GETTING TO KNOW YOU: EMMA SMITH
Emma Smith & Strings
Sunday August 4 | 8:30pm | £10
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Emma Smith is without question one of the leading Jazz vocalists of her generation, singing with a poise and facility that many singers twice her age would kill for. She is a third-generation Jazz musician, her grandfather Chris Smith Senior played trombone with Tubby Hayes, Oscar Peterson and Frank Sinatra, her father, trumpeter Chris Smith Jnr, writes and arranges for the likes of the BBC Big Band, and her mother, Simone, is an excellent sax player. So not too surprising then that she did her first gig when she was 14, started performing with NYJO when she was 15 and received a scholarship to the Purcell School of Music when she was 16 - the first ever jazz vocal student to do so. She is now a regular performer in many of London’s top jazz venues, singing her impressive original songs (as featured on her brilliant debut CD, The Huntress) with some classic Jazz standards too. Tonight Emma will be bringing her latest project that not only features her great trio led by pianist Rob Barron (Wed 28th) but also the wonderful Anoushka String Quartet. This promises to be a very special gig from a truly exceptional young talent. Highly recommended.
" audiences will hear a singer who has absorbed Billie, Ella, Ernestine Anderson, looks the part, carries the phrase, inhabits the song and communicates it to the manner born.” LondonJazz News
“An astonishingly mature performance...Exceptional agility” The Times
"... A precocious talent who has produced an exceptional debut album" All About Jazz
Catch us up on your academic career - have you graduated from the Royal Academy? For you, what was the most beneficial aspect
of taking a music degree, the thing that made it most important to you?
ES: It's official! I have graduated with a First from the Royal Academy of Music! The most important thing I learnt from the academy was compositional skills, this is mainly thanks to the genius teacher that is Pete Churchill. Another aspect of the course that has really changed me as a musicians was getting to rehearse and play with musicians like Stan Sulzmann, Jim Hart and Will Vinson. That was a unique experience!
You've got a soundcloud clip on your Facebook titled "Intro by Ambrose Akinmusire". What's the story, Akinmusire is only the hottest
young trumpeter in the world right now. Are you collaborating with him?
ES: I've been lucky enough to spend some time with Ambrose and get a glimpse into how his brain works as a composer and improviser. Although he is such a cavern of genius it's hard to imagine where he gets his inspiration from! He asked me to have a go at setting some words to this fantastic tune 'intro'. First time I heard him play it was as a duo at North Sea jazz festival a few years ago, although he told me its actually an intro to a string quartet piece. He loved what I did with his tune, thankfully! Ambrose is a truly inspiring musician, breaking the boundaries of his instrument, I can't wait for his new album!
What was the inspiration for this new project, Emma Smith & Strings? Who are the principal players and what material are you focusing on?
ES: The material is a mix of originals and arrangements. There's some Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Wayne Shorter and even Stan Sulzmann, who gave me his blessing to arrange a tune of his that I'd previously put lyrics to.
The group is:
Rob Barron- keys
Calum Gourlay- bass
Josh Blackmore- drums
The Anoushka String Quartet
For what is considered a relative niche style of music, jazz is actually quite a big umbrella, encompassing many different styles.
Where do you see yourself in that spectrum?
ES: Wow. I have no idea! I like to get involved in all areas of music and I'm not keen on labelling things. I love the classic jazz stuff and I'm also crazy about creative electronic music.
You are from a musical background. How did that influence you, not just in terms of musical taste but in terms of wanting to have
a career in the business? It can be a tough industry to make a go of.
ES: I come from a family of incredibly successful and talented musicians. My dad is a composer and has had a wonderful life being a musician but its also been hard work for him and my mum to keep their band afloat in hard times. They were hoping me and my brother would go and be lawyers or something but unfortunately we just couldn't resist what comes naturally to us. My brother is a terrifyingly talented guitarist, currently in his first year at Trinity College of Music, watch this space for Daniel Smith!
What's on your iPlayer/Spotify app these days, what and/or who do you like to listen to?
ES: Right now I'm listening to an Australian band called 'Hiatus Kayote'. It's very left field pop/electronic/jazz stuff. I'm also obsessed with a bass player called 'Thundercat' at the minute. His music makes me feel truly alive and excited about the future of music.
There's a lot of talk about that music has become disposable rubbish, it's all gone downhill since digital or since rap or since autotune.
What's your position, are we aesthetically & creatively doomed or is all not lost? :-)
ES: Firstly, I love rap. I'm really into Kendrick Lamar (who's played at all the jazz festivals this year!) and I love Tyler the Creator. I think right now is SUCH an exciting time for music. the commercial music industry is putting out loads of creative, experimental artists at the minute, and they are doing really well! James Blake for example. And what about Robert Glasper winning a Grammy for best R&B album! It's all good. The time is right to be wildly creative and bold with your art. I'm so happy to be around in this era and can't wait to make more music!
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