Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Although Australian singer Jay Power isn't perhaps strictly a "jazz" singer as some might define it, she is appearing at the Bay of Islands Jazz and Bues festival later this month at the end of a short New Zealand tour (dates below).
Her soul-coloured r'n'b style has infuences from jazz and its a genre she knows her stuff about, as her answers below show.
Back home she has been acclaimed as much for her dynamic performances as her music and last year she was a finalist in the South Australian Female Artist of the Year awards. The band touring with her includes members from Shapeshifter, Roots Manuva and Hollie Smith's group and her new album is The Missing.
You can read more about Jay Power at her website here, meantime it's on wit the questions . . .
The first piece of music, jazz or otherwise, which really affected you was . . ?
Dad used to play Harlem Nocturne over and over on clarinet when I was a kid, determined to perfect it. It was his go-to practice tune and as a child I was struck by what a beautiful melody it is.
When did you first realise this jazz thing was for you?
A jazz pianist friend of the family heard me sing at 18 and said “that girl can sing jazz”. He taught me some songs and I played with his band at the Halls Gap Jazz Festival. I’d listened to a lot of jazz without realising and he helped me see that I could sing it. Eventually, I went to Uni to study jazz.
What one piece of music would you play to a 15-year old into rock music to show them, 'This is jazz, and this is how it works'?
If they were a singer I’d play them Lambert, Hendricks and Ross to show them how jazz can be fun, brilliant, funny, challenging and swingin’.
Time travel allows you go back to experience great jazz. You would go to . . ?
Front row of any Carmen Macrae show. Or Mel Torme. It’s a toss up.
Which period of Miles Davis' career do you most relate to, and why: the acoustic Fifties; his orchestrated albums with Gil Evans; the acoustic bands, the fusion of the late Sixties; street funk of the Seventies or the Tutu album and beyond in the Eighties . . .
For me Kind of Blue is like home base for my life, not just for jazz. Everytime I hear that album it moves me. I’ve memorised a lot of the solos by heart, but it blows my mind to consider how they were spontaneous at the time – it’s genius and it feels so good.
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?
I still have all my tapes and a tape player to play them on.
The best book on the jazz life you have read is . . .
I got a lot out of Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. It made me realise the music life needs flow for it to really give you pleasure.
If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)
I’d sing with Diane Reeves and Esperanza Spalding. I’d be nervous but I’d get in the game and have some fun. I say that anyway.
The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
Office Space – you will see me laugh from beginning to end, it’s ridiculous and filled with office life truisms.
Dior and I – I’m obsessed with documentaries that delve into the creative life. This one was beautiful and inspiring.
Kung Fu Hustle – I love Kung Fu! This film is funny, incredibly original and has plenty of action.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
I recently scored ‘Sinatra – Basie’ on Vinyl in mint condition. I truly love Sinatra but with Basie’s band and arrangements, Sinatra swings harder than ever before. It’s magic.
One jazz standard you wished you had written . . .
I appreciate songs where the harmony, melody and lyrics meet to really stir the heart. Songs like Body and Soul, You don’t know what love is, Black Coffee, I’ve got the world on a string, where everything about the song makes you feel what the protagonist is feeling. I wish I had that skill and I try to reach for it.
The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .
It’s hard to go past Herman Leonard’s famous black and white photograph of Dexter Gordon. It’s much cheaper than the Lichtenstein I’d really like.
Three non-jazz albums for a desert island would be . . ?
Aretha Franklin – Never loved a man the way that I love you
A Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory
Erykah Badu – Please can I take them all?
Your dream band of musicians (living or dead) would be . . ?
Questlove on drums. Robert Glasper on keys. And me.
You did say ‘dream’.
And finally, is there a track on your most recent album you would love people to hear. And, if so, why that one?
This album isn’t jazz, but if you know jazz, you can’t mistake it’s influence. You can probably hear it most on ‘Heaven Mixed with Hell’; it sounds like hip-hop pop but it’s a swing melody with a sophisticated bridge.
JAY POWER NEW ZEALAND TOUR
August 10 - Meow
Wellington, with special guest Spitfire
Friday August 12 - The Old Stone Butter Factory Whangarei
Saturday 13 August/ Sun 14 August - Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival