FIONA ROSS joins up Jazz
in an exclusive interview for Sidetracks And Detours
Norman Warwick learns how
jazz vocalist, musician, advocate and facilitator
FIONA ROSS joins up Jazz
When somebody pointed you to our daily blog recently you actually responded to us directly and thanked us for the article. That is a very thing for any artist to do, I think, and we really appreciate it. So we´ll take this opportunity to also give a shout out to Linda Garnett, a journalist who runs a blog called Indie Music Women and who conducted a great interview with you a couple of years or so back. I learned from that article that you first started singing live in jazz clubs at the age of fourteen.
So, I´d like to ask you who do you see when you look back at that young girl?
Well, firstly, thank you so much again for your wonderful article about my interview with Maxine Gordon and for the shout out for Linda – both incredible women!
Yes, ha, Jazz clubs at 14, but I had also been working outside of jazz for many years before that too. To be honest, I still feel like that young girl in many ways. I think all of us keep part of that child in us throughout life, at least I do hope so. But at that age, I was fearless and excitable but also arrogant and ignorant in many ways. I see someone who is ready to take on the world but someone who was not fully aware of the reality of what that means. I had so many wonderful opportunities that I didn’t fully understand or appreciate. I was so very fortunate – and still am – but when I was younger, I think this is something I took for granted. But I definitely became fully aware quite quickly, when I was a teenager. I am still fairly fearless and definitely excitable, but I work very hard to not be ignorant and I am always so very grateful for everything in my life.
I´m not sure if this question is easier or more difficult, but who do you the young Fiona would see if she could see you now?
Ha, that is tricky to answer. I think the younger me was not mature enough in many ways to fully understand the twists and turns of life and felt that literally everything was possible. So, in some ways, younger me may look at me now and see some failures. But I would like to think she would also look and see that I have worked as hard as I could and be pleased that I am ‘doing my thing’.
I am seventy years old now, and that is old enough to remember when the radio was a wireless playing crackly versions of Humphrey Littleton and Acker Bilk. Now, of course, everything is digital and highly polished on our radios and in our recording studios.
You, though, are six or seven albums into a well-acclaimed recording career now. What would you like to leave as an eventual legacy of whatseems certain to be a lengthy and successful path of albums, and what plans do you have prepared to achieve that legacy.
There is beauty in crackles. Another great question, although one that I think I have a poor answer to…. I very much live in the moment and never plan for the future. I take each day as it comes and to be honest the most I think ahead is maybe a year at the most. I always stumble when people ask that ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ question, as my answer is simply, hopefully still alive and reasonably sane. Each day at a time for me. I did reflect on this a lot when one of my songs was put into the British Library for the archive. I wondered what people 100/200 years from now would think about me and that song. My conclusion was that you can’t know me through one song, so people will listen to that one song and make a judgement based on that one song. But that is fine. That song was a relevant moment in my life. I think ultimately, and I know this sounds really cheesy, but I like to make people smile, to feel something. With my theatre training, this has been my way since I was tiny. So whether this is through my own music, or through sharing other people’s music and their stories, I hope that I will have been able to make people’s lives just a little happier, even if it is just for one moment of listening to a song or reading an article. For people to know that everything is possible with hard work, self-belief and the right type of support. And that kindness should be everyone’s default position. It’s not hard.
As a recording artist and a performing artist what do you do if anything, to make your albums or live shows in some way radio friendly,…. and in what way is radio still essential to the music business.
I believe radio is still a very essential part of the music business and especially the small local stations, who are quite often the heart and soul of the community. Radio is a brilliant way to be introduced to new music and vital for musicians. I get very excited when my music is played on the radio and in fact, I have a wonderful fanbase in Italy and Canada now, purely from some amazing people giving my music radio play. When I am recording, I want to make sure that whatever we do in the studio, I can replicate live and when I am producing, I want to ensure my music sounds live too. So, if you listen to my albums and then come and see me play live, I hope no one will be disappointed. I have considered the length of my songs, when it comes to radio play, as some are quite long, well, long in the commercial radio sense and I did have some songs with a couple of swear words in, which, I had to create alternative versions for radio play, which was a lot of faff. So, I don’t swear in my music anymore, ha. But overall when I am writing, I try to strike a balance of considering everything – listening to feedback, positive and negative, people’s needs, most popular tracks etc – but not letting it affect my music too much. If I write something that is too long for radio play for example, then I won’t change it, but I will just accept that it won’t get played. I always follow my musical heart and not my business head when I am creating. The business bit comes after the creation for me.
