Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fudge, Fauld and Family-Friendly Jazz

As you may be able to tell from the title, November was a varied and interesting month.

Family-Friendly Jazz

The first Family Friendly performance of "Family Jazz Allstars Featuring Juliet Kelly" for the EFG London Jazz Festival was a huge success.  We had a sold out Purcell Room audience who were very much up for joining in and singing along.  A crowd of children (and some parents!) rushed to the front of the stage for our encore and entertained us with their dance moves.  Hopefully this will be the first of many and that 2015 sees us performing this show around the UK - and even abroad.


Then it was back on the rural road with Celebrating the Divas of Jazz.The first of two shows took place in the tiny hamlet of Milton.  

I am so grateful to Live & Local and Arts Council England for supporting these performances.  It's such a pleasure to perform at these village halls and community spaces at some of the most beautiful spots in the country.  Unfortunately due to the time of year we didn't see as much of the scenery as I would have liked but this was more than made up for by the warm responses of the audiences.

During the show I mentioned the fifties and how much I love the fashion of the era. After the first show a lovely lady called Ann came up to me and said that she had a vintage cigarette holder that she would love to give to me as it was something she inherited from her aunt and had no use for.  She kindly dropped it off at the hotel the next morning and what a beautiful thing it is!

Anne told me about her glamorous aunt Patricia Makin who even up until the day she died a few months ago, was the height of glamour, always immaculately turned out and wouldn't leave the house without her make-up!  It was a interesting co-incidence that the day of the performance coincided with the 70th anniversary of the RAF Fauld explosion. According to Wikipaedia (yes I know - but it's usually mostly right!) it was one of the in history and the largest to occur on UK soil.  Aunt Pat was one of the people working at the underground munitions storage depot at the time but fortunately was unhurt.  At least 70 people and 200 cattle were not so lucky.

Aunt Pat, tall, slim and elegant lived well into her nineties.  She was never married and one of the things inherited by her niece was this glamorous cigarette holder; unused because she could barely afford it and certainly couldn't afford to smoke but longed to own something that projected the glamour of her idols, Princess Margaret and Sophia Loren.

NB:  I don't intend to take up smoking although I love the idea of cigarette holders.  Am trying to think of an inventive way to use it... perhaps in a promo photograph - ideas welcomed!


I seem to have become a fudge connoisseur!  This is the third bag of fudge I've bought during my travels this year.  But this time I have a foolproof excuse.  It's the perfect flavour - so much so that it would have been rude not to!

This beauty was bought in a fabulous Olde Sweet Shoppe in Eccleshall (I was practically squealing with delight when I saw the cornucopia of sweet delicacies on display!) where we spent the day before our performance at the lovely Broughton Parish Room in Wetwood.  This was one of the smallest places we've played - just 40 people live in the hamlet (mostly farmers) - but we had a full house of nearly 100 due to people coming along from the neighbouring villages.  A fabulous night!

Limited Edition EP

Just a reminder to get your limited edition Spellbound Stories EP soon as it will be removed on 31 December 2014.  Thanks to those of you who have kindly supported me so far.  It's really appreciated.  Every sale means I'm closer to releasing the full album next year.  Buy it here.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Spellbound Stories - Chapter One is Over...

Photo by Tony Brown

The UK tour is now over - and we had a blast!  Huge thanks to Arts Council England for making it all possible.  And to all the promoters/venues and amazing musicians I've worked with.  The October dates included a sell-out show at the Royal Albert Hall (Verdi), a great gig with the house band at The Spin in Oxford and two fabulous dates in Cornwall.  It was my first time in St Ives and I've fallen in love with the place for sure!

So if that was Chapter One... I guess Chapter Two is the completed album.  I'll be putting the finishing touches to it in the next few weeks and hopefully it should be released at the beginning of next year. 

More exciting news is that I'm now on the books of two new agents.  UK bookings will be taken care of by Mo' Connections (A Boutique Jazz Agency) - and I'm very pleased to be the latest addition to the roster alongside amazing musicians Phil Robson, Robert Mitchell and one of my favourite bands, Kairos 4tet.  For European work I will be part of Idris Media, an agency based in Germany with a huge roster of excellent artists.  Fingers crossed that 2015 will be a gigtastic year!

Next month I'm excited to be part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.  My family-friendly afternoon concert at The Purcell Room, South Bank Centre is already almost sold out!  If you'd like to be there, make sure to book your ticket very soon.

Almost better than my name in lights... my name in chocolate!

Tom and Eddie watching the surfers at St Ives.  The weather was fabulous.

You couldn't really go to Cornwall without sampling a Cornish pasty now could you?

