EFG London Jazz Festival Penultimate Day / Tessa Souter at Pizza Express Dean Street (London)

From our archives:

Jazz editor Tony Andrews writes:

Around 12 years ago I got involved in sorting out a tour for a very talented female Jazz Singer from The US. The person who was in charge of the project had got it into such a mess that it was destined to failure and so I took it over. Two things came out of this project. First, was a Citizen ECO Watch in Titanium as a Thank You for sorting out the mess and secondly a piece of advice to go and see English born Tessa Souter whenever she returned to the UK from her new home in the US.

The watch is still a treasured possession and so was the advice to seek her out.

It has taken all this time but when I read that she was performing at The London Jazz Festival I had to go even …… though it meant rearranging a very important date in my diary. I contacted Tessa to see if she was happy for me to attend with the intention of writing a review. She was thrilled and so it was all arranged.

Possibly you can imagine that after admiring someone as a singer for such a long time that as the date got closer that I got more nervous about meeting her for the first time. There is a saying “Never Meet Your Heroes least they disappoint”. I looked this up and it has been attributed to Louisa May Alcott and H G Wells but whoever said it the saying kept me thinking.

I'll not beat around the bush; she is my heroine. We met before the concert as she finished rehearsing and ….. all my fears were dispelled in an instant. She was so kind and warm-hearted that it was immediately apparent (hero worship notwithstanding) that she, frankly, is an amazing person and this reflects in her singing.

Before and after the concert I spoke to many of Tessa's friends who also attended and the admiration for her was quite touching. I’m not the only one who knows her to be a very special person.

One of the reasons Tessa chose to do this concert was to promote the forthcoming CD Picture in Black & White which should be released mid 2018. I have had a sneak preview and it is amazing and most of the tracks were included during both concerts.

The evening was split in to a 7.30 performance and a 10.30 session which include mostly songs from the new CD. I could only attend the early show but my assistant Dee reported back on the later session and she had glowing praise.

I am glad I chose the earlier session as this included songs from three of Tessa's previous incredible CDs.

She assembled a stellar band including Winston Clifford on Drums, Neville Malcolm on Double Bass and the biggest surprise of all …. Sean Hargreaves on Piano.

I wrongly assumed that Sean was from The US as I had never come across him before but he is very English and talented beyond all expectations. He has the ability to work with and enhance a singer. This courtesy, respect and talent is a rarity and there are very few pianists I've encountered who can achieve this to his high standards.

The whole band worked so well together and the Concert started with the only song which to me is a well known standard when Tessa sang Caravan in her own inimitable style which is so fresh and featured on her Listen Love CD.

I’m convinced that she is the most complete singer I have ever heard; articulating her voice seamlessly up and down the scales in an almost hypnotic way. From that point on the songs were known but not done to death standards as many singers do.

These included Ancestors and Dancing Girl/ Where The Streets Have No Name (by U2) from Tessa's new CD. I loved Little Sunflower and Obsession from Tessa's Obsession CD.

In fact the only one of her CDs which did not have a song featured was Beyond The Blue which is entirely tunes from the classical repertoire but with words by Tessa.

I recommend that you Google Chopin's Prelude in E minor and look and listen and all will make much more sense. I always judge just how good a concert is by how quickly the time flies and the 95 minutes went by in a flash and was over far too quickly for me. Every song was haunting with a sensual feeling of perfection.

My assistant Dee was left with the same feeling of being part of something very special and heard far more tracks from the new CD Picture in Black & White. As soon as this is released Tessa has promised me a copy to review which will be a joy to do.

As many of the readers of this review are very likely to be using audiophile equipment I feel it is only right to comment on the recording quality of all Tessa's CD. Key Largo and Beyond the Blue are available on Venus Recordings Japan in Enhanced CD and SACD. The New CD Picture in Black & White is equally as impressive from an Audiophile point of view with the recording being pin-sharp and up-close and personal as if being in the front row of an first-rate Jazz Club.

The same observations apply equally to Listen Love and Obsession; similarly wonderful. This all helps to appreciate just how musically perfect Tessa is both as a singer and arranger of her material. In these days when so many singers are perfectly satisfied with copying other singer from a bygone era, it’s it so refreshing to hear pure unadulterated originality.

I unreservedly recommend buying Tessa's CDs and SACDs until you can get the chance of seeing her live. As soon as it becomes available Picture in Black & White will be reviewed here along with an interview from Tessa about the motivation behind the CD which is very specific and an emotional story which touched my heart.

Thank you to everyone involved and especially Tessa.

Artist Biography by Ken Dryden