Jenny Bray (left) is a jazz artist who has taken a few Sidetracks And Detours on her way to building a song-writing, performing and recording career. She is currently working on her next album scheduled to be completed by around the next turn of the year. So, come follow your art and listen in on a conversation with an artist we will be following until the release of that album to learn something of that recording process.

Hi Jenny

the last time we spoke you were playing some gigs but I gather it is pretty chilly in the UK at the time I write this.. Surely cold fingers and cold feet are not good conditions for a jazz musician?

I have joined the local gym and spa to keep warm while at home heating the house with a coal fire and log burner!

At least in such weather you can stay comfy and cosy in the house and catch up on some favourite reading about jazz and listening to jazz arts. So what is waiting for you on your bookshelves and what is on your current playlists,…. and why?

Three publications come to mind from my favourite reading this month, all of which have been given to me by my students, (I learn far more from them than they from me) Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Kerst & Krehbiel, Beethoven the man and the artist, as revealed in his own words and The New Yorker magazine. I have been focused on my lyrics as I complete the lead vocals for “One Hare, One Owl”, (my producer Justin Johnson makes me laugh as he reminds me always to put in the comma), with Phil Hooley music North Yorkshire and my attention has been drawn to the connection we have to nature. The recording studio was such a calm place hidden away in the hills so quiet the only sounds were from the birds and an inquisitive dog, a lovely space to still the mind. “I hear a leaf, whisper for me, just reach out and I will fall into your arms”, a line from “Taurid Meteor”, a song from my album. Nature was Beethoven’s “instructress in art”, growing up by the Rhine, “out in the woods he became naively happy”.  Berlin’s short stories are a lovely escape and easy to read, full of imagery inspired by her life in Mexico, Chile and the American Southwest, “The sand is black and fine; the water in the lake is green. Deeper sweet green the pines that edge the lake” and The Blessing, a poem in the New Yorker magazine (Feb 13th 2023) by Evie Shockley ends “green, shady, fruitless, fruitful stay, the evening that did not fall away.”

Listening, I’ve been immersed in Nina Simone’s early recordings so far this year. I found a collection of 4 albums. Nina, Eunice Kathleen Waymon (1933 -2003) to me seemed to have no boundaries, no expectations of herself, she seemed to allow every aspect of her personality to have a special equal place in her playing, that’s what I hear. I wonder what she thought.

We hear whispers about the Yorkshire Wolds Music Foundation. Do you know anything about that and can you speak about it, if so?

The Yorkshire Wolds Music Foundation is a charity run by three people Christina Waldock, Kevin Ormand and Margaret Pinder. I have n’t been able to discuss any invlovement with them yet but will certainly let you know when I have!

Last time we spoke you were speaking about having a new album ready for release come the turn of this year into 2024. Are things still progressing well on that front?

Things are progressing well and most of the recording is completed now with just the last instrumental tracks being added by the legendary Chris Howard, (right) a friend of Justin’s! Chris plays guitar and keyboard and is based in Liverpool, he is quite in demand and recently toured with Elvis Costello.

Will you preview any of the album material while touring in the UK or USA this year?

I am hoping to receive delivery of a few CDs and Vinyl copies of the new album when I arrive in the US in July, it should be going for mastering and pressing around the end of May beginning of June. The artwork is based on a photo my father took of me last year during a solo performance at St. Catherine’s church Stalham, I was enjoying playing their beautiful Beckstein grand piano during the Stalham fringe festival week in Norfolk.

In our last interview, which we published here in Sidetracks And Detours under the title of Hot Biscuits With Bewick And Bray on 1st February 2023, still available in our archives of more than 800 articles, you mentioned a vocalist named Olive Joseph. I´m  pleased to tell you that she read that article and messaged us to say ´Jenny Bray’s musicianship, skills and sensibilities are flawless!!´ How does it feel to know that somebody like Ollie appreciates your skills as much as you do hers?

Olive Joseph (left) is a very dear friend and collaborator! I am truly flattered by her comments! I think we complement each other during performances, New York meets East Yorkshire,  Olive brought out the soul in me, she’d say ‘Come on girl’ and she could blend her voice to mine with perfect quality of tone and intonation to communicate with the band and with the audience while interpreting the songs so sensitively. Olive is so much fun, bold, passionate & professional, a phenomenal talent and I am so lucky to have met her!

There were some interesting jazz grammy nominations and winners earlier this year, and almost simultaneously we had the sad loss of one of their number, Wayne Shorter. Do you take note of these sort of things and do they impact on your creativity and ambition?