Nick Ramm by Craig Taylor-Broad at Bosuns Charlestown (Restormel Arts)

Eddie Hick by Craig Taylor-Broad at Bosuns Charlestown (Restormel Arts)

Tom Mason by Tony Brown at St Ives Jazz Club

Juliet Kelly by Tony Brown at St Ives Jazz Club

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sunshine, Surprises and Spellbound Stories

In the last couple of weeks I've been to Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Altrincham (nr Manchester), Birmingham and Bath.  It's been wonderful!  I've really enjoyed exploring the new music with my fabulous band and the response from the audiences has been amazing.  It's so rewarding to get such positive feedback about a project so close to my heart.

And the sun has been shining!  We've had some really warm weather on our travels and it really makes a difference with such long car journeys.  And another perk of being on the road is that allow myself a cooked breakfast every morning.  I don't eat just before a performance as it prevents me breathing deeply and affects my singing so I think I can justify a morning fry up!

An interesting aspect of bringing the songs to the different audiences around the country is that I've discovered that a lot of people are amazingly well read!  Quite a few of the books on my list, although critically acclaimed, are a bit obscure and some are very difficult reads... but I've found some people in the audience have read even the most challenging such as "The Master and Margarita" or "Beloved".   It's also been really lovely to chat to people at the end of the gig and to hear about what they've been reading - and I've come away with some great tips for new books to read!

Some photos tweeted during the tour:

And here is a cool shot I took of the band on our evening off in Bath just before the last gig of the second leg.

Nick Ramm, Eddie Hick and Oli Hayhurst looking very cool

Still a few dates to look forward to next month - can't wait!

02 Oct - The Spin, Oxford  OX1 4DF
12 Oct - Verdi @ Royal Albert Hall, London  SW7 2AP - Sunday Brunch 12-2pm
14 Oct - St Ives Jazz Club @ Western Hotel, St Ives, Cornwall  TR26 2ND
15 Oct - Restormel Arts @ Bosuns, Charlestown, St Austell  PL25 3NJ

Saturday, 23 August 2014

New Spellbound Stories EP is here... and another new project coming up for the EFG London Jazz Festival!

Yes, it's here!  In advance of the full album release I've decided to make three of the new tracks available for download.

There are 3 tracks on the EP:

1.  Little Things (inspired by The God of Small Things)
2.  Surrender (based on a theme from Middlemarch)
3.  Forbidden Fruit (with ideas from The Color Purple)
plus a radio edit (shorter version) of Track 1

I'm joined by a fabulous band who have played with the likes of Cinematic Orchestra, Pharoah Sanders and Mark Ronson.

If you'd like a copy of the music and to help me in my goal to finally release my next album after a long five years, then just click the link below and it will take you straight to the page where you can listen to the songs and buy the EP.

(EP is no longer available but you can now buy the full album below.)

And in other news, I'm pleased to announce that the producers of the EFG London Jazz Festival have asked me to create a new family jazz show for the upcoming festival in November!  I'll be performing some classic jazz favourites with an allstar band featuring Tony Kofi (sax), Kate Williams (piano), Ben Hazleton (bass) and Cosimo Keita (drums) at the Southbank Centre on Sunday 23 November.  Tickets available here!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Back in the Studio at Last... and I'm a Cover Girl!


I'm a Cover Girl!  Very excited to be on the front cover of the latest Jazz UK magazine.   I'm interviewed about Spellbound Stories ahead of my UK tour which is possible due to the support of the Arts Council, but I also owe a huge debt to Jazz Services as they supported my very first tours and are such an important part of the jazz landscape.  They've recently lost some of their funding but there has been such a huge show of support from the jazz community (including this specially set up Facebook Page) for all their excellent work that I'm hoping it will lead to a refresh and reboot of this important organisation that will enable it to carry on doing so much good for both jazz musicians and volunteer promoters.  Anyway, thank you Jazz Services!

And more great news...  It's been a looooong time but I'm finally back in the studio!  Really exciting about recording the new songs.  Have decided to release an EP to start, with the full album coming up in the not too distant future.

While we were in the studio we also recorded an impromptu version of the Kate Bush song, Wuthering Heights.  Really pleased with how that turned out too considering we didn't rehearse and just went for it.  Being spontaneous is fun!

You can hear snippets of the new tracks in the player below.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

BBC Radio 3's "In Tune" and Manchester Jazz Festival

July has been an exciting month!  Nick Ramm and I performed live on BBC Radio 3's "In Tune" programme just before I nipped up to Manchester to perform Spellbound Stories at the Manchester Jazz Festival. We did 3 songs, Forbidden Fruit, No One Can Tell and Little Things (stripped down acoustic versions with just voice and piano) and I chatted to Sean Rafferty about the Spellbound Stories project.

