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Tessa Souter

Downbeat Critics Poll "Rising Star", vocalist Tessa 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." (Jazz Times

About Me

“Striking, soulful, enchanting” (Washington Post), “expressive” (New York Times), “stunningly original (Jazz Times), as a jazz vocalist with a sumptuous sound and an unerring ear for fresh and unexpected material Tessa Souter knows her way around the American Songbook’s backpages. But ever since the release of her 2004 debut Listen Love, the Anglo-Trinidadian singer has cast an increasingly wide net, often contributing original lyrics to jazz instrumental standards. On her ravishing 2012 masterpiece Beyond the Blue (Motéma), she even set lyrics to beloved themes from the European classical canon. Her new album Picture in Black and White is her most personal and universal yet, a riveting musical account of the journey launched by her discovery at 28 that her father was black. It’s another revelatory step by an artist on a decidedly unconventional path. Born and raised in London, she was making her way in San Francisco in the early 1990s as a freelance journalist—Souter helped found the storied Writer’s Grotto—when she became obsessed with jazz singing. She’s thrived since moving to New York in 1997, collaborating with an impressive roster of players. 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.”) She has recorded four 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), and her latest album, Beyond the Blue (Motema-Venus, 2012), which featured her own lyrics to jazz versions of classical gems was picked by the London Times as one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2013.

My Jazz Story

I love jazz because of its infinite variety. I was first exposed to jazz at 16 (Cannonball Adderley's Something Else) by my roommate. The best show I ever attended was Sarah Vaughan at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. The first jazz record I bought was Native Dancer by Wayne Shorter. My advice to new listeners: focus your listening. You hear something different every time.