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Take Five With Karen Lane

Karen Lane By

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Meet Karen Lane:
Originally from Perth then Sydney and Singapore and has been resident in London for the last 14 years. She has released five albums to rave reviews and played London's most prestigious jazz clubs including Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho and Ronnie Scotts with musicians including Jamie Cullum, Geoff Gascogne, Enzo Zirilli, Renato D'Aiello and Alec Dankworth. She's found herself singing in exotic places she'd never imagined she'd see including Sicily, Portafino, Nice, Monte Carlo, Berlin, Cape Town and Bucharest.

As well as being an accomplished songwriter as evidenced on several of her albums, Lane brings refreshing revamps to standards such as "Lullaby of Birdland," "Love Me or Leave Me." Her arrangements, driven by groove or counterpoint, reflect Lane's heritage as a soul singer in Sydney's Kings Cross in the 1990's. Her undulating and evocative vocals blend traditional resonance with decidedly modern inflections. She has a love of Brazilian music and released a dedicated Bossa Nova album—Taste which was described in Jazzwise as:

"So laid back that to listen to it, you risk slipping a disc—delightful. Perfect for those balmy summer evenings—a genuinely heartfelt homage to the profound allure of bossa nova." —Jazzwise

"Sensually funky and soulful." —Jazz UK

Instrument(s):
Voice and Piano

Teachers and/or influences?
Sarah Vaughan was my first real influence as a jazz singer and I listen to her for hours. I loved Sarah's slightly classical approach as my first singing teacher was classical and so I could relate to her sound and technique. After that I branched out to include Ella Fitzgerald—wow and Billie Holiday, though I was never fully taken with Billie probably due to the scratchiness of the recordings.

Next I was drawn to Nina Simone and Dianne Reeves, then much later after I'd arrived in the UK, I was obsessed with Shirley Horn, who I was lucky enough to experience by almost random chance singing live in her hometown Washington DC at the Bohemian Caverns in 2000, that was amazing. Her restrained understated laid back delivery struck me most, as well as her musicianship which influenced me significantly before my first recording "Once in a Lifetime" on which I covered, "Here's to Life."

Having sung a lot of Soul in Sydney I was also influenced by Aretha Franklin, Ann Peebles and Mavis Staples. Later that led me to more funky contemporary musicians and songwriters such as MeShell NdegeOcello the amazing bassist, Rachelle Farrell fascinating and inspiring me as well as Erykah Badu whose exquisite performance art, I was lucky to witness at North Sea jazz.

Then there is the whole Brazillian genre—where I have found inspiration in Joao Gilberto, Jon Hendricks, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina and Paula Morelenbaum.

Later as a more experienced singer I have been focused on Eva Cassidy and younger inspiring singers like Kate McGarry and Canadian Elizabeth Shepherd who is amazing.

Also recently in the vocal styling of Nancy Wilson (and her predecessor Dinah Washington) I just love their bluesy direct delivery.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
When I spent hours every Saturday afternoon singing into my hairbrush, with my best friend, Kylie. Also as a fourth child I pretty much taught myself piano by aged 6 to be like the others.

Your sound and approach to music:
Do what ever feels right at the moment. Don't try to second guess your audience and what they might want to hear. I usually arrange songs starting with a rhythmic idea for the bass or a feel for the drums which will then define how the song develops when collaborating with the band.

Your teaching approach:
Follow their lead. There is never a fix all approach or a one glove fits all—in terms of techniques for learning and teaching singing. I stay away from hyped teaching techniques—but ensure I am informed about all the latest approaches by continuing professional development—which the British Voice Association are great for. I draw techniques from a variety of approaches.

Always listen to the student singing a full song to assess various strengths and weakness before launching your fix it campaign.

I try to inspire, encourage and support singer as it is such a vulnerable instrument. Feedback but never criticize.

Your dream band:
I feel I have worked with many "dream bands" and musicians and feel immensely privileged to have done so.

Including: Geoff Gascoyne, Nic France, Andy Hamill, Phil Peskett, Tom Cawley, Dominic Ashworth, Enzo Zirilli, Steve Waterman, John Hoare, Martin Shaw, Renato D'Aiello and many others.

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