"...performances that enchant, surprise and ineffably capture the imagination. Riley's lyrics and Donald's music seem to flow together in a single flood of invention..." -- Jazzwise Magazine
Sirena Riley started her first night in London by opening a 'Time Out' magazine and going to the first jazz open mic session she could find. Australian pianist and composer, Tom Donald was the house pianist. They were introduced over a spine-tingling, room-silencing performance of Duke Ellington's ‘Solitude’ that startled even the performers. After eyeing each other suspiciously, they agreed that a collaboration was inevitable. Two years later, their first single, 'Half Moon' was a semi-finalist in the 2008 UK Songwriting competition. The debut song cycle and album, 'The Lunatic, The Lover and The Poet' is now available on their own label, Remigrant Records showcasing what Jazzwise Magazine calls "a formidable writing partnership".
An Ellington tune was a fitting platform given that Sirena grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC, birthplace of that illustrious composer. She began singing in choirs as a child and later contributed vocals for several DC bands. She settled on jazz because as she says, “its delicious.” She split for London after meeting several skillful, inspired artists based in Europe and the UK. She felt at home among them, and knew instinctively that London was where she belonged.
'The Lunatic, The Lover and The Poet' is the result of a one day recording session featuring a brilliant line up. Reedist, Mark Buckingham, is best described as the bass clarinet’s answer to Eric Dolphy. The vibrant lucidity of double-bassist, Vanessa McGowan joins the band at the hips, while James Kaye’s perceptive percussion adds an uncanny texture to Donald’s obliquely dissonant melodies. Donald’s pianism is at once spacious and complex, orchestrating the unique soundscape. Sirena's vocal performance is a return to straightforward soulfulness from the breathless vulnerability of ‘Reconcile’ to the the edgy, yet catchy ‘Half Moon.’ Her sunburnt voice and poetic, often confrontational lyrics stretch expectations of a jazz vocalist and places these songs into an idiom of modern jazz which attracts music lovers within and well outside of its usual audience.