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Tessa Souter

Striking, soulful, enchanting” (Washington Post), “expressive” (New York Times), “stunningly original (Jazz Times), Anglo-Trinidadian Tessa Souter, whose music contains “Middle Eastern, Brazilian and flamenco elements in an airy jazz framework” (Philadelphia City Paper), has established herself as “an uncommonly creative vocalist and songwriter over the past two decades.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

A jazz vocalist with a sumptuous sound and an unerring ear for fresh and unexpected material—Illustrious fans include acid jazz-vocalist Jon Lucien (“Magnificent! She blew me away!”), jazz vocal legend, Mark Murphy (“Remarkable and very moving.”), and NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan (”A beautiful voice and a beautiful soul. At the top of my list of great talent. She really moves me.”)—Souter knows her way around the American Songbook’s back pages. But ever since the release of her 2004 debut, Listen Love, she has cast an increasingly wide net, from contributing original lyrics to instrumental jazz standards, and re- imagining classic British rock, to her Third Stream project, Beyond the Blue—a London Sunday Times Jazz Record of the Year, starring Steve Kuhn and featuring Souter’s original lyrics to classical gems by Albinoni, Chopin et al.

Born and raised in London, Souter was making her way in the early 1990s as a freelance journalist in San Francisco—where she was one of the original six members of the storied Writer’s Grotto— when she first considered switching careers. She’s thrived since moving to New York in 1997, collaborating with an impressive roster of players.

She has recorded five critically acclaimed CDs including her self-produced Flamenco-tinged debut, Listen Love (2004), Nights of Key Largo (Venus, 2008), which garnered her a prestigious Swing Journal Gold Disc Award, Obsession (Motema, 2009), Beyond the Blue (Motema-Venus, 2012), and her latest, Picture in Black and White (Noa). Utilizing the talents of some of New York's finest first-call musicians—Yotam Silberstein (guitar), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Keita Ogawa (percussion), Adam Platt (piano), Dana Leong (cello), and Billy Drummond (cymbals and drums)—the album, the second of her recordings to make the Sunday Times’ Jazz Record of the Year list, is an emotionally resonant invitation through music to reflect on the African diaspora experience of slavery, loss, love, redemption and the pellucid and lasting repercussions of that period in history.

“This album is much more than a rich collection of unusual songs, beautifully sung. It has the narrative arc of a fine short story, told with the intelligence and heart that Tessa brings to all her singing and prose- writing.

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...a talented... broadly imaginative singer. NEW YORK TIMES

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. Unlike many of her contemporaries she seems more focused on exploring the limitless creativity of the art than simply having another go at the Great American Songbook. LOS ANGELES TIMES

On her amazing album Listen Love, she delivers powerful versions of nonstandards such as Pat Martino’s “Willow” and Pharoah Sanders’ complex “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” in addition to her originals, all delivered in a crystal-clear voice with diamond-cut phrasing and a slight tinge of melancholy. She’s a gem. PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Like Norma Winstone—whose lyrics for Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks" she uses here—Souter understands what is needed to deliver a song.... Souter's singing style feels natural and organic — her rich, dark voice combines with her ability to see the shape of a tune and so the words seem to come from her soul. DONALD ELFMAN, ALL ABOUT JAZZ

An Afro-British-Caribbean stylist who proves that the jazz singer’s repertoire is no longer limited to the Great American Songbook. Direct and soulful. Plus she’s the only singer who can make sense of Pharoah Sanders, ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan.’ VILLAGE VOICE

Tessa Souter brings new life to time-honored standards while also mining a creative spark from the unlikeliest quarters—Sting’s “Fragile,” Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” even Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” ...Gentle, spare accompaniment... helps emphasize Souter’s understated, intimate approach. TIME OUT NEW YORK

Unlike many jazz singers, who either emulate the brassy blasts of a trumpet or the gymnastic lines of a saxophone, Souter uses the sustained waves of a violinist. Her voice is sinuous and elastic, stretching and caressing a melody with an actress' sense of the emotional meaning of each lyric. Souter's debut, Listen Love (Nara), is striking for reasons beyond her voice, however. First, the CD is refreshingly free of the Great American Songbook. The closest Souter comes to a standard is her snake-charming rendition of ‘Caravan.’ PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER

Soulful. You’ll be hearing more from this lady. LA WEEKLY

On her new album, 'Listen Love' (Nara Music), she avoids the obvious earmarks of jazz style: There are no horns, little piano, and a lot of guitars and percussion. Still, Ms. Souter is undeniably a jazz singer. When she does 'Caravan,' she stretches notes to suggest pentatonic chanting, accompanied by guitar and bass mimicking Middle Eastern string instruments... Ms. Souter has also supplied lyrics to several instrumentals, including Pat Martino's 'Willow'.... Her rendition of Pharoah Sanders's 'The Creator Has a Master Plan' proves that it's possible to be spiritual and sensual at the same time. THE NEW YORK SUN

Tessa Souter's Listen Love marks the debut of an important new jazz singer. It's hard to believe she only recently became a vocalist, because she sings with the authority and passion that usually comes from long experience. JIM MOTAVELLI, RADIO HOST, WPKN FM

Ms. Souter dazzles and stuns with her vocal expertise on a potpourri of classics and a few that she adds her own lyrics to. All rendered with taste and élan. It’s a jam packed world out in jazz vocal land but Ms. Souter is able to lend an innate musicality and tastefulness to her performances that separates her from the herd. Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks shimmers in her voice, while Pat Martino’s Willow gains added depth with Ms. Souter’s own lyrical bent. Caravan is done with a gorgeously referenced Middle Eastern feel that sounds more right than the original. Pharoah Sander’s The Creator Has A Master Plan is even better as performed by Ms. Souter than Leon Thomas’s version as she makes the music and lyrics come together with added depth to the spiritual aspects of the piece. All in all Ms. Souter imbues her singing with sensitivity and profound insights without beating you over the head. An outstanding new release.” JOHN HAMMEL, WNTI RADIO WEBSITE REVIEW

”Reflective, spare, serious, hypnotic... I've been playing it over and over and keep finding new things … settle back and be bathed in a simply beautiful voice possessed by someone who has learned how to use it.” TALKINGTOBROADWAY.COM


Tessa Souter has all the qualities I value most in a musician: great time, beautiful phrasing, gorgeous sound, a respect for silence, an emotional connection to the moment, and a wonderful ability to tell a story. She is the "real thing" in every way. LARRY KOONSE

Magnificent! I couldn’t stop playing it over and over. She blew me away! JON LUCIEN

One of the finest of the growing singers in our midst. Tessa is a complete musician whose range of music, expression and dynamic presentation are remarkable and very moving, completely capturing her audience. MARK MURPHY

An important musician. Tessa has naturally what people spend years trying to develop. Her brilliant lyrics and songs make her stand out from the pack so very much. And she creates a mood and an atmosphere when she takes the stage. HOWARD JOHNSON

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Primary Instrument

Voice / vocals


New York City

Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced


Concert Schedule

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Beyond the Blue

Venus Records


Beyond The Blue

Motéma Music


Nights of Key Largo

Venus Records



Motéma Music


Beyond The Blue

From: Beyond The Blue
By Tessa Souter



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