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Local singer-songwriter shares festival stage with her idol

Posted on 29 March 2018

Newcastle jazz singer-songwriter Zoe Gilby is fulfilling a lifelong dream at this year’s Gateshead International Jazz Festival by performing with one of her idols.

Zoe, who is currently completing her fourth album, will be supporting jazz legend Sheila Jordan, who turns 90 this year.

She attended a masterclass with Sheila at the Festival in 2009 and is on cloud nine about being invited to join her on the main Sage One stage on Sunday 8 April.

About the masterclass she said: “For there to be a living jazz vocal legend coming to the area, I had to go! She has worked with all of the greats like Charlie Parker and George Russell and I knew she would be a fountain of knowledge with a story to tell.”

Sheila will be in residence during the festival and will be in concert on 8 April with a trio led by pianist/composer Pete Churchill and joined by the string quartet of Royal Northern Sinfonia.

The unique American jazz vocalist, who was married to Charlie Parker’s pianist Duke Jordan, was immersed in the 1950s bebop scene and gained her reputation from the 1960s onwards both as a singer and as a hugely influential teacher.

Zoe, who classes Sheila as one of her main influences, said: “Since I first heard about her when I started out in jazz, I loved her fearless bebop style and her ability to inject humour into her music and her sensitivity when delivering the lyric of this music that she has lived and loved.”

Zoe’s own original compositions are written with her double bassist husband Andy Champion.

She added: “Sheila introduced Andy and I to the fascinating pairing of the voice and double bass and we were captivated by it. The interplay between the two instruments and all that can be explored with improvisation, the fluidity of ‘time and tempo’ and how far the boundaries can be pushed with just the voice and double bass were all things we took away with us. After meeting with Sheila at the masterclass she really encouraged us to take the plunge and not hold back.”

Speaking about the impact the masterclass had on her, Zoe said: “It was like a rocket had taken off listening to Sheila’s wealth of experience, her knowledge and passion when she spoke about singing, improvising and the ever-evolving role of the vocalist. She opened a door that empowered me to develop my style and to keep enjoying the journey.”

Zoe is making a stunning impression on the music scene today. Alongside original material, her stockpile of music includes a wide range of contemporary material from composers such as Pink Floyd to Kate Bush.

The concert takes place from 2pm to 4.30pm. The last day of the Festival will also feature Georgie Fame with the Guy Barker Big Band, The Interchange Dectet – led by Issie Barratt and Jazz Across Europe 5 – Arve Henriksen plus SCHNTZL.

Zoe said: “We are so excited for the concert. There are a few nerves but they are fired with adrenaline and (nicely) overwhelmed with the honour and the opportunity to see and listen to Sheila again, nine years on.”

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