How did the album come about?
“It’s been ten years since I wrote and produced my first album – before I started studying and singing jazz. This was successful in its genre, but after some years on my jazz journey (and with vocal adjustments, including taming the vib!) it seemed timely to produce a second album to reflect the change of focus. Coincidentally, on the strength of the previous CD and my work as a community musician, I was hugely fortunate to receive a grant from a charitable trust towards making this possible.”
“I had a meeting with record producer James McMillan of the award-winning Quiet Money Studio in Hastings and instantly it all seemed achievable.”
“I feel a loyalty to people who’ve kindly followed my music over the years. Without making too radical a change I wanted to invite them to consider the jazz aspect of my work. So I’ve included my own originals and also penned some lyrics to a gorgeous composition by bassist Terry Pack. Together with our band’s collaborative arrangements of standards there’s a song in Hebrew and one by Rachmaninov (which I’ve sung in the past as a classical piece). There’s a poem by Shelley exquisitely interpreted by Simon D’souza and an enduring Joni Mitchell number that I used to sing with my guitar as a teenager. I believe a beautifully composed piece of music can transcend the style in which it is written and I think/hope bringing these songs into the jazz arena has worked.”
“I love integrating the pure sounds of some ‘ethnic’ instruments into both performance and music therapy work, so tamboura and singing bowl have added their own flavour to the overall sound.”
Why the title Into the Blue?
“It arose from one of my song titles. The album is dedicated to a dear friend who passed away and writing this song was my way of coping. Funnily enough, this had been my working title for the album for over a year and, just this month, Kylie Minogue released her new single – and yep, you’ve got it – it’s called Into the Blue… Ah well – what’s good enough for Kylie…”
Who are the musicians involved and what did they contribute?
“The main instrumentalists joining me from the outset were Simon D’souza – soprano & tenor sax, Terry Pack – double bass, Wayne McConnell – piano, Dan Hayman – drums & percussion. I’m so proud to have had these fine musicians on board – their individual skilful contributions in playing and arranging have been invaluable and from the start they have been generous-spirited and committed to the project. I knew I had two options: whether to present pre-prepared arrangements or for us, as a team, to develop and arrange the pieces together with everyone involved. Choosing the second option worked really well. We worked hard and at the same time it was hugely innovative and fun. I have an OK set-up at home where we were able to hold rehearsals and I think it helped to work in an informal but professional atmosphere where ideas could be further developed over lunch and copious bowls of soup!”
“Once we had begun work in the studio, multi-talented James McMillan (trumpet and flugelhorn) played on three tracks. I was delighted to have Merlin Shepherd play clarinet on the setting to an ancient text and also Ben Sarfas – violin – on the Rachmaninov piece. So altogether a dream team!”
What were the easiest and the hardest parts of making the album?
“Hardest – the start and finish! I agonised over the content. I didn’t want to make an album for the sake of making one but wanted to produce something meaningful – both for myself as an artist and for listeners. I found it hard to choose from my repertoire, and elsewhere, a body of work that would sit together well and have integrity both in significance and interpretation of the songs. It took me a while to realise that I was wasting a LOT of time and energy in searching for suitable material when, in fact, the answer was in front of me all the time. I needed to trust my first ideas, my own writing and creative instincts and run with them. The songs endeavour to reflect our emotional landscapes and the fragility of nature/human nature.”
“It was equally difficult to bring the project to a conclusion – knowing when to consider it ‘finished’.”
“Easiest – a lovely working relationship with the other guys on the album.”
What have you learnt from the experience and/or what would you do differently if you did it again?
“I’ve learned so much about the technical process which has moved on significantly in ten years. James and I did all the mixing and production side of it together and I loved the intense listening and endless possibilities of this phase.”
“Creating every aspect of Into the Blue has been a big learning curve. As in any creative process you learn so much along the way and I might approach it completely differently if I were to start again. As James rightly says – it’s called a ’record’ because it is just that – a record of a moment in time. Already I have other ideas about this album. But that can only be good.”
(Interview conducted by Charlie Anderson)