I spend time with my Women In Jazz Media work, talking to radio stations and analysing playlists to ensure there is diversity which is often not the case. Makes me very happy to be able to share so many incredible women through this work and some wonderful, supportive radio stations.
I understand that your parents, who both worked mathematicians, had quite diverse musical tastes, dad loving jazz and mum enjoying opera
When did you first realise your own love of the arts.?
I had an incredibly rich, diverse and beautiful musical upbringing. Short answer for this one…. I didn’t have that moment. This is just always what I have done. My first professional job was when I was two and I have been working since then. It is integral to who I am and always has been.
When can you an enjoy music in which you are involved, or do you have to concentrate and analyse so much you can only do so when it is all over and has been successful?
I enjoy it all the time, every part. I love writing music and then going through all the different stages – writing parts, rehearsing with my musicians, realising it all in the studio, producing and then performing. It can be quite intense as I will have different parts going around and around in my head until they are recorded. The only downside is that when I am writing my own music, I don’t allow myself to listen to anyone else’s music, so I can keep a clear musical head. As soon as I have finished writing I then go on a frenzy of listening to loads of music from other people.
l Ivied in the UK until I was sixty five, played in a contemporary folk group in local pubs for years, then became a journalist about the singer-songwriters of Americana, like John Stewart and Townes Van Zandt and there may be a slight cross-over of jazz interpretations of songs by Jimmy Webb. I was amazed, though, to find a massive jazz following here on Lanzarote. It consists of mainly UK musicians but the audiences are of indigenous people of Lanzarote, a hugely mixed bag of tourists of course, but also of UK, French, German and Dutch new residents,…….a very international following. We have a major annual jazz festival and this little island now seems to on the itineraries of a few major players,…we had Snarky Puppy´s version of jazz over here this year.
I know you love London, and perform in the capital so often, but where else in the world have you played that offers such cosmopolitan audiences?
There is so much incredible music all over the world – and often music that people don’t know about. The festival sounds wonderful! Sadly, I have failed to find the time to organise any performances abroad yet. I was supposed to do this just before COVID. I love travelling. I am especially desperate to play in Italy and Canada as I have many supporters there. I am always overwhelmed when I hear that people have been listening to my music in so many different places and I would love to play at them all. One of my biggest and probably first supporters, on Twitter, lives in South Africa and he has always been so wonderful, buys every one of my albums and says good morning to me on Twitter every day. I would love to go and play over there for him.
One of the things I have noticed is the increasing integration of Spanish or Canarian players into the jazz ensembles over here. Often they are playing the timple, that little ukulele lookalike, it fits beautifully and seems to blended in to the jazz vibe quite easily.
Where do you and the artists you support first come into contact with each other, and do those artists you work with know each other?
Well, for me, that is one of the most wonderful things about jazz – everything fits in so beautifully. I think COVID actually helped people connect as we had no choice but to communicate online and while this has many downsides it also has huge positives. I spend as much time as I can exploring music that is out there, whether that is attending gigs, reading articles, talking to people and constant social media searching. With my journalist hat on and with Women in Jazz Media, I get contacted by many artists, labels and PR companies and try my best to support as many as I can. There is no shortage of great music, the only problem for me is finding enough time to share it with everyone! There is an amazing jazz community out there full of good people and I am grateful every day that I am in touch with so many inspirational people.
The musicians I work with, for my own music are incredible and we have been together for many years now – and some of them used to be my students. I cannot even explain how lucky I feel to be able to work with them. We have so much fun, also work of course, but I love working with them.
Music, of course, provides a soundtrack of our lives that provides an aide memoir for people of my age. Music, though also seems to hold up a mirror that suggest we need to become better as a species and even as individuals. I know how often you seem to serve as a mentor, and I´m sure that 99% of musicians who set out on the road (not all of them at the age of fourteen!) simply wish to entertain.
So why did you take that first step into jazz,…to entertain,….or to make a difference,…or neither or both
Yes, I believe we can always be better and striving for that in turn makes us better.
Well, for me, it’s a funny thing and someone said to me, only the other day, after I had been introducing a gig, that I was ‘born to entertain’. My parents decided that a performing career was for me when I was very young. Dance, drama, music lessons, stage school, countless auditions and jobs, with my first lead role in the West End when I was eight. So, when I say it is integral to who I am, it is because it was literally what I was brought up to do. I loved it all, as intense as it was.
