TINA MAY: flawless intonation and fresh, often bold delivery.
Norman Warwick reads tributes from JazzTimes and others.
Friends and family immediately took to social media to pay tributes to Tina May on the announcement of her death a few days ago.
The jazz singer was a native of Gloucester, Gloucestershire but resided in Leighton Buzzard. She attended Stroud Girls High School and proceeded to University College, Cardiff where she graduated in 1984 with a BA Hons. in French.
May recorded for 33 Jazz Records on a number of albums. Tony Coe, Nikki Iles, Stan Sulzmann, Ray Bryant, Enrico Pieranunzi, and Patrick Villanueva were among her collaborators.
Tina regularly played fabled venues, too, and her photo left, shows her on stage at the legendary 606 club, once written about on these pages, (and still available in our easy to navigate archives by radio jazz presenter and writer, Steve Bewick.
Devastated to hear of the passing of Tina May. I was so lucky to sit down and chat and play with her and hear about her musical journey only nine months ago. I was really looking forward to inviting her back to play at Riverside Arts Jazz! It’s such an honor to have this to look back on. Such an incredible artist and person. I wasn’t going to post this so soon but seeing the outpouring of our collective grief here on Facebook, I thought sharing this might be comforting for some.
Absolutely devastated to learn that my friend the beautiful and wonderful jazz singer Tina May has passed away last night. We worked and laughed together on summer schools and as colleagues at Leeds Conservative years ago and she taught me how to make a French dressing. Her gigs were always a joy to see and No words can console losing this kind and passionate lady, her music and singing will live on. RIP darling Tina
It is with great sadness that I share the devastating news of the untimely death of our wonderful Tina May. A beautiful woman inside and out, an incredibly talented jazz singer, an inspiring teacher, a warm friend to so many. She will be missed enormously. May she rest in power.
Among many eloquent commemorations in the jazz media it felt to me as though Jazzwise, in the wri9ting of Peter vacher, summarised her and her career perfectly.
Stylish, invariably upbeat, and often startlingly adventurous in her vocal approach, Tina May, who has died aged 60, her life cut tragically short by cancer, once explained her notion of singing jazz to writer Kenny Mathieson thus: “I see myself as a musician who uses the voice as an improvisational instrument, which for me is what makes it jazz in the first place.” And my, how effectively she delivered on that intention, both in person and on record.
Whether fronting a small group or combining with other singers or indeed, appearing with a big band, Tina brought musicality and creative zest to everything she did. To see her on a bandstand was to know that something rather wonderful was about to happen. And so it did. Irresistible, often profound but never over-wrought: her positivity shone through every time she sang. All this was evident too on her many albums with her own bands or in conjunction with such varied artists as Scott Hamilton, Enrico Pieranunzi, Ray Bryant, Humphrey Lyttelton, Frank Griffith, Tony Coe, and most rewardingly, pianist Nikki Iles.
Tina May was born in Gloucester and began vocal studies in her teens singing soprano, giving recitals of both baroque and art music, only turning to jazz while at the University of Wales in Cardiff, which she combined with acting roles. Having studied in Paris and sat in at the city’s jazz clubs, she retained active connections with France, visiting often, (she recorded Jazz Piquant in 1998 in fluent French and issued a live recording made at the Club Lionel Hampton In Paris in 1999). A founder member of the Back Door Theatre Company, Tina appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe as both singer and actress, later performing at festivals and in cabaret, ran her own trio and guested with the BBC Big Band and Stan Tracey’s Orchestra (most notably in their performances of Duke Ellington’s sacred works in Durham and Ely cathedrals; the resulting album is on 33 Jazz).
Often heard in clubs, she also combined with fellow-vocalists Barbara Jay and Lee Gibson in their successful touring show Ella Fitzgerald Song Book Revisited, with MD Tommy Whittle (album on Spotlite). Her collaborations with Iles began in the late 1990s, and endured on record and in person, their albums and obvious rapport always highly regarded. May taught at the Royal Academy, mentoring young singers, and was a trusted confidante to many. It was her fruitful association with 33 Records, this running to some 18 albums with more planned, and those with Linn Records and Hep (with the Griffith big band and small group) that placed her firmly among the most enterprising of British jazz vocalists. Known for her flawless intonation and fresh, often bold delivery, May’s recording with star US pianist Bryant earned this Morton & Cook accolade: “Quite simply, a faultless vocal album.”
