Chapter 5: Will I see you in the morning? - The search for a Voice (Part 1)

Chico Writes... 
The thing about music is that no matter what you compose or write there needs to be someone, a warm body to provide the voice to express the message. This can be an instrumentalist, singer or poet. The difficulty is to find the right/best voice to express the voice that lives inside the material.

John Coltrane was a voice, his own voice when it came to expressing his music. Duke Ellington was a voice who used his orchestra, made up of some of the most vociferous musicians, as an instrument to express his inner voice as a composer. Von Freeman, my father, had the most unique voice on the tenor saxophone that I have ever heard. His voice was all encompassing of the history of the instrument yet completely original. We as artists from the beginning are always looking to find our voice, when we have found our voice the artistic journey becomes more satisfying and the laying of the foundation of our legacy begins. 

The search for a voice is ever present, it occupies all areas of artistic endeavor whether one is a painter, musician, singer, composer, thespian et al. The finding of one's own voice must sometimes come through the voice of another. It can be the co-members of a band, a singer who sings your songs, another group of musicians who play your compositions or simply a poet who recites your words in prose to music or the simple use of them to express their own voice in their artwork such as a photographer or painter, in a simple table book.

It's a wonderful journey that has great rewards with simple discovery. One's voice can be one's own muse. Now that is something special.

Photos by Hans Kumpf:Top photo- Von Freeman, Middle photo - Chico Freeman and Arthur Blythe, Bottom photo - Franco Ambrosetti and Chico Freeman.

Jan writes ...
        The creative world is fuelled by dreams and driven by dreamers who who have managed to turn their dreams into reality.
It seemed I had been searching for singers for years … 

Back in 1993 Cyndi Lauper walked into English Valley Music Studio and opened her mouth to sing - I welcomed her home. She had the voice I always wished I'd had. It belonged with my music. To work with someone of that calibre was a privilege - they don't come around very often.

After Cyndi left in 2001 my quest for a voice continued. So many singers would jump on the bandwagon looking for an easy ride with no concept of how hard they would have to work. Writing and recording songs is an exceptionally enjoyable pastime but what comes next is what turns dreams into reality. I saw many wannabes running away once reality stared them in the face. Was it a fear of failure that made them retreat into the comfortable role of armchair general, blaming everyone but themselves for the reason they weren't a household name? 

If you want the corporate money you have to play by the corporate rules. The music 'business' isn't going to change for you . . . It takes balls to be out there. Cyndi used to say to the members of her road encourage who were foolish enough to criticise  'Listen Pal you wear the dress, you'll see … ' and then run off to the gym, in between interviews, photoshoots, hairdressers, singing lessons, writing, plotting tours, album covers, oh yes and being a mother.

I have never been particularly comfortable at the front of the stage. My strength lies in the back supporting those who shine in the spotlight. We can't all be superstars - the trick is to find something you are really good at and enjoy and claim your niche. Follow happiness. If you can pay your bills you've 'made it'.  I shine at the back of the stage. I love writing music for other people to sing. I love co-writing music and words and playing and programming the music in the background, providing the wind beneath their wings …

I have been so lucky to have some wonderful singers record my