I enjoy watching all kinds of awards and have learned so much about life, music and creativity from meeting some of the great performers, their stories and lives can be very sad but also inspiring.  I think the awards encourage me to be an individual, true to myself and my art. My own ambition is to be there for my family while continuing to write, perform and share music to the very best of my ability. 

As you know, Sidetracks And Detours are have asked for permission to follow your path to completion and release of your next album. Is there anything else you´d like to share with us now, or can you at least tell us what the next stage of your process will be and when might be a good time to contact you again?

There are still some concerts to deliver in the UK before heading out to the states on July 4th. I’m excited to be performing at some of my favourite seaside venues in Yorkshire during April!  I’ll be at the queen’s hotel Bridlington, White Lodge hotel Filey and the Caske Inn in Scarborough! So lots of sea air and probably fish and chips! I really missed fish and chips when I lived in the USA and used to drive 1 1/2 hours to the famous English fish and chip shop in Greenwich village New York called A Salt & Battery for the delight, they were even wrapped up in English newspaper! I’ll also be performing in York at the phoenix, a couple of events in Norfolk  then at the lovely Epworth Day festival in Lincolnshire before heading west! I will be playing a song or two from the new album!

So, It would be lovely to chat again before going over to the USA in July so shall we say June for a catch up?

That would sound perfect !

And in the meantime I might just share your reading list because as you perhaps know we run a weekly series called We´re Gonna Need A Bigger Bookshelf to accommodate 100 Sidetracks And Detours recommendations of books about music, musicians and the books the musicians themselves read.

When I looked at Jenny´s list I was delighted to read that Lucia Berlin is being considered in the same league as Raymond Carver who wrote incredible biographies encased in his short stories

Reviews of Lucia Berlin´s work say ‘This selection of 43 stories should by all rights see Lucia Berlin as lauded as Jean Rhys or Raymond Carver’ Independent

The stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women make for one of the most remarkable unsung collections in twentieth-century American fiction.

With extraordinary honesty and magnetism, Lucia Berlin invites us into her rich, itinerant life: the drink and the mess and the pain and the beauty and the moments of surprise and of grace. Her voice is uniquely witty, anarchic and compassionate. Celebrated for many years by those in the know, she is about to become – a decade after her death – the writer everyone is talking about. The collection will be introduced by Lydia Davis.

‘With Lucia Berlin we are very far away from the parlours of Boston and New York and quite far away, too, from the fiction of manners, unless we are speaking of very bad manners . . . The writer Lucia Berlin most puts me in mind of is the late Richard Yates.’ 

Beethoven: The Man And The Artist sounds to be an intriguing collection, too.

Composed by Henry Edward Krehbiel and [Ludwig van Beethoven] Ed. Friedrich Kerst. Textbook – General. Dover Edition. Classical; Masterwork; Romantic. Book. Dover Publications #06-212610. Published by Dover Publications (AP.6-212610).

Item Number: AP.6-212610

ISBN 9780486212616. English. [Ludwig van Beethoven] Ed. Friedrich Kerst; Henry Edward Krehbiel.

Beethoven speaks on music, art, education, his own works and his contemporaries, etc. 110 pgs.

I have also searched for The Blessing by Evie Shockley, from which Jenny quoted whilst speaking with us.

This is drawn from “Suddenly We.”

Published in the print edition of the February 13 & 20, 2023, issue of The New Yorker magazine.

Evie Shockley  publishes, this month, her fourth poetry collection, “suddenly we,”. She teaches literature at Rutgers University.

So we take this opportunity to thank Jenny for her suggestions and we look forward to speaking with her again in the summer. In the mean time we will try to bring you more information about the above literary items referred to by Jenny.

As we keep saying, we´re definitely gonna need a bigger books-shelf. !

On air sign background

Remember that we first heard of Jenny Bray on the exccllent Hot Biscuits jazz programme our friend, radio presenter and occasional contributor to these pages, Steve Bewick. Each Monday we publish details of Steve´s forthcoming edityion of the show, and this week we can tell you that Hot Biscuits will include a live session from guitar duo featuring Trefor Owen and Andrew Hume. Also featured are the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Tim Garland & Jason Rebello, Tasos Gkoumas, Kendrix Scott, the David Gordon Trio and will conclude with Jas Kayser with a jazz refresher. If this looks interesting then share with friends to listen in24/07 at www.mixcloud.com/stevebewick/ 

Steve is also are looking anyone with an interest in joining the Hot Biscuits production team.!


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