I blame Ella.
If anyone asks me who my greatest influence is, I always think back to the first time I saw Ella Fitzgerald singing on one of those old TV specials. She was wearing large glasses, had the song lyrics on a stand in front of her and kept shuffling the pages around whilst she was singing – all the things you’re told you’re not to do. Yet what came out of her mouth was completely engaging and beautiful. Her voice was so mellow, her vocals so effortless, her phrasing so precise, so clear. I was completely captivated. Being the reserved character I was and suppose still am, watching Ella made me realise that I could express my thoughts and passion through song.
I love the freedom and space of Jazz music. There are no set rules, no boundaries, no definative way to sing. Rhythm and melody can be played with, feelings explored, day to day worries lost in the wonderful world of the music. But with that freedom also comes a certain amount of fear. How much do I change the feel or phrasing? How much space can I leave before the song collapses? It’s a constant learning curve.
This album includes some of my constant companions. I know songs like I’ve Got a Crush on You, Lean Baby and I Could Write a Book so well that they have almost become a part of me but I also wanted to explore some lesser known standards. London by Night, for example, reminds me of the time when I was just starting out and would travel home late from gigs in the West End, along the Embankment towards the East End where I lived. I would always drive slowly and gaze at the string of lights along the river, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the OXO Tower, all reflected in the Thames. Occasionally I would park up, get out of the car and have a moment to myself.
I still have those moments, of course. Often, in the middle of a gig, I just stand and listen to the amazing musicians I’m working with and think how lucky I am to do this as a living. To be able to sing for my supper is truly a wonderful thing.