INTERVIEW: Deelee Dubé (Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, 29 November and new album Tenderly early 2019)

Deelee Dubé
Photo credit: Bob Meyrick
South London vocalist DEELEE DUBÉ was the winner of the 2016 Sarah Vaughan Competition in New Jersey, with a judging panel that included Dianne Reeves and Christian McBride. She has an Elgar Room appearance with her group on 29 November, and will launch a new album early next year. Having interviewed her when she won the competition (link below), Sebastian found out about what has been happening since, and her current plans:

LJN: In the time since you won the Sarah Vaughan comp in Jan 2016 you’ve been studying, I understand. A course? A thesis?

Deelee Dubé: Yes. I was offered a one-year placement and scholarship to study an MA in Voice studies at the Royal  Central School of Speech and Drama, which I have just completed. It has been a transformational experience, which has challenged me intensely on both a performative and academic level.

LJN: Was it more practical or more theoretical?

DD: It entailed both, practical and theoretical experiences which have enhanced my perspective on vocal pedagogy on so many levels, with a different lens in which to view my voice, craft and the art of performance and all that it encompasses. I have embraced this opportunity to fully immerse myself and engage with my voice and truth on a comprehensive level which I have not had the chance to do before, and in doing so I have observed my growth and development, and acquired/generated some logic and context behind the doing which is undoubtedly empowering.

LJN: Do you feel the studying has helped you as a singer/performer?

DD:  Absolutely. I enjoy learning, and believe that the moment we stop learning is the moment we stop living. Life is a learning experience in itself which sees and enables the constant evolution and development of self. In learning about the embodied voice, I have benefited from gaining and developing an informed understanding of my craft on a holistic level and consider this process as part of my overall make-up as a vocalist and as an individual and I like to utilise and apply what I learn to further enhance creative processes and abilities as a performer and individual respectively.

LJN: You have a new album due out early next year? When was it recorded?

DD: That’s right. The Tenderly album was recorded prior to my studies at the RCSSD.

LJN: Who is on it and what will you be playing?

DD: Renato D’Aiello on tenor saxophone, who also produced and arranged the record, Bruno Montrone on piano, Nicola Muresu on double bass, and Gasper Bertoncelj on drums, a great line-up and rhythm section. For the most recent project I have worked with a great US-based rhythm section which include: Benito Gonzalez (piano), Corcoran Holt (acoustic bass), Mark Whitfield Jnr (drums) and Russell Malone (guitar)

LJN: Has the Vaughan comp win opened doors?

DD: Yes, it has, as much as I have enabled it to. I’ve also yet to see what other possibilities may unfold. The competition was an amazing and humbling experience and opportunity for myself as an artist and I especially feel honoured to have been chosen as the first British winner by a trailblazing panel of judges, it is a transformational experience.

LJN: What have been highlights since you won?

DD: I have performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2017 which was an amazing experience, and also performed at the Teatro Auditorio Revellin in Ceuta, and received an amazing reception both from the audience and Spanish press.

I performed as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary series which included Celebrating Women and the Hall series (which will see the hall 150 on 29 March 2021) which was in honour of Sarah Vaughan who performed at the Royal Albert Hall on the 22 February 1953.

Besides my residency at Ronnie Scott’s Acoustic Jazz Lounge, I have also completed a mini-tour of the US prior to beginning my recording project for Concord, and have been recording whilst studying, so things have been pretty intense, but I’m not complaining!

LJN: What new repertoire or approaches to songs have you been getting into recently?

DD: I have also been listening the late South African jazz singer called Sathima Bea Benjamin (Ibrahim Abdullah’s late wife and jazz artist) and currently have an intrigue for improvisational vocal artforms such as vocalese and scat singing which have led towards exploring word-based art forms, listening to pioneers and studying their approaches such as Jon Hendricks and Allan Harris, Eddie Jefferson, Bobby McFerrin as well as listening to the magnificent Shirley Horn, Jobim and Carmen McRae, Alice Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Ernestine Anderson, Dena Derosa, Rene Marie and Meredith D’Ambrosio.

I believe it’s important to find the fun and excitement as well as the challenge within a musical moment, and the simple approach always seems to be effective, so in saying that I still enjoy listening to the likes of Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Nora Jones and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Abbey Lincoln, Roberta Flack, Bessie Smith. I also enjoy listening to Sarah Vaughan’s creative approach to interpreting songs of The Beatles’ catalogue.

LJN: You also have a role in Alex Webb and Tony Kofi’s Cannonball show. How does all that work?

DD: Yes, I am currently working and touring with Tony Kofi and Alex Webb on a great project which celebrates the genius of Cannonball and Nat Adderley. My feature is based on the Cannonball’s 1961 studio album collaboration with Nancy Wilson, and we have an upcoming performance at the 606 Jazz club on 21 November 2018 as part of LJF, followed by the Hideaway on 17 January 2019

LJN: The Elgar Room show… will it be based on the material on the album?

DD:  We will be performing material from my repertoire which incorporates some new songs, compositions and arrangements. It’s going to be exciting!

LJN: Will you go back to North America ? 

DD: Yes I hope, soon!

LJN: And other plans?

DD: I am going on tour and also curating ideas and material for my next album project. I will also be graduating in December, and look forward to also developing my practice as a voice practitioner and emerging voice pedagogue. 2019 will see the development of new projects and music related ventures. Watch this space.

LINKS: Deelee Dube’s website2016 Interview with Deelee Dube after her win at the Sarah Vaughan Competition
Elgar Room Bookings for 29 November

Categories: Features/Interviews

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