Vocalist Tessa Souter @ Blues Alley - September 21, 2009


Sign in to view read count
Vocalist TESSA SOUTER @ BLUES ALLEY - SEPTEMBER 21, 2009 with with Jason Ennis (guitar), James King Junior (bass) + Nasar Abadey (drums)


Blues Alley Jazz Supper Club is located at 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007

$20 cover, $10 minimum, two sets: 8 and 10pm, Tel 202 337 4141

OBSESSION is hot at Radio this week:
Most Added JazzWeek Chart
Most added CMJ Jazz Chart

On August 11, 2009
Motma Music releases OBSESSION
The dazzling new recording from

“innovative arrangements, intriguing song choices, top notch players and seductive vocals." --All About Jazz

“infuses jazz with soul and passion of flamenco, Indian..." --The Boston Phoenix

“There are some jazz singers who tell stories, some who become virtual instruments, some who transform songs into expressions of their own pain. Tessa Souter does all that - and more . . ." “a remarkable program, as entertaining as it is illuminating, the work of an artist with the talent and the imagination to match her compelling musical visions." --Don Heckman, The International Review of Music

“Tessa Souter is a beguiling, atmospheric singer with a bell-clear alto voice who finds intriguing ways to instill jazz sensibilities into pop, Brazilian and other material" --Zan Stewart, The Newark Star Ledger

“Souter brings life to time-honored standards while also mining a creative spar from unlikely quarters, all served with a wink and a wit worthy of the toniest joints in town" --Time Out New York

“My first reaction to hearing the opening track on Tessa Souter's new CD 'Obsession' is 'wow'. The singer has a rich contralto and uses it to great dramatic and musical effect" --Barry Bassis, Town & Village

“To say that Souter enchanted the audience would be an understatement... the capacity crowd [at the Rochester International Jazz Festival 2009] seemed to be transfixed by Souter's gorgeous voice and wonderful personality." --Ron Netsky, Rochester City Paper

“A real treasure amongst an avalanche of women singers today." --"Voices in Jazz", WRTI Radio

“...talented... broadly imaginative singer." --New York Times

“Souter, whose musical sophistication gives her a significant advantage in the competitive clamor surrounding the current world of ambitious female jazz artists, also has the rare quality of authenticity... she seems more focused on exploring the limitless creativity of the art than simply having another go at the Great American Songbook." - Los Angeles Times

“...a sensational singer." --Philadelphia Inquirer

“Tessa is a complete musician whose range of music, expression and dynamic presentation are remarkable and very moving, completely capturing her audience." --Mark Murphy

On her stunning third recording, Obsession, to be released by Motema Music on August 11, vocalist Tessa Souter (soo-ter), born of Trinidadian and English parents, presents a multicultural banquet, that reflects her own conjoined African, Indian, Caribbean, and English bloodlines, as well as her American present. Experiencing Souter, you will hear “traces of Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae in her phrasing, and Julie London and Peggy Lee in her delicate breathing"; you will be treated to “a captivating voice" (Swing Journal Magazine, on Souter's sophomore release Nights of Key Largo). Souter delivers every word with a “crystal clear voice and diamond cut phrasing"- The Philadelphia Inquirer. From the opening notes of Obsession she displays the beautiful “ability to see the shape of a tune so the words seem to come from her soul" - All About Jazz New York.

Souter, the former British journalist/author-turned New York City-based vocalist, composer, and lyricist, possesses sophisticated phrasing, spot-on pitch, and charismatic presentation; qualities in abundant and brilliant display on Obsession, on which she easily traverses countless miles of musical terrain. On the opening Beatles cover, “Eleanor Rigby", and Cream's “White Room", Souter takes ownership of the material with her crystalline contralto to the extent that the inclination to compare her interpretations to the originals all but vanishes. “This arrangement (on Eleanor Rigby) occurred to me when I was walking back from the supermarket in rainy season Japan one day, and I ran in to the apartment and wrote the ostinato pattern, which forms the basis of the arrangement, on my toy piano," explains Souter. “White Room" has been in Souter's book for quite some time but it is given a face lift on Obsession. She explains, “I was just getting ready to retire the song when Jason (Ennis - guitar), who wasn't even born when it was written, came to me with this fantastic arrangement based around a totally Brazilian guitar groove. He lived in Brazil for a few months and loves that music."

One of the most gripping songs on Obsession is the late British singer/songwriter Nick Drake's autumnal masterpiece, “Riverman" (also covered by vocalist Andy Bey on his CD Shades of Bey). Souter's voice is a perfect match here, and accordionist Victor Prieto's solo is a tailor made melodic statement. In fact, the band's accompaniment on “Riverman" is ideal, and the perfect representation of Souter's “breathe-as-one" working unit. “Riverman" also conjures up a personal memory for Souter, “My mother - a woman of many names throughout my childhood - had been called Betty for a few years when I was about 8 through 12, so it reminds me of her."

As for the title track, Dori Caymmi's “Obsession", Souter first heard this song on Sarah Vaughan's Brazilian Romance CD, “which I came to via Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer, which had introduced me to Milton Nascimento, who I fell completely in love with. I wanted to give the arrangement a more mysterious vibe, so I wrote the bass line to sing over." A fellow prominent jazz vocalist asked Tessa for her arrangement of “Obsession" but, alas for them, it was destined only for this recording. Souter also presents her magical version of “Make This City Ours Tonight", another song from Vaughan's Brazilian Romance album, and a Milton Nascimento gem if there ever was one.

Two of Souter's original compositions grace Obsession and show a side of her that her ever-expanding fan base will surely want more of. Souter explains “Usha's Wedding": “The song just came to me one morning almost in its entirety over the top of a meditation chant. I recorded the chant on my tape machine and then sang the song over the top of it. At around the same time, the man who took the front cover photograph of me, Richard Conde, married a Trinidadian-Indian woman named Usha, and because the song sounded Indian and because Richard is such a fan of my music, I decided to dedicate it to them. I sang it at their wedding. Now, when I hear this version with Ansel's backing gorgeous vocals and harmonies, I visualize a wedding in an African church with the whole congregation all singing along." “Now and Then" was written late in 2001 when people worldwide were contemplating their lives, but “like all my songs and lyrics, they are never about one thing. I like lyrics to be loose enough that people can put their own interpretation on them. They mean different things to me at different times," says Souter.

“All these lyrics would work almost as poems," Souter sums up. “When I wrote for newspapers and magazines, I didn't expect to get my copy changed, and I didn't, because I would have spent a very long time working on it-with writing you blurt it out, and then go back and hone and hone and hone. It seems to me that these lyrics have had that done by whoever wrote them. But when I sing them, I just feel and feel and feel and the songs kind of sing themselves. Each song has its own story, and your job is not to be in the way of that somehow, but just to let that story come out."

Obsession will be available August 11, 2009 on Motema Music.

This story appears courtesy of Jason Byrne, Red Cat Publicity.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.

Visit Website

For interview requests or more information contact .

About Tessa Souter
Articles | Calendar | Discography | Photos | More...


Jazz Near New York City
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.