I guess because I started performing from such a young age, I seem to have this default position when I am in front of an audience and although I do not try, I seem to go into ‘entertainment mode’. This is from my theatre training where I had such an extensive CV by the time I was 13/14 so I guess it’s just inbuilt. But for people who know me, they know that I am actually very, very uncomfortable with attention and much prefer to be behind the scenes. I love performing but not the attention that comes with it. In the Theatre, you are being someone else – a character – but in music, Jazz, you are being you. When I first started writing my own material, which in the scheme of things, was not very long ago, Jazz was where my music appeared to sit. That sense of freedom to do whatever you wanted to do. But I think ultimately, as creatives, it’s not a choice. It’s something that we have to do, part of our very being. I just wanted, needed, to write some songs and play, there was no deeper intention than that, which sounds very selfish but there really was no deeper thought to it than that.
I´ll ask this final question by way of a think you again for contacting us when you saw our article
At a time when you surely have enough to keep you busy in the studio and on stage why do you work so hard to bring people to art?
Many reasons! The Arts are so powerful. They make you feel like anything and everything is possible. I don’t like barriers. I want people to be able to do whatever it is they want to do, to achieve their goals, their dreams, however big or small. Music is like medicine and can genuinely lift your spirits and make you feel you can take on the world. The Arts make you feel you are not on your own. When you hear someone else’s story – whether this is through music, writing, a film etc – you can sometimes relate to those experiences and this in turn can give you the strength to carry on and not feel so lonely. I don’t like to think of people feeling that they are on their own – especially as creatives. There is an amount of solitude that is essential in our work, but that solitude can lead to negativity and it is important for people to know that that solitude is actually shared with the wider creative community. Small things can make a huge difference. If I share an album, a gig, a book, from someone on social media and just one person buys it, this genuinely makes a difference to that artist. I would love for everyone to share more. And you know, I just love sharing great music with people!
That interview makes lucid good-sense to me and resonates even with some of the passages in Dr. Burkhard Bennsman´s thesis on the application of Self.Leadership that the author spoke of on these pages a year or so ago in an article that is still available in our easy to negotiate archives of circa 750 articles.
That Fiona is still following her own path, and helping others, without compromising what is a more than successful career, (however you measure ´success) is in itself a fantastic achievement. That she states hopes and dreams in such simplistic fashion, that she has fan bases in countries she has not yet played in but that she woulod love to play in one day makes it even the more thrilling that she took time to contact us.
Had I not done just the barest bit of research between her contacting us and we then asking her for an interview I would have been amazed of what I have learned about her form that interview. I had seen some clues, though, particularly in that afore-mentioned interview she gave to Linda Garnett at Indie Music Women, which I found on line.
Linda Garnett, herself, gives talented women in the Indie Music field the information, connections, and attention they need to propel the growth of their career.
I really enjoyed her writing style, too. She is informed and informative, and it was from her article that I learned that Fiona was at one time head of The British Academy Of New Music where she trained artists such as Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, and Jesse Glynne whilst also naming Prince as one of the most positive influences on her own career.
Linda Garnett also cleverly avoids falling inot the traps I still too frequently fall into. Rather than ask Fiona a stragithforward journalistic question what is the favourite album you have recorded she asks, instead, what is the favourite photo-shoot you have ever been involved in to promote an album.
Linda brings a diverse background in the arts to the field of music research and writing. Starting with a mentorship at radio station KFRC in San Francisco, she went on to acquire a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and an Associate of Arts degree in Music Technology. She has earned a Digidesign operator certificate in Pro Tools post production. Linda is also a published music writer with works appearing in on-line publications such as the Legends of Rock “The ROCKIN’ NEWS”. With exemplary research skills and numerous connections in the music industry, Linda penetrates the veneer of populist opinion to illuminate deeper insights.
You can read more of Linda´s work at https://indiemusicwomen.com/
There was more to learn, of course from Fiona´s own website where she describes herself on the home page as award-winning vocalist, pianist, composer, producer and journalist. There are compliments, too from Jazz Quarterly and Jazz Blues, and from the dignified Maxine Giordon who calls Fiona ´fierce and non-compliant, and honest and true and oh so very talente.´ Praise doesn´t come much highe4r thatn that especially when you consider its source, but there are comments too from Jazz Views and Kind Of Jazz, who sum it up laconically, but accurately as ¨her talents are simply extraordinary.´
There are several pull down features including Music, Press, Gigs, News, Videos, About, Gallery, Collaborators, Journalism, Contact. I opened Music first and learned that Fiona Ross has recorded albums including A Twist of Blue, and Seven Songs In Seven Days, all written, produced and performed by Fiona Ross. Then came Red Flags And High Heels, (left) which this time was a collection of TEN self-penned and self-produced numbers.
Black, White And A Little Bit Of Grey explored situations (that) are not as clear-cut as they may appear as allegiances shift and betrayals become serpentine — not everything is black and white. Except on the cover of Just Me (and sometimes someone else) which then name FIONA ROSS in white emulsion on a black and white photograph oif a living room in which we can see the someoneelse but we can´t see Fiona.
I love the title track of Red Flags And High Heels, which is a punchy opening with some rattlingly good percussion, and there are more thoughtful numbers, too, such as More Time and When I Get Old.
Fiona issues warnings with a fiesty Don´t Say It If You Don´t Mean though whether she is addressing herself or a partner makes a moot point.
When she says You Can´t Feel My Groove it sounds like somebody might not be right for the role and You Are Like Poison is a dramatic performance, and there is disappointment too in You Used To Tell Med and I always Saw The Red Flags.
One of my favourites on this collection is The Apple Tree Won´t Grow Any More, that reminds me not only in title, but also in mood and subject matter of the The Lilac And The Apple Tree, a folk song recorded by the late great Kate Wolf who died so tragically young.
Fiona´s empotions sem to find some equilibrium later in the album with You Can Smile and and a great song, I Followed My Heart, though after the rise, the fall as she is at least by track titles, left to close the album admitting she is Without You but with Too Many Thoughts.
This is a jazz album that sits quite comfortably among my collection of American by the likes of Joan Baez, Kate Wolf and naci Griffith and i cant offer any higher praise. lyrics that make me think, expressive vocals and music that supports rather overwhelms, Great production values.
The pull down of Press carries reviews from all over the world. It was American songwriter Butch hancock who once told me that we must intend what we write for light years of travel. It seems that Fiona´s songs travel the globe without her and garner their own poraise and create their own audience.
The gigs pull down highlights her love of playing in London and the News drop down featured the newly released album, awards events and gatherings revealing of her great presence on the jazz scene. The video section shows several short features of live sessions and the About dropdown offers a conciese all you need to know biography.
Click on Collaborators and you will find photographs and names of all those who have performed with her in studios or on stage and that leads us neatly on to the final pull down entitled Journalism. It is another text and photographs piece that lists Fiona´s journalistic credentials and an impressive list of jazz related publications that have published her work, and also lists her writing on music and social issues and points you to some interesting podcasts !
In short, it is a perfect example for any aspirant, and even established, musician to grow their name. It is all embracing and generous of spirit and as I write that I realise that is exactly what I felt about the interview she gave..
If any of our Sidetracks And Readers are a female musician, singer, song-writer, studio engineer, producer, or in any way connected with the creation of music in other ways, then Fiona´s passion, is to help you achieve your potential.
Meanwhile I hope those of our readers who are fans of live music in the London area to keep an eye out for Fiona´s name on the listings of forthcoming attraction.
check out https://fionaross.co.uk/
Somewhat further North in the UK by a matter of 250 miles or so, Ribble Valley Jazz And Blues have asked us to include details of a couple of live invents by jazz musicians of a slightly different DNA.
TONIGHT Friday 14th October 2022
Timeline Quintet / Ladies of Midnight Blue
featuring Hannabiell Sanders and Yilis Del Carmen Suriel
Definitely an exciting night of Nuwave talent!
Venue: The Grand, Clitheroe
Tickets: Adv £15, Members £13, Under 25s £5, Under 18s free so long as accompanied by paying adult.
Timeline (ex Green Tangerines, left), born out of the bubbling Liverpool jazz scene, draw their sound from 70’s groove-based Jazz Fusion. They will be playing a mixture of fresh originals inspired by the powerful double-barrelled sound of Mike Stern/Brecker and Mark Lettieri/Bob Reynolds sound. Between them they have supported the likes of fusion heavyweights Robben Ford, MonoNeon and Stanley Clarke. Inspired by 70s Jazz Fusion, Timeline have found a distinct sound – an almost ‘Nu-Fusion’
Dubbed by ‘Get Into This’ as “A band that everyone is going to be talking about. Life-enhancing,” they’re one to watch.
They comprise of saxophonist and vocalist Sarah Sands, guitarist Jack O’Hanlon, keyboardist Tom Barber, bassist Fran Mills and drummer Ben Johnson.
photo 6 LADIES OF MIDNIGHT BLUE
Ladies Of Midnight Blue (right) are an Afro-Latin percussion & brass duet comprised of Hannabiell Sanders and Yilis Del Carmen Suriel. They create a powerful and upbeat fusion of rhythms, weaving combinations of melodic percussion, brass, vocal chants, and Mbira. They have performed and facilitated workshops and residencies all over the world. They believe in everyday activism, which they see as a commitment to work towards equality and justice in all aspects of their lives and for their communities.
