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26 août 2008

Gwyneth Herbert's got some stories to tell

by ARWA HAIDER,, Monday, August 25, 2008

When Gwyneth Herbert became the first British artist to sign to the legendary Blue Note label for two decades, she was hailed as part of a new generation of jazz talent. Conversely, she also prompted debate as to whether her 2007 album Between Me And The Wardrobe could be defined as jazz at all. It's a question that she's equally happy to ponder.

'There are definitely jazz dialogues in my music, but I'm also really influenced by blues and folk and the 1970s singer/songwriters that I grew up with,' she says. 'It's a really exciting time to be making music because so many people are into a huge variety of genres.'
Herbert's charismatic chattiness is key to her narrative-based songs and her presence as a live performer. Her vocal delivery is so warm and mellifluous that some of her music's darker themes catch you by surprise; tracks such as Slow Down Brother initially seem easy on the ear but actually convey tragic scenarios, often based on real life. That heady mixture of moods also applies to her latest tracks, which she will be showcasing over two nights at Ronnie Scott's, alongside established album tracks and 'surprise' covers.

Earlier this year, Herbert and her band were invited to record at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios as part of a Bowers & Wilkins-sponsored music club. The fruits of that session, entitled Ten Lives, have so far only been available to subscribers but she's planning to expand the material for her next full album.

'When we do the next album, I definitely want to capture some of the "in yer face" clankiness that we had in the Real World sessions. When I was making Between Me And The Wardrobe, I was in quite a reflective mood.
'The new writing is quite different; the songs and arrangements have got a lot more balls. And Seb Rochford is the special guest at these shows - I'm really excited about hearing him work his octopus-like drumming magic on the songs.'

It's also significant that Herbert has now established herself as an original songwriter rather than a covers artist, although she points out that this wasn't an orchestrated move.

'I always loved interpreting other people's material,' she explains, earnestly. 'But I originally found my musical voice when I worked with Tom Cawley (another intrepid young jazzer). We went on this amazing six-month journey of writing songs and throwing words around. I've always been fascinated by the fact that everyone has an emotional story to tell. People strike up conversations with me on the Tube; I'm kind of the anti-Londoner.'

It will be intriguing to hear where Herbert sources her next musical stories. She confounds expectations with real beguiling charm.

Tue-Wed Aug 26-27, Ronnie Scott's, 47 Frith Street, W1. 6pm, £15 to £30. Tel: 020 7439 0747. Tube: Tottenham Court Road

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