PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Polly Gibbons (Is It Me… ? album release/launch Pizza Express 16 May)

Polly Gibbons
Photo credit: Bill Westmoreland

“Is It Me… ?” is vocalist POLLY GIBBONS’ new album on Resonance Records (RCD-1025). It combines her own compositions, written in partnership with pianist James Pearson, with classics from Ellington and Newley/Bricusse, and sets her powerful voice against a full-blooded horn section. The album reveals her assurance in combining soul, jazz and the blues. The Jazz FM Vocalist Of The Year nominee spoke to LondonJazz News’ Editor-At-Large, Peter Bacon.

LondonJazz News: Is it the melody? Or the lyric? Or is it something else more difficult to define? What is it about a song that makes you respond: “I’ve just got to sing that!”?

Polly Gibbons: Often it’s a combination of both melody and lyric! And the harmony too, that plays a large part. I’ve never found it particularly comfortable to sing a lyric which I have no real connection to. Feeling the story of the song is so important and key for me, and then there are some melodies and harmonic journeys which grab you more than others!

LJN: There are three of your own songs on Is It Me…? How do you and James Pearson write? Words first, or tune?

PG: So far mainly James has presented some musical ideas which we develop together and then either an idea I’ve already had for a lyric might work, or the feel of the piece might prompt one and then we work on that together too.

LJN: Do you feel it’s easier to sing your own tunes than other people’s? Or maybe there is more pressure?<

PG: There’s a challenge to both! There’s something even more intimate when you put your own music out there, it’s revealing in a different kind of way. I feel there’s a pressure, too, in interpreting other people’s songs, especially when in the ‘jazz’ field there have been many iconic recordings already made.

LJN: Some singers feel horns get in the way, but it sounds like you relish a bigger band, and horns to interact with. Is that so?

PG: It is so. I love a variety of different sounds and styles and having horns on this project is very cool. Also the arrangements on Is It Me…? are very good, that can affect greatly the experience, either by enhancing or detracting from a singer. But I think maybe my robust voice is complemented with the strong sound of horns!

“For me live is the best fun.” Polly Gibbons on stage at the
Catalina Bar and Grill on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood
Photo credit: Bruce Bisenz

LJN: Live or recording in the studio – do you have a preference? 

PG: I think for me live is the best fun. Studio work is interesting and has a different kind of discipline that I like, but playing for people directly is inspiring.

LJN: And UK audiences compared with U.S. ones – is there a difference?

PG: If an American audience is into what you’re doing – you’ll hear it!!

LJN: Three recordings that you couldn’t live without?

PG: Billie Holiday: Lady Sings The Blues; Rachmaninov: 3rd Piano Concerto; D’Angelo: Voodoo.

Polly Gibbons will be launching Is It Me… ? at Pizza Express, Soho, London on 16 May. (pp)

LINKSPolly Gibbons’ website
Pizza Express launch

Categories: miscellaneous

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