"Souter, whose musical sophistication gives her a significant advantage in the competitive clamor surrounding the current world of ambitious female jazz artists, also has the rare quality of authenticity ... she seems more focused on exploring the limitless creativity of the art than simply having another go at the Great American Songbook."
Tessa Souter, vocals
Kenny Werner, piano
Joel Frahm, saxophone
Billy Drummond, drums
Will Holshouser, accordion
Sean Smith, bass
Tessa Souter never planned for an eventual career in music. When she moved to San Francisco from London in 1992, with a background in journalism (including six months as Chief Copy Editor at Elle Decoration and a stint as interim Features Editor for British Elle magazine), her plan was to be a full-time writer. Over the next two years she gradually developed a successful freelance practice writing for major magazines and newspapers, and helped found the Writer's Grotto, which has become the heart of San Francisco's vibrant literary scene.
Not long after relocating to New York City in 1997, Souter tumbled into what would become a new career as a singer, with the great Mark Murphy serving as her close mentor. By the time she'd released her self-produced 2004 debut album, Listen Love, she had already been headlining performances at major jazz venues in Los Angeles, New York, and London, as well as in Russia, where she now regularly performs to sold-out crowds.
Souter followed her debut with 2008's award-winning Nights of Key Largo and, in 2009, her stunning Motéma debut, Obsession, about which JazzTimes's Christopher Loudon wrote: "Souter's crystalline contralto and impeccable phrasing are mighty arrows in her quiver, but it is her ability to become one with a song ... that enables her to score successive bull's-eyes."
Tonight at the Blue Note, Souter celebrates the release of Beyond the Blue, her fourth album and second for Motéma Music. On this new offering, the London-born Anglo-Trinidadian New Yorker has raised the bar once again. Souter assembled a dozen classical melodies by composers for this recording, including Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Chopin. Three of the songs are familiar standards: "The Lamp Is Low" (Ravel), "My Reverie" (Debussy), and "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" (Borodin). The others are new standards, with lyrics by Souter. All express the album's leitmotif – exploring the shadows and light of love and intimacy.
"Although this is a semi-classical project, it turned out to be the most impromptu recording I've ever done," says Souter. "I was finalizing lyrics up to the very last minute. This meant everyone had to be super sensitive and creative, really listening and responding to each other in the moment, in the true spirit of jazz."
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