“An emotive performer who breathes passion into everything she performs.” London Time Out
Born of English and Trinidadian parents, the London-born, Harlem-based vocalist-composer, Tessa Souter, is an amazing natural talent with a crystal clear voice and a distinctive and exotically beautiful style of jazz, which evokes Spain, North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the Celtic folk music she grew up listening to. Whether performing at the Philharmonic halls of Russia or in the intimacy of a New York jazz club, the Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Star “… is a beguiling artist who infuses everything she interprets with voluptuous intelligence and keen emotional insight.” (Andrew Gilbert, KQED Arts). “A very special talent,” says NEA Jazz Master, Sheila Jordan. “She really moves me.”
Heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the few exceptional standouts in the crowded field of female jazz singers, who also has the rare quality of authenticity,” Tessa’s “truly beautiful voice” (Sirius Radio) and penchant for exploring music mostly untouched by other singers have set her apart as “one of the finest and most fearless vocalists to have emerged in recent years.” (Boston Globe). Her most recent album, Beyond the Blue (Venus-Motema), featuring jazz interpretations of classical repertoire with her own “exhilaratingly mature lyrics” (Neil Tesser, Chicago Examiner), made several Top 10 lists that year, including Clive Davis’ #6 pick on the London Sunday Times’ Top 10 Jazz Releases of 2013, alongside Ahmad Jamal (#1), Gregory Porter (#3) and Stacey Kent (#10). She is currently working on her upcoming release, Picture in Black and White – a tribute to the ancestors of her mixed race heritage. “Finding out, at the age of 28, that my birth father was black was a seismic shift in consciousness,” she says.
“Singers like her don’t come along every day.” Neil Tesser, Chicago Examiner
The New York-based singer has headlined at many of the world’s top venues, including Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, the Blue Note, Mezzrow, Jazz Standard, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Kitano and Joe’s Pub, New York; Pizza on the Park, Pizza Express Jazz Club and the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, UK; four sold out tours of the philharmonic halls of Russia; her sold out debut at the San Jose Jazz Festival at Cafe Stritch in 2016; and four sold out appearances at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, where her 2015 Kilbourn Hall performance was chosen from over 1,000 festival performers to be one of only four concerts to be filmed by PBS Television that year. The one-hour show of her concert and interview has been airing on PBS stations across the US since February 2016. She will return to the festival this year, for the sixth time, for two nights at the Xerox Auditorium and Christchurch. Her monthly second Friday residency at the venerable 55 Bar in New York’s Greenwich Village is invariably standing-room only.
She has made four critically-acclaimed CDs as a leader, including two for the Japanese label, Venus, and two for the multi-Grammy-nominated Motéma label. She also appears on legendary bassist Charnett Moffett‘s Spirit of Sound (Motéma) album and on French singer Pascalito’s upcoming The Picture of Rafael Ohayon.
Souter, who cites Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Sandy Denny, Leon Thomas, Jon Lucien, Andy Bey, Milton Nascimento, and mentors Mansur Scott, Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan as influences, has recorded and performed with many of the jazz world’s elite, including Steve Kuhn, Kenny Werner, Joel Frahm, Joe Locke, Gary Versace, Billy Drummond, Lew Soloff, Romero Lubambo, Charnett Moffett (she is featured on his Spirit of Sound album and has appeared with him at the Jazz Standard), Alan Broadbent, Francois Moutin, Alec Dankworth, Nikki Iles, Jim Hart, Lynne Arriale and Howard Johnson, who says of her, “Her brilliant songs and lyrics make her stand out from the pack so very much, not to mention how well she handles other people’s material.”
“Ordinary listeners and critics alike have raved about her lovely voice, tasteful phrasing, agile technique, and perhaps most important, her ability to convey the emotional meaning of a song.” (Cadence) “She’s a very giving person. And that’s what she does with her music. She gives it,” Sheila Jordan told the Boston Globe. “Best of all, she delivers it with a wit and a wink worthy of the toniest joints in town.” (Time Out New York)
“Souter’s crystalline contralto and impeccable phrasing are mighty arrows in her quiver, but it is her ability to become one with a song, finding its intrinsic core that enables her to score successive bull’s-eyes … an exquisite exercise in seductive spell-casting.” Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes