Amsterdam-based acid jazz quintet Tristan return to the UK as part of the Going Dutch project, funded by Dutch Performing arts and administrated by the Jazz Promotion Network. The partnership with Going Dutch has been particularly fruitful for Tristan, who have built on an already existing fanbase over here to develop their popularity further.
Much of the attention so far has focused on the band’s instrumental prowess and their involvement with illustrious guests including trumpet legend Randy Brecker and American soul singer Heston. But as their latest album, The Spice of Five, reinforces, Tristan have an illustrious presence of their own in singer Evelyn Kallansee.
London Jazz News found out more about her background and her approach to working with the band that one of their biggest admirers, Steve Lukather, guitarist and singer with Californian rock giants, has described as “bringing the best of the 1970s into the current time”. She spoke to Rob Adams:
LondonJazz News: How did you get started as a singer?
Evelyn Kallansee: In my family singing was very normal. While doing the dishes me, my brother and sister would sing songs of Simon and Garfunkel, Al Jarreau, Jesus Christ Superstar, and we loved singing harmonies. When I got a leading role in an amateur musical at age 12, I found out people loved my voice! I began thinking about being a singer. I joined the school band, would sing at every talent show around, and became confident I could really be a professional singer! My real career started when i got accepted into the cast of Les Miserables. After that I went to the musical theatre academy in Amsterdam. I sang in bands to pay for college, and when I got my diploma I played in
musicals, bands, theatre productions, worked as a backing-vocalist and so on.
LJN: How did you come to join Tristan?
EK: I met Coen Molenaar, the keyboard player, at a jazz session. As I was not educated in jazz I felt pretty impressed by the musicians that night. Another project I was doing had just ended and I was looking for something new and creative. Coen told me about this acid jazz-pop fusion band he had with Sebastiaan [Cornelissen, drummer] and Frans [Vollink, bass guitarist] and they needed a singer. I tried out and we had a good connection musically and personally, so we started recording right away.
LJN: What do you particularly enjoy about singing with the band live and in the studio?
EK: I love the powerful energy of the guys in a live performance! It lifts me up and the good vibes of our songs make it a party every single time! Working in the studio is completely different for me, it’s more about searching for the right timing, seeing if the lyrics work. And when we find the right vibe we try to record in one take as much as possible, to keep the energy flowing naturally and give it the energetic feel of a live performance.
LJN: Are you involved in writing the lyrics; are the words and melodies equally important to you?
EK: Sebastiaan, the drummer, and I write most of the lyrics and usually the melody is already clear when we start to work. The music inspires me to write certain lyrics. I usually just listen to the melody until the words come to me. But sometimes a song will be based on an idea one of the band members has had, and I work on that. If there is no melody before I start to work on a song, the words and melody will be very much entwined with what I intend to say. It has to feel natural.
LJN: Who are your role models and favourite singers?
EK: When I was a teenager I copied everything Anita Baker sang! Chaka Khan was a big example for me as well; I played a lot of her stuff in bands I sang in. The timing and joy of Al Jarreau have been and still are an inspiration for me. And, of course, bands like Incognito. Over the last couple of years, I’ve listened a lot to Lizz Wright; I love her powerful natural sound.
LJN: What do you do in your time away from Tristan; do you have plans for solo recordings?
EK: Playing with Tristan is my main activity, but for the past year I’ve been working as a mental/spiritual coach. I always loved reading about self-development and I followed courses and learned about meditation. I love sharing this now. I’ve also recorded two records with a vocal group and guitarist. I would love to make a solo record but it is not a priority because I love what I do with Tristan.
LJN: What feelings would you like the audience to get from hearing you singing?
EK: My goal for every live gig is to leave the audience feeling as if they are touched by the sun, energized and lifted to a higher level of joy. And every now and then a moment of being touched in the heart…
Rob Adams is a freelance journalist who has been working with the Going Dutch project, which is bringing Dutch musicians including Tristan to the UK and Ireland,
Tristan tour dates:
Wed 2 Oct: Hampstead Jazz Club, London
Thu 3 Oct: Zeffirellis, Ambleside
Fri 4 Oct: The Brook, Southampton
Sat 5 Oct: The Garage, Swansea
Sun 6 Oct: Colchester Arts Centre
LINK: Tristan’s website