Life can't get much better for jazz singer Stacey Kent. Her latest album is garnering rave reviews, as is her current sold-out tour across Europe and the U.S. In a recent interview with VOA's Doug Levine, Kent admits that her career is flourishing thanks to a slight change in direction.
Song selection has always been important to Stacey Kent, whose new album Breakfast On the Morning Tram marks a departure from her familiar workings of jazz standards. It also marks her debut on the world-renowned jazz label Blue Note, which according to Stacey, gave her the freedom to choose an eclectic set list.
"I was incredibly selective on this album, and I'm pretty picky as it is," she explains. " I have to love passionately every song that I ever sing. This painted such a particular emotionally place, such an atmosphere and mood. It was a particular landscape, and I needed to have not particularly a collection of songs that I thought needed to fit together nicely. They really needed to live in that collective place and that emotional universe."
Emotions run high on the album's four originals, composed by Stacey's husband Jim Tomlinson and Japanese novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Stacey says life's ups and downs served as her main inspiration.
"There's some sadness on this album. There definitely is. It's pretty wistful," she says. "I think there's that wonderful balance, that very beautiful, delicate balance that we all have to cope with in our lives as human beings. Of the joy that we get and the pain that we have to endure, and that delicate balance between those two things."
Stacey Kent got started in jazz later than most. She graduated with a degree in Comparative Literature before moving from New York to England to study music and drama. Her first album, drawn mostly from the Great American Songbook, was the ideal springboard for a career that has straddled both jazz and pop.
"I come directly out of the tradition of the Great American Songbook. And I love that," she says. "That is my home. That is my sensibility. It is who I am. Because I also lived within that formula I also felt somewhat constrained by that formula, in that I was a singer, I sang the chorus, then the band played, and then I sang it out. But if you do it time and time again, it can be limiting. It can be constraining. It puts you into a particular place and limits possibilities. And I think with this album I was so keen to keep the narrative."
Understated might best describe Breakfast On The Morning Tram, especially after hearing Stacey's version of "Landslide" by Stevie Nicks.