Here's the link:

Juliet on BBC Radio 3's "In Tune" programme

And then it was up to Manchester.  Things didn't start too well as I got absolutely drenched on my way to the pavilion from the train station!  Yes - it was raining...  But due to the lovely warm weather and the even warmer packed audience it wasn't long before the cockles of my heart were well and truly toasty.  We had a great time and it was lovely to perform the songs in such a fabulous setting.

This was recorded immediately after.  A bit sweaty faced but was very pleased to feature in my first Vine!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Celebrating The Divas in Herefordshire and Shropshire

So it was back on the rural road last month with Arts Alive for more performances in some wonderful village halls.  Here are some pics.

Was very pleased to hear that our first performance was sold out!
Winforton Community Hall turned out to be the beautiful St Michael's Church
And it was even more beautiful inside - a gorgeous venue
Garway Village Hall was less ornate but this was more than made up for by the warmth of the audience

Snailbeach Village Hall (There was no beach and no snails either but it was absolutely fabulous!)

A Snailbeach parking meter

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Spellbound Stories Reading List

Learn more about the ten novels and the songs they inspired...

Veronika Decides to Die is a novel by Paulo Coelho published in 1998.. It tells the story of 24-year-old Slovenian Veronika, who appears to have everything in life going for her, yet she is not happy; something is lacking in her life, and one morning she decides to die. The overdose of sleeping pills she takes does not work, and she wakes up in Villete, the local asylum. There she is told that her heart is damaged and she has only a few days to live.  The story follows Veronika through these intense days as she starts to question all her ideas about life. Soon she comes to realize that every second of existence is a choice we all make between living and dying. Against all odds she finds herself falling in love and even wanting to live again…  One More Dance is Veronika's story.

The God of Small Things (1997) is the debut novel of Indian writer Arundhati Roy. It is a story about the childhood experiences of fraternal twins whose lives are destroyed by the "Love Laws" that lay down "who should be loved, and how. And how much." The book describes how the small things in life can affect people's behaviour and their lives. Little Things argues that it's the small quirks a person has that makes another fall in love with them.

The Master & Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, written between 1928 and 1940 but unpublished in book form until 1967. It is woven around a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union and is considered by many critics to be one of the best Soviet satires ever written. This complex novel, heavily influenced by Goethe's Faust, inspired the song Devilish Disguise.

Beloved is a novel by the American writer Toni Morrison published in 1987. Set after the American Civil War (1861–1865), and based on a true story, the main character, Sethe, kills her daughter when a posse arrives in Ohio to return them to the Kentucky plantation from which Sethe and her children have recently escaped. She kills her daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured. A ghost who is believed to be the murdered daughter comes back to haunt the family home. The song inspired by Beloved is called Ghosts.

The Time Traveler's Wife is the debut novel of American author Audrey Niffenegger, published in 2003. It is a love story about a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unpredictably, and about his wife, an artist, who has to cope with his frequent absences and dangerous experiences. They first meet on one of his time travels when she is 6 but it's not until she is 20 and he is 28 that she meets him "naturally". In their last meeting, she is 82 and he is 43. All He'll Ever Need is a love song.

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber is a 2002 novel set in Victorian-era England. The novel details lives of two very opposite Victorian women, Agnes and Sugar. Sugar - an intelligent and resourceful prostitute - is the mistress of Agnes's husband and lives in their household after he employs her in the guise of a governess for his young daughter. No-One Can Tell highlights the plight of the mistress who may seem to have the best of both worlds but could easily end up with nothing.

White Teeth is a 2000 novel by the British author Zadie Smith. The story mixes pathos and humour while illustrating the dilemmas of immigrants and their offspring as they are confronted by a new, different society. However, no matter the colour of their skin, the religion they follow, or the country they come from, everyone has at least one unifying feature - white teeth. Beautiful Smile is about falling in love with someone from a different culture.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a high fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published in 1950. Most of the novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures that the White Witch has ruled for 100 years of deep winter. Four English children discover this magical land via a wardrobe in the big, old country house they stay in during their World War II evacuation from London. Magic & Mystery is a song about the magic and mysteries of everyday life.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 1985 novel by German writer Patrick Süskind that explores identity, communication and the morality of the human spirit. The story focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfume apprentice in 18th-century France who, born with no body scent himself, begins to stalk and murder virgins in search of the "perfect scent". Jean-Baptiste's story is told in Heaven Scent.

