There must be a door somewhere in Whanganui Otara that leads directly to New York City. How else to explain yet two more New Yorkers playing a WJC concert on a Thursday night: Samantha Louise, jazz vocalist, and Skyler Floe, master of the trumpet. They were accompanied by Johnny Lawrence on the double bass and Mark Lockett behind the drum kit.
Most of the tunes were Skyler’s original compositions, although he snuck in a jazz standard here and there. His trumpet playing was confident and polished: that impressive professional skill in which the sound feels so incredibly natural as it flows around you and through you, filling you with music. The melodies were fresh and perfectly delivered, garnished with spicy rhythms and rich harmonies.
Samantha’s voice equalled the other instruments. It shined especially on the standards. But more fascinating for me was her stunning ability to stay in tune in a chordless quartet with no piano or guitar. Her soft but powerful, breathtakingly controlled, yet sensual and sexy voice filled the room, enchanting everyone and everything.
I had a nice chat with the lovely couple and learned that Samantha is actually a Kiwi, born in New Zealand, but moved overseas with her family when she was ten. For Skyler, it was his first visit to Aotearoa, and of course he fell in love with our beautiful country.
Beyond talking music and life in general, we touched on the female singer’s role in jazz and other issues affecting women in jazz.
Check any jazz encyclopaedia, and you will find that the majority of the female figures will be singers, with maybe a couple of instrumentalists who often are also composers. It is not just a numbers problem. There are issues with attitude, too.
And though we hear much more about it these days, some things strongly resist change. More often than not, a woman jazz performer will receive an invitation for a drink, while her male colleagues will be praised for their skills and invited to another gig. And that needs to change, great cocktails notwithstanding.
So next time you hear a beautiful voice, come up and tell them how talented they are and ask where you can hear them again. They will thank you. They might even invite you for a drink.