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Home Reviews Music Reviews Jazz, the Great American Songbook and Don Henley: Scottish siren Carol Kidd shares her musical passions

Jazz, the Great American Songbook and Don Henley: Scottish siren Carol Kidd shares her musical passions

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Inspiration for feature articles can come from the most unexpected places. On the way home a couple of weeks ago, I was tuned into Seriously Sinatra, Channel 75 on Sirius-XM radio, when I heard a girl singer doing a really soft, sensuous take on Frank Sinatra’s signature saloon ballad “Angel Eyes.”

The number got my attention for two reasons: I didn’t recognize the voice; and not too many girls cover the tune. It’s usually a song about a girl, not a song performed by a girl.

Drink up all you people
Order anything you see
Have fun you happy people
The drink and the laugh’s on me

I tracked down the singer – Carol Kidd – through Google, contacted her press representative and snagged an e-mail interview with her between tour dates this summer.

Kidd was named Best Vocalist, British Jazz Award four times,  and earned the title of Best International Vocalist at the Cannes International Jazz Award, so she’s no new-comer to the industry.

During our correspondence, Kidd asked me if I knew Don Henley, the Linden native and member of the legendary rock group “The Eagles.”

Kidd, who was born in Scotland but currently lives in Spain, had a personal reason for asking: Henley’s music helped her through a difficult period in 2003.

We talked about the loss, Kidd’s music and just how a young girl from Scotland fell in love with the Great American Songbook.

News-Telegram: What made you choose music as a way to earn your living?
CK: I didn’t really see it as a way to earn a living. I have been singing since age five and always seemed to pick songs that had a story – children’s songs do that, don't they? As I got older, I was never very far away from the cinema. I spent a lot of time sitting through American musicals then started singing with a jazz band at the age of 15, and have never worked at anything else.

NT: “Angel Eyes” is usually sung by a guy ... but you knock it out of the park. How did you come to record the song?
CK: I was obviously influenced by Frank Sinatra. I fell in love with the words of this song and couldn’t wait to record it. I love the whole feel of the song – the lyrics are so wonderfully romantic but sad.

NT: How did you get interested in the great American songbook?
CK: Through the cinema, as I said. I bought a lot of records  by American singers, but rather than going for pop, I went for the Great American Songbook simply because they were the best writers of the classic jazz standards and had all the stories I wanted to sing.

NT: Who were your musical influences?
CK: When I was very young, it was Doris Day and Judy Garland. Then I went on to admire and love Gordon McRae, Vic Damone – who has asked for my albums to be sent to him - Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, who asked me to do a stadium gig with him in Scotland. It knocked me out. I like Anita O'Day, Ella and others, but these are the tops.

NT: Do you play an instrument?
CK: I don’t play. I don’t even read music, but I have the stretchiest ears in the world and I’m told I have perfect pitch.

NT: Do you have a favorite composer?
CK: Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart – all the greats. It’s true what they say: “They don’t write them like that anymore.”  Again it all comes down to the story.

NT: You really put a swing in “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” ... not the usual tempo. Whose idea was it to do it in an upbeat tempo?
CK: Mostly I don’t like to swing a ballad. I feel they should be kept the way they were written, but “Berkeley Square” really lent itself to the swing. I heard Harry Connick Jr. do it in a similar way and loved the whole feel of it.

NT: I loved your take on the late Kenny Rankin’s “Haven’t We Met?” I can hear you smiling in that one. Was it as much fun to record as it sounds?
CK: Thanks for that. Yes, that song was a delight to sing and I had the supreme guitarist Martin Taylor playing it so we did have a lot of fun. The lyrics are so unusual and there are a lot of them to fit into the tempo. I must admit I did laugh all the way through it!
I regrettably never met Kenny – I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. He was a genius writer.

NT: “Stars Fell on Alabama” is just you and the trio (guitar, bass, drum) ... no orchestration .... and it’s so lovely. Is the song on your usual set list?
CK: The song was not on my usual set list until recently. My daughter loves the song and asked me to sing it for her at one of my concerts. It’s been a favourite ever since – so much so that it is included in my new album. In fact, it was nearly the title of the new album.

NT: You include one of the jazz world’s greatest tunes, “’Round Midnight” on your CD, “All My Tomorrows.” Tell me your history with the song and the jazz genre.
CK: I have worked with some great sax players who all played “’Round Midnight.”

Then I discovered the words and started singing it. I loved the movie with Dexter Gordon. To me it’s one of those lovely but complicated tunes that you never forget.

“All My Tomorrows” is again very different from the other standards I was performing. It’s not a straight forward tune. It has its little hidden subtle changes just like “’Round Midnight” that appealed to me.

NT: You have a special affection for Linden native and member of the legendary Eagles rock band, Don Henley. Can you tell us about that?
CK: I lost my voice through the trauma of my partner’s death. I couldn’t sing and was told by my doctor not to even speak for four months. The depression I was left with lasted for a lot longer than four months. It was more like a year.

When I was at my lowest, my son gave me a DVD of Don Henley’s “Live Inside Job” (2002). I started writing songs solely due to his inspiration.

I gradually started performing again and became really anxious to do a new studio jazz album.

It was during the process of picking out the songs I had never recorded that “Dreamsville” was born.

It was such a joy recording the CD. Now I’m back to full strength and working towards my next release.

NT: What’s next for you?
CK: I’m doing a tribute to Johnny Mercer concert hosted by our Sir Michael Parkinson on June 21.

I have been writing my own songs. There are two on my new album. I’ll be concentrating on recording early next year. My dates are in the book and I guess I’ll sing ‘til I drop.
*
This is our fourth feature in a series on jazz.
See www.mySSnews.com for articles on Boz Scaggs, The Paul Unger Trio and
Melody Gardot and to hear Kidd’s cover of “Angel Eyes.”
Kidd’s CDs are available at www.amazon.com.
For more information, see www.linnrecords.com/
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