The Color Purple is a 1982 novel by American author Alice Walker.  Celie is the main character and has been oppressed by men her whole life. At 14 she is forced to marry a much older widower to look after his house and children. They all treat her very badly but everything changes when she falls in love with her husband's mistress. Forbidden Fruit celebrates going against the grain to discover your true identity.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Beautiful Butterflies and Derbyshire Oatcakes

Last weekend I visited the "Sensational Butterflies" exhibition at the National History Museum.  Like many people I'm fascinated by butterflies.  I love the idea of the growth cycle from hungry caterpillar to hibernating chrysalis to beautiful butterfly - a spectacular metamorphosis!  The artistic process for me is similar.  I spend a lot of time at the beginning of a new project devouring all sorts of things including books, films, travel experiences, people watching etc - then comes the hibernation phase with a lot of work taking place behind the scenes - leading to the final reveal in a performance of my new creation.  For "Spellbound Stories" the chrysalis/hibernation phase took much longer than I would have liked.  But everything happens in its own time...

The amazing transformation in action!

This one was a poser and waited patiently while we too pics
Loving the zebra stripes - animal print never goes out of style!

The weekend before last was all about rural touring.  A full house greeted David and me at Calver Village Hall - over 100 people (which is more than fits into most village halls) welcomed us warmly and sent us on our way with two encores!   

Calver Village Hall

Unfortunately, some annoying rain the next day put a stop to my shopping plans in the market town of Chesterfield.  However, I made a new discovery - Derbyshire Oatcakes!  Sort of a Derbyshire version of the French crepe but even more fattening.  The topping of sausage and cheese that smothered the dish was so abundant I could almost feel my arteries hardening just from looking at it.  I have to admit that it was was very delicious although I wasn't able to eat very much of it. 

Derbyshire oatcake with sausage and cheese

We were treated to more delicious food before our show in Stanton.  It was a smaller hall and a much smaller audience but what they lacked in quantity they more than made up for in quality.  A lovely response for what was their last Live & Local event as the promoter was moving to another part of the county.  And what was more - we were even allowed to take a doggy bag containing the delicious apple cake baked by the promoter Tim with us when we left - fortification for the long drive home.

Gilbert Sheldon Hall, Stanton

Delicious apple cake baked by Stanton promoter Tim

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Springtime Rural Rambles

Spring is in the air.  The clocks go forward on Sunday and last week we saw our first sunny days of the year.  I was actually able to wear my sunglasses for the first time this year!

And as has been the case for the last 3 years, spring for me means rural rambles.  I have 4 performances coming up in April and May with the excellent David Frankel on piano.

Celebrating the Divas of Jazz

04 Apr - Calver Village Hall, Main Street, Calver, Derbyshire, S32 3XR
05 Apr - Gilbert Sheldon Hall, Stanton, Derbyshire, DE6 2DA
16 May - Winforton Community Hall, St Michael's Church, Winforton, Herefordshire, HR3 6EA
17 May - Garway Village Hall, Garway, Herefordshire, HR2 8RQ
18 May - Snailbeach Village Hall,Shropshire, SY5 0NX

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Playful Puns and Spellbound Stories

Great news!  My grant application to Arts Council England was successful and I've been offered funding for my new project "Spellbound Stories".

Spellbound Stories is a set of songs I've written that are inspired by some of my favourite novels. Novels used as inspiration include "Vanity Fair" (William Makepeace Thackeray), "The Colour Purple" (Alice Walker), Veronika Decides to Die (Paolo Coelho) and "White Teeth" (Zadie Smith). 

I'm really looking forward to working with my great band - Nick Ramm (piano) Oli Hayhurst/Ben Hazleton (bass) and Eddie Hick (drums).  Our premiere performance will be at The Forge in London on 22 May 2014.  I've almost finished all the songs now - just a few bits and pieces to finish. I've aso been working on setting up a tour for later in the year and already have several dates confirmed.  Exciting!

While I was waiting to hear my fate I busied myself by searching out some excellent puns.  Here are a few of my favourites.  

  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  • Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'
  • A vulture carrying two dead raccoons boards an airplane. The stewardess looks at him and says,  'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'
  • Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

 This also made me chuckle.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Licking the Lid of Life - Happy New Year!

In 2014 I will be licking the lid of life!  I don't want to waste a moment. Lost my focus at the end of last year but now I am determined to set my goals and stay on track.

I have various projects brewing and am really looking forward to seeing them come to life.  Will keep you posted.  :-)

Until then here are a few quotes that I hope will keep us all motivated for the year to come:

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle

"The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do, well". Henry W. Longfellow

"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." Francis Bacon

"Life is like a game of cards.  The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will." Jawaharlal Nehru

"When one door closes another opens. But often we look so long so regretfully upon the closed door that we fail to see the one that has opened for us." Helen Keller