Jazzwise offers its heartfelt condolences to Ben and Gemma, the children of her marriage to drummer Clark Tracey which ended in divorce, to her sister Vivian and to her partner, saxophonist Simon Spillett.
As Paul Jolly of 33 Records put it: “She was simply the best.”
Editor´s Comment. I have no expert knowledge of jazz music but Tina May´s name was frequently in the listings we have been printing here recently from organisations like Jazz In Reading, Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues and Music That´s Going Places. I began to wonder what made her so in demand and the comments in the piece above from a wide range of contributors begin to make that clear. Too late, as so often, I know that I shall spoend a good deal of time listening for myself to an artist who worked in an adjacent field to the Americana music I listen to. Given that I have rerad names here like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald I know I will love the music, and I am pretty certain after reading this that I am about to fall in love with with the work of Tina May.
However, even as we stop to mourn Tina´s passing, there are jazz musicians travelling all over the UK to deliver some great music to remember some great artists. A prime example of that was provided when we opened a listings e mail from Jazz In Reading informing us of the gig below.
photo 3 Astor Big Band presents
The Glenn Miller Story
The Haymarket Basingstoke
Hampshire RG21 7NW
Sunday 10 April 2022 | 7:30pm
£25 | Under 16s and f/t students £23
(includes £4 booking fee)
The Astor Big Band tells the story of Glenn Miller, from his first band to his disappearance in 1944, illustrated with his hits plus music from Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, The Andrews Sisters and more, as well as newer songs arranged and played in Miller’s style.
Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal British Legion. All of the profits, plus a collection made at this performance, go to this charity.
Tickets from the Box Office on 01256 844244
or book online here
Jazz In Reading stages regular events with top-class bands at Reading’s Progress Theatre. See the current programme here
Jazz In Reading list events in Reading and the wider area at no charge – simply submit your gig details. They also offer an affordable service to further promote events – such as the one above – by email: details here.
Jazz in Reading, using its extensive contacts in the jazz world, is in an excellent position to help you find the right band for your wedding, party or other special occasion.
The organisation also provided us with the following news
STUART HENDERSON (trumpet, flugel)
& MARK ASTON (saxes)
Terry Hutchins guitar,
Andy Crowdy double bass,
Brian Greene drums
PANGBOURNE JAZZ CLUB
Sunday 1 May | 7:30pm start
Only £10 entry | Cheap bar | Raffle
No need to book – just come along
From 1983 – 2005 Stuart Henderson was principal trumpet of The Scots Guards Band in Her Majesty’s Household Division. During this period, he played many times for the Royal Family and at State occasions all over the world. Since leaving the services Stuart has become a fixture on the UK jazz scene appearing with many of the country’s finest jazz musicians.
Stuart leads various small groups and is musical director of the Remix Jazz Orchestra. He has played at many jazz festivals including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Brecon. Recording credits include dance labels “Nanny Tango”, “Soul Purpose” and “Greenfly”, and artistic collaborations with Tongues of Fire, Macnas and Mark Anderson “Dark Spark”. His commercial work includes the Rebecca Poole quartet, the String of Pearls, Joe Loss, The Showbiz Pops Orchestra and Nick Heyward.
Mark Aston is a freelance jazz musician and multi instrumentalist, perfectly at home in styles ranging from dixieland to swing, bebop and beyond. His first instruments were clarinet and piano before he decided to focus on saxophone. He also plays trombone. He is a busy performer and a member of several bands including the Phil Brown Swingtet, The High Society Jazz Band and Andy Dickens’ Hot Gumbo.
Mark also runs a jazz club in West London where he can be seen performing with many of the leading names in Jazz. He does instrument repairs and is a professional member of the National Association of Musical Instrument Repairers.
Sidetracks And Detours is delighted to share with our readers jazz news provided by hard working and reliable agencies such as Jazz In Reading, Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues and Music That´s Going Places, and of course the jazz print media comprises a host of excellently informative magazines.
Jazz Radio, also often provides a vast selection of jazz news in between the music on its jazz playlists and Sidedtracks And Detours continue to enjoy a synergy with the Hot Biscuits jazz show, and to bring you news each week of what Steve Bewick (right) and Gary Heywood Everett will be presenting from their could.
photo logo Readers can also listen to the excellent, and wide-ranging and adventurous jazz to be found on Ribble fm radio
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to tell us all about it, and we will try top include your recommendations, fully attributed on these pages.