On Sunday 20th November 2016, I had experienced quite a life-changing and career defining moment by becoming the first British winner and recipient of a Sassy Award at the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Held in at the NJPAC Victoria Theatre in Newark, NJ this annual event is considered one of the most prestigious and rewarding jazz vocal contests in the world, and I felt (and continue to feel) highly honoured to be a recipient in perpetuating the legacy of a great art form and the music and memory of the great legend that is Ms Sarah Vaughan. As I stood and performed before the great competition panelists, that comprised Ms Sheila Jordan, Ms Dianne Reeves, Mr Christian McBride, Ms Sheila E. Anderson and Mr Mark Ruffin, I composed myself and melted into the moment. I breathed into each song my entire life and it seemed as though everything I had worked so hard for in my career had culminated in that particular moment where I had no other option than to just deliver and be. I walked onto that stage with my naked voice and raw passion with no expectations; just me, my experience and my life force. All that resonates within the art form itself gave life to my purpose within that very moment. It was so real.
After a wonderful whirlwind of interviews, performing and preparing towards this exciting recording venture, I found myself in a compromising situation which involved traveling back and forth between Europe and the US to complete the recording in order to ensure that I was rendering the best that I could offer vocally, which had initially led to some delays in delivering the complete project back to the Concord label. Once completed and submitted, Concord had decided not to release the record. This unexpected news had of course thrown everything into disarray, and had led to another year of soliciting the un-mastered project to other labels and to no avail.
During this very difficult and challenging time I have sought comfort and clarity from learning about the true meaning of success and failure, and there is one quote that particularly resonates:
“ Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill
I feel that I owe it to myself, my friends, fans and supporters to deliver what has been promised. I am not one to leave anything unfinished and the record that you have all been patiently anticipating and waiting for is almost complete, but there are some hang-ups.
In order to proceed, I will need your help.
I have been fortunate to work with a fantastic US rhythm section which includes:
Benito Gonzalez (Piano/Hammond/Arranger/Producer)
Corcoran Holt (Double Bass)
Mark Witfield Jnr. (Drums)
Eric Wyatts (Tenor Saxophone)
Duane Eubanks (Trumpet)
Andrae Murchison (Trombone)
Russell Malone (Guitar)
I have collaborated with the brilliant photographer, Jacob Blickenstaff who has created some great images for the album artwork and for publicity use and have also received a great deal of support from everyone at Jazz FM including Chris Philips and Ruth Fisher. Martin Hummel of Ubuntu Music has stepped in with interest to release the record under his own label, and overall, so far it has received great feedback.
However, in order proceed any further, I will need to raise funds to complete the mastering process, the album packaging and manufacturing/distribution, and to subsequently also fund the PR, marketing/ promotional campaign upon its release.
It has really been a challenging process full of peaks and troughs, but also one which forms a significant part of this journey, that I would like you all to be a part of.
Upon making a donation, you will receive a signed copy of the album as well as exclusive access to a future performance held in London.
Thank you in advance, your support is much appreciated!