Feature/Interview

In lockdown with… vocalist Georgia Mancio

Award-winning jazz vocalist, lyricist and producer Georgia Mancio is one of Europe’s most active performers with an impressive roster of collaborations and output of varied, multi-faceted work. We catch up with her during lockdown to find out how she’s finding life away from the stage and what she’s been working on:

Georgia Mancio. Photo credit Peter Fairman

First album you purchased as a “jazz musician”?

I can’t honestly remember so I’ll go back a little further to just before I made the leap. I was still waitressing at Ronnie Scott’s and bassist Simon Woolf recommended the Irene Kral/Alan Broadbent duo albums Where is Love and Gentle Rain. The intimacy of the recordings, the stunning simplicity of Irene’s delivery, the choice of repertoire, the subtle yet deep emotion, the warmth of her timbre, the delicacy and detail of Alan’s playing, the conversation first between them then with us listeners; this all shot an arrow straight to my heart and remained indelibly lodged. I think I’ve been searching for that honesty and integrity in my own work ever since and just trying to get better at expressing it.

What are you listening to right now?

I’ve actually found it hard to listen to too much jazz as it triggers the loss of playing live and I’m trying to keep this period of enforced change as positive as possible. But I’ve loved revisiting the Betty Carter/Carmen McRae Duets – such joy, easy virtuosity and total connection between them. Also an extraordinary, rich, unique double album Follow The Songlines by vocalists David Linx and Maria Joāo, pianists Diederik Wissels and Mário Laginha plus the Porto National Orchestra.

Otherwise I’ve been getting a lot of strength from Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life: the flow, the breadth, the musicianship and the soulfulness are still staggering with every repeated listen. Also the clarity and simplicity of Mercedes Sosa, particularly “Todo Cambia” (which means ‘everything changes’), a song I’ve always connected to and which is more than apt for these days.

Have you done or watched any livestream gigs or events since lockdown?

I’m loving Liane Carroll’s livestreams because she can only ever bring joy, even in times of hardship and sorrow. Cécile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner’s livestream a few weeks ago was totally engaging: her spontaneous burst into an opera melody was jaw-droppingly good! I’m so impressed with the way the scene has responded and adapted so quickly to livestreaming etc. but I’m also a little overwhelmed by it. I’m still figuring out a way to make it work for me because I know my strengths are in playing live: co-creating with other musicians and sharing that directly with an audience. We have time now so I’m trying my best to really use it to create work that can remain authentic and sustainable.

Most memorable event in your career or education?

Undoubtedly this would be headlining at Ronnie Scott’s in April 2017 with Alan Broadbent, playing our own original songs and launching our Songbook album. To close that circle (in so many ways) and feel the energy in the room that night was profound. I remember telling myself never to forget that atmosphere along with the achievement itself; never to be blasé about it in the future and (perhaps crucially right now) that if it never got better than that night, it would still have been a pretty good career to be proud of.

Instrument you wish you played?

The piano – which I’m trying to rectify these days, although never expect to reach the level of my amazing colleagues! It’s not just the beauty and totality of the instrument, there’s a romantic connection for me that goes back to my musical lineage. Both my paternal grandparents and my great-great-grandmother were serious pianists. I sit at mine to practise right by a photo of my grandfather’s hands, my grandmother’s business card (she was also a Bel Canto singer and teacher) and a pen and ink drawing my dad made of one of his parents’ students.

Has this time in isolation inspired any new creative ideas?

I’m currently in post-production with the follow-up to Songbook, which Alan and I recorded last autumn in duo. I’m very fortunate that my good friend, Andrew Cleyndert (who co-produced my last 3 albums), engineered the session and can mix it remotely.

I really miss talking to, as well as obviously performing to, live audiences so I’m working on ways to keep that connection: re-presenting my back catalogue, sharing the stories behind the songs as I would on gigs, writing, making lyric videos etc. like this one in memory of my dad. I realised I needed a period of introspection after a really intense few years. There was never enough time to tie up all those loose ends so doing that now is a kind of a summation of my work so far and frees me to move forwards.

What are you most looking forward to once this is over?

A huge hug and a gelato with my sister in Italy.

A chance to plug a friend’s music right now…

I met singer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Louise Balkwill in 2013 when she was my intern during ReVoice! Festival. She started a Patreon page on the third day of self-isolation and has posted a new video every day since – currently at 75 and counting! I absolutely love her arrangement of “I Want You Back” for her organically created Virtual Big Band. 

LINK: Georgia’s website

Listen to Georgia on YouTube

Louise Balkwill’s Patreon

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