!”
Well, this is what I wrote in 2014, and I have since then been on my way to see Lucy live on a number of occasions in Europe. Now last in Holland, but in the end I couldn’t make it. The closest I have been was a concert at Théâtre Municipal Raymond Devos in Tourcoin, France. My wife and I visited Paris to see Diana Krall when we discovered that Lucy was going to perform together with the funk-fusion band Snarky Puppy in Tourcoin, not far from Paris. Well, we bought tickets to the concert and for the train, and booked a hotel night in Tourcoin.
When we arrived we had some hours to pass before the concert started, and we walked around to explore the city. Then it happened. In a mall I stepped on something slippery, slipped and fell backwards and hit my head hard on the marble floor. I passed out for some seconds, and guards who came running made me lie down until an ambulance arrived. Lying there I said to myself – I will miss Lucy again. After some half hour the medical personnel that had arrived made the diagnosis that I was not seriously hurt. With the help of my wife I could walk back to the hotel and rest for a few hours – and in the evening we came to the concert hall, somewhat shaken but with great expectations.
What about Lucy then? Well, she did not show up! Afterwards we learned that she was double-booked, and that she had to do another gig in London that night, together with Rod Stewart. It was actually no fault of hers, and we had a great night with Snarky Puppy, but we really missed Lucy.
(Snarky Puppy and Rod Stewart? Yes, Lucy appears together with some very different musicians. Another such group is Pink Martini. She is also one third of the vocal trio the Goods.)
So my experience of “Lucy live” is yet to come. While searching for this experience I watch her on YouTube clips and enjoy her new album Til They Bang On The Door (2016). But maybe I could renew my wish from 2014? Returning to the impression I have of the early club recordings I repeat that Lucy in her character is something more than a singer. She is an entertainer, and probably also an actor. There is a lot of humour and a stroke of cabaret feeling in the songs and performances below, and if I could make a wish it would be that she entertained and developed that talent of hers even more. This probably also means something for her future repertoire. Maybe this is the Lucy I most eagerly search for.
Kat Edmonson is from Houston, Texas. When she was 19, she participated in the auditions for the second season of American Idol. She eventually became one of the 48 who were chosen to participate in the final competition in Hollywood. However, Kat did not go far. She was rejected with the comment that she did not look like a star. I understand what the juror Randy Jackson was referring to, but I make a different assessment of Kat and her stage personality. There is a measure of absentness in Kat’s performance, and she sometimes appears introverted – but regardless of the basis for that character it gives her music integrity and personality. Yes, a little bit of a mystery. There is no artificial mannerism in her performance. And thanks heaven for that!
Now Kat Edmonson is 33 years old and soon her fourth album will be released. Her three first albums are irresistible and they have received a lot of well earned praise. She is now a recognized interpreter of standards as well as of contemporary popular music, and she is also successful with her own compositions. Today critics say that Kat indeed looks like a star, but I think that she still differs in an interesting way from the usual image of a star. Her appearance expresses “here I stand and sing a song that means a lot to me, and I hope it will to you as well.” It’s not more than that, but it goes a long way when it is Kat who is singing.
And how she sings! Kat (short for Katherine) has a voice with a very special and beautiful sound. Sometimes it reminds me of Stacey Kent, but the expression is not the same. Some have compared her voice with the voice of Billie Holiday, some with the voice of Nellie McKay. But of course, Kat is primarily Kat herself.
Kat’s mother early taught her to like the classics in the American Songbook, and that kind of music is a base for most of what she does. Some of it fits into the jazz field; some is closer to the American folk song tradition. Kat herself labels her music “Vintage Pop”.
You can find some of the classics on her first album Take To The Sky. Many great artists have done wonderful versions of these, and one may wonder if there is anything to add. Then listen, for example, to Kat’s and her fellow musicians’ version of George Gershwin´s Summertime. There is also more recent music from other genres on this album, such as The Cardigan’s Lovefool, John Lennon’s (Just Like) Starting Over and The Cure’s Just Like Heaven. Kat makes them all her own and turns them into “Vintage Pop”.
On the second album Way Down Low you can find a number of her own compositions. Lucky is probably the one that have received most attention. There is a lot of praise on the Internet. She wrote Champagne inspired by Cole Porter´s music, and it certainly has the feeling of a classic. What Else Can I Do is a wonderful feather light samba. But most beautiful is her sorrowful Nobody Knows That. There are also other musicians’ compositions on the second album. I would particularly highlight her delicate version of Miles Zuniga’s (in the band Fastball) blues ballad Hopelessly Blue.
With one exception Kat is involved in the creation of every song on her third album The Big Picture – sometimes on her own, sometimes together with fellow musicians. I particularly want to highlight Oh My Love, All The Way, Zuniga’s You Can’t Break My Heart, and the breath taking Who’s Counting. You literally hold your breath not to disturb the expression of this song.
Soon her fourth album arrives. In addition to original songs written by Kat I hope there will also be some interpretations of other artist’s well known songs. She is a very original and skilful interpreter. And I sincerely hope that no one has convinced Kat to transform her music and personality into something that fits into the standard frame of a modern American pop star. Kat is unique in a very positive way, and I want her to continue to be that.