MARK LOCKHEART´S DREAMERS (left)
Saturday 19 November – 19:30 to 22:00
check: The Grand, Clitheroe for details
Lineup: Mark Lockheart – saxophones, Elliot Galvin – keyboards, Tom Herbert – bass guitar, Dave Smith. – drums
This new all star group explores Mark’s multi-faceted outlook on music through a new set of original compositions with this bold and unique sounding group. Urgent and exciting grooves and textures all cleverly crafted together within Lockheart’s unique and memorable melodies. Wide ranging influences from Ellington and Shorter to John Zorn, the Beatles and even Kraftwerk!
“From Loose Tubes to Polar Bear and beyond, Lockheart’s capacity to be ahead of the jazz curve is undeniable. In this new band his combination of lyrical economy and harmonic creativity has found three improvisatory soul-mates who clearly know how to make the most of his compositions in their own terms.” Jazzwise magazine
Meanwhile Jazz In Reading, too, have asked us to remind you of a forthcoming event that we have mentioned before on these pages
They proudly tell us about
CONCERTS IN CAVERSHAM
bringing top professional musicians to the doorstep
Autumn Festival Of Music And Art
St. Andrew´s Church & Queen Anne´s School
Caversham22nd October to 1st November
You can find details of the artists appearing in our post of our post on Sidetracks And Detours on 3rd October entitled Join Us In Jazz, still available in our east to negotiate archives of circa 750 features.
on air logo If your taste runs away to jazz as well as country, Steve session from the Steven Pimlott Quartet at the Creative Space. Jazz from Bewick´s next Hot Hot Club Quartet. Roland Kirk with a classic and. Gaz Hughes also from a set at the Creative Space. If this sounds good tell your friends, or follow Biscuits jazz broadcast includes as its central piece a Gypsy jazz from the Mike Piggott Steve 24/07 by clicking opn our embedded section at the foot of this page.the American songbook. Also featured is music from Lara Eidi.
ROCHDALE MUSIC SOCIETY
My old home town of Rochdale continues its 2022 / 23 season of classical concert with The Pomegranate Trio playing what should be a lovely selection of music tomorrow night (see poster)
The Society is always extremely grateful for donations which will help make it possible to maintain the consistently high standards for which it is known. As a registered charity, it can recover tax on donations of any amount – with no minimum – from both individuals and corporate donors who are UK tax-payers and who sign a simple Gift Aid Declaration.
For further information please contact the Treasurer, Allan Franklin, on 01706 848769. The Society gratefully acknowledges the financial support in the form of sponsorship, patronage and grants from the following:
YourTrust (Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust),
Holroyds Precision Tools, Milnrow,
Making Music (The National Federation of Music Societies),
Concert Promoters Network,
Patrons of Rochdale Music Society
Next month they present a violin and piano concert by Barney and Oscar Tabor
the Spring concert then begin in March 2023
March 11th The Pleyel Ensemble
April 22nd Patrick Hemele piano
May 13th Clair Hammond piano
June 24th Prince Bishop´s Brass
check rochdalemusic.org for further details
The prime sources for this article were an article written by Linda Garnett, published on line at indiewomenmusic and the web site of indiemusicwomen.com/ and the excellently comprehensive web site of Fiona Ross at https://fionaross.com . Check out these on-line magazines for scores of similar thought-provoking work.
Photographs of Fiona Ross are attributed as
1 at Colchester Arts Centre Jazz Club taken by Idian Hill
2 by Darrell Craig Harris
3 by Steven Tiller
cover by Stefan Ferrol
In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but that we are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with new genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.
photo npw This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.
As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.
The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about just drop a Word document attachment to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Being a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Sidetracks And Detours is seeking to join the synergy of organisations that support the arts of whatever genre. We are therefore grateful to all those share information to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
correspondents Michael Higgins
Gary Heywood Everett
Aj The Dj Hendry
Hot Biscuits Jazz Radio www.fc-radio.co.uk
Jazz In Reading https://www.jazzinreading.com
Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues https://rvjazzandblues.co.uk
Rob Adams Music That´s Going Places
Lanzarote Information https://lanzaroteinformation.co.uk
all across the arts www.allacrossthearts.co.uk
Rochdale Music Society rochdalemusicsociety.org
Agenda Cultura Lanzarote
Larry Yaskiel – writer
The Lanzarote Art Gallery https://lanzaroteartgallery.com
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