“An emotive performer who breathes passion into everything she performs.” LONDON TIME OUT
As a jazz vocalist with a sumptuous sound and an unerring ear for fresh and unexpected material, New York-based jazz singer-songwriter, Tessa Souter knows her way around the American Songbook’s back pages. But ever since the release of her debut, Listen Love (2004), the Anglo Trinidadian singer has cast an increasingly wide net, often contributing original lyrics to instrumental jazz standards and, on her 2013 masterpiece, Beyond the Blue – a Sunday Times magazine Best Album of 2013– even setting lyrics to beloved themes from the European classical canon.,
Born in London of English and Trinidadian parents, the granddaughter (so she thought) of a flamenco dancer, she, grew up “predisposed to the blend of cultures reflected in her music, which contains Middle Eastern, Brazilian and flamenco elements in an airy jazz framework.” (Philadelphia City Paper). Over the past two decades, she’s established herself as an uncommonly creative vocalist and songwriter with four critically-acclaimed albums, Listen Love (Nara, 2004), Nights of Key Largo (Venus, 2008), Obsession (Motema, 2009) and Beyond the Blue (Venus-Motema, 2013) – an all-star project featuring piano great Steve Kuhn and Souter’s original lyrics, which the Chicago Examiner called “exhilaratingly mature.”
Her upcoming release, Picture in Black and White, is a tribute to the ancestors of her mixed-race heritage. “Finding out at age 28 that my birth father was black, not Spanish, was a seismic shift in consciousness. Over the years people have asked me to write about it, but it is such an unruly story,” says the former features journalist. “I finally decided to make it into an album.”
“Broadly imaginative” NEW YORK TIMES “Expressive . . . full of passion” PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Tessa, who cites Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Sandy Denny, Leon Thomas, Jon Lucien, Andy Bey, Milton Nascimento, Mansur Scott, Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan as influences, earned a scholarship to Manhattan School of Music, but dropped out after a semester, preferring to hone her craft in a four-year mentorship with the inimitable vocalist Mark Murphy, who offered her free coaching in exchange for help running his workshops.
Heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the few exceptional standouts in the crowded field of female jazz singers,” Tessa performs all over the world, including headline appearances at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Mezzrow, the Blue Note, Jazz Standard and Joe’s Pub, New York; Pizza Express Jazz Club, Pizza on the Park and the London and Edinburgh Jazz Festivals, UK; Blue Brass, Palermo, Italy; Dr Gab’s in Geneva, Switzerland; four sold out tours of the philharmonic halls of Russia; and six appearances at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
“Singers like her don’t come along every day.” NEIL TESSER, CHICAGO EXAMINER
A phenomenally emotionally connected live performer, in 2015, she was chosen from over 1,000 artists to be the subject of a one-hour PBS Television special, filmed at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. And her 2017 appearance was previewed by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle as “the one show overall not to miss” over the entire nine-day festival, which included Mavis Staples, King Crimson, Sheryl Crow and Joss Stone. Her frequently standing-room-only monthly residency at Greenwich Village’s iconic 55 Bar is in its 14th year.
As well as making five albums as a leader, 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. She has performed and/or recorded with Steve Kuhn, Alan Broadbent, Kenny Werner, Yotam Silberstein, Yasushi Nakamura, David Gilmore, Marvin Sewell, Billy Drummond, Joel Frahm, Lew Soloff, Romero Lubambo, 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.”
“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, JAZZ TIMES