Dutch vocalist Eva Scholten returns to the UK for a series of gigs in February. She has developed a reputation for specializing in the gipsy jazz repertoire – and for a positive stage presence and sunny temperament. Sebastian found out more:
LondonJazz News: Tell us about your musical background.
Eva Scholten: My mother is a choir director and music teacher and my father is a (jazz) guitarist. I grew up in Haarlem (close to Amsterdam) with all kinds of music and instruments all around me. In the car we would have cassette-tapes with the Rosenberg trio (Dutch gypsy jazz).
LJN: When I reviewed your gig in February last year I wrote about your transition since leaving college in Amsterdam in 2010 from the “standard” jazz repertoire to a concentration on gipsy jazz. What’s the story?
ES: At 18 I started my studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam (vocal jazz) which I finished in 2010 and was totally my thing 🙂 One day I got a call from Thomas Baggerman (guitar) asking me if I’d be interested singing with his gipsy jazz trio. From the first note we played together I knew that this was it! It totally took me back to my youth and the acoustic sound hugged my like a warm blanket. Two guitars and a double bass, wonderfully positive music and a big new musical family with a huge fanbase all over the world.
Since then we’ve been touring around Europe, playing at Django festivals and making new friends wherever we’d go.
LJN: Among your generation, there seems to be quite a movement towards this music. Do you have an explanation for why it’s happening in so many places now?
ES: We found out that every big city has at least a few gipsy jazz fans/players. Gipsy jazz has a really low threshold for starting out. You can play the famous repertoire at a lot of different levels, that’s what makes it really easy to connect with this music and invite new young players to join in a classic jam.
With a little help of the internet, people are finding each other more easy, sharing the music, concerts, inviting each other to festivals, etc. The joy of playing this type of music is spreading infectiously 🙂
LJN: When I REVIEWED you last year I wrote about a particular joy you bring to the stage. Is that the way you naturally are or does the act of performing bring it out?
ES: Haha! Luckily that is a big part of who I naturally am. I really love making music and being on stage; spreading the joy also gives me joy. If you are a singer you cannot ‘hide’ behind your instrument if you’re having an off day, you always have to be there 100%. That’s why for me it’s very important to be healthy, happy and also be quiet sometimes 🙂
LJN: You seem to like heading North a lot… and not just the UK… I understand you have made an impact in Norway too. How did that happen? Are there a lot of gipsy jazz musicians young or old in Norway?
ES: That’s all because of the Django festival in Samois sur Seine (the big one, near Paris). When I just started playing gipsy jazz the boys (Thomas and Max Baggerman) took me to the festival for the first time. I’ll never forget it! It was amazing to jam with so many great musicians from all over the world, I seriously made friends for life in just two days.
One of them, Stian Vågen Nilsen (NO), invited me to the Oslo Djangofestivalen in 2015 and I’ve been going there and playing gigs three to four times a year since. He and his friends started a weekly jam in the centre of the city and slowly they inspired other young musicians to start playing as well. (…and so it grew)
Last year I was invited by Jon Larsen to tour with his Hot Club the Norvege, that was very exciting. Norway sort of stole my heart 🙂
LJN: When are your UK dates and what band will be with you for them?
ES: I’m playing with Latchepen (violinist Matt Holborn, guitarists Kourosh Kanani and Jeremie Coullon, and George Berils on bass) at Scarborough Jazz Club on Wednesday 20 February, Grimsby Jazz Club on Thursday 21 and Pizza Express on Saturday afternoon 23 February.