Photo credit: Hannes Thiart
Pianist and singer Estelle Kokot is preparing to record a new album in 2019, and will be previewing some of the new music during her show at The Vortex on Sunday 30 December. Preview feature by Tomasz Furmanek:
At the end of 2017 and during most of 2018, the themes and inspiration for Estelle Kokot’s new songs came from variety of sources including, she admits, “a serial killer and a builder turned artist, who sneaked a half jack of bourbon into my 2017 December Vortex gig”. The diversity of some unquestionably contemporary topics of Kokot’s new songs also include a story about an online scrabble caper in Faro “with a marriage proposal from a man I’ve never met and who is already engaged” and the one “about a sidekick who pretends to be a lady and her abusive rocket man, inspired by the #metoo campaign”. She also mentions a couple of new songs, like A Culture of Closed which “is about building fences and walls and trouble, that doesn’t always start in your own backyard” and 3 5 7 9 Prime Time inspired by Pythagoras and the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. “Additionally, I have spent quite a bit of time researching political, historical, biblical and mythological subjects that have always interested and intrigued me,” she concludes.
The Vortex show is entitled The Israelites and the Mother of All Bombs, and that’s how Estelle Kokot explained the title to me: “I have named the last three shows after political and historical events. “The Israelites…” share a journey with Homer and Poseidon, skimming the eye of the needle while Orion unties his belt and swings to the backdrop of the mother of all bombs. Jacob views it all from the sanctuary of his ladder. I wanted to highlight how religious beliefs are largely responsible for much of the conflict we see in the world, past and present, and how history just keeps on repeating itself”.
And how would she describe her current musical style and influences? No simple, one-dimensional answers here…: “It’s really hard to pigeonhole my style and influences as each song is a story and draws from many styles and situations. I do feel though that I have returned to the source again. That being, that I do my best when I am composing and performing my own work. Kate Shortt mentioned to me the other day that she wouldn’t know how to classify my work if she was asked. I like to be as open minded as possible and let the inspiration, the music and the words flow freely. I am mostly inspired by people, events, historical, political and otherwise, and why religion has such a hold over so many people. Watching a bee pollinating a flower or a long walk can instigate ideas and thoughts for new tunes too.”
The band will be the “usual suspects” collaborating with Kokot for some years already: Mick Hutton on bass, Gene Calderazzo on drums and Kate Shortt on cello and vocals: “Mick Hutton and I have been working together on and off since about 1996. Our first rehearsal together was fantastic and we both felt so at home with each other. Mick has a unique sound and doesn’t mind if I play most of the bass notes! His sense of harmony is brilliant, so it works.”
“Gene and I have also been working together on and off for a long time. I love his free and open Elvin Jones type style of playing. He loves melodies and I love the musical edge he brings to things. Kate and I are near neighbours and close friends. We love getting together to try out things and have worked as a duo many times before. It felt right to have her on cello and vocals and she compliments the songs beautifully.”
Estelle Kokot’s “30 December Vortex gigs” have become a sort of a tradition by now. She was involved in and collaborated with Vortex for years, starting with the so called “old Vortex” in Stoke Newington. The sad passing of club founder David Mossman earlier this month brought back a fond memory:
“David Mossman was loved by and loved many people, mostly musicians who played at the old Vortex and the new Vortex. I met him back in the mid 1990s and at one stage played a gig at the old Vortex once a month or every two months. He was a wonderful man and really cared about musicians having the freedom to express themselves creatively. I did the first New Year’s Eve gig at his restaurant Harbour Cafe in Margate and it really was a night to remember!
“Always on the go, mostly full throttle, full speed ahead, he has done more than many to ensure that there is always a platform for established and up and coming jazz musician. I am only one of very many who are feeling the loss of Mr Mossman deeply. Two songs he always wanted me to play (I mostly would, cos he asked so nicely!) were Honeysuckle Rose by Fats Waller and one of my own, Where is the Rainbow.”
LINKS: Estelle Kokot Website
Vortex bookings for 30 December
Interview from 2015: The South African connection