TOP TEN JAZZ RECORD OF THE YEAR, LONDON SUNDAY TIMES
BEST VOCAL JAZZ CD OF THE YEAR, KEN DRYDEN, NEW YORK JAZZ RECORD/NPR CRITICS POLL
BEST VOCAL JAZZ CD OF THE YEAR, W ROYAL STOKES, NPR CRITICS POLL
BEST VOCAL DISC OF THE YEAR, JAY HUNTER. WVCR 88.8 FM
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE WEEK, LONDON EVENING STANDARD
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE WEEK, LONDON SUNDAY TIMES
“Exploring her mixed heritage, the expat with a penchant for Wayne Shorter raises songs to the level of poetry.” LONDON SUNDAY TIMES
“A remarkable journey to the interior of the human heart.” ALLABOUTJAZZ
“Souter’s expressive warmth, impassioned eloquence and unfailingly beautiful timbre are an ever-present backdrop to this singularly powerful collection.” 4 OUT OF 4 STARS, JAZZWISE
“A beautiful, spiritual album. . . Picture in Black and White feels like the kind of journey saxophonist Wayne Shorter has taken us on with albums such as JuJu and The Soothsayer.“ JAZZWAX
“A masterpiece.” ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE
Band: Yotam Silberstein (guitar), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Keita Ogawa (percussion), Adam Platt (piano), Dana Leong (cello), Billy Drummond (cymbals and drums)
Jazz vocalist-songwriter Tessa Souter’s latest project, Picture in Black and White (NOA), the second of her albums to be a London Sunday Times magazine Jazz Record of the Year, is a riveting musical journey inspired by her discovery at age 28 that her estranged birth father was Trinidadian and black, having been brought up to believe he was Spanish and white.
Tracing her musical “DNA” from Africa to the Caribbean, Celtic Britain and Andalusian Spain, the album, a journey through a world of exotic sounds and unusual meters, mythic characters and ancestral ghosts, 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.
“Growing up white, you don’t just wake up the next day black. I had no direct connection to it, so I was voraciously reading novels, slave memoirs and history books, and I started to hear these songs through that prism,” says Souter, who actually grew up with the false belief that her grandmother was a flamenco dancer. “I could identify with so much.”
So ‘A Taste of Honey’ becomes a song about being stolen from Africa and the people left behind. ‘Lonely Woman’ is for the families who were separated throughout slavery. ‘Nothing Will Be As It Was’ is about the Reconstruction and that period of freedom and hope – and of taking to the roads to look for lost family members. Her lyrics to Wayne Shorter’s ‘Ana Maria’ (for which he granted her shared writing credit) celebrate how people can be present even in their absence.
A jazz vocalist with a sumptuous sound and an unerring ear for fresh and unexpected material, ever since the release of her 2004 debut, Listen Love, Souter 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, starring Steve Kuhn and featuring her original lyrics to classical gems by Albinoni, Chopin et al. Utilizing the talents of some of New York’s finest first-call musicians, Picture in Black and White is yet another revelatory step by an artist on a decidedly unconventional path.
“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. Once more she has taken the endangered art of the album and mined it to its fullest.” James Gavin, two-time recipient of ASCAP’s Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Award for Excellence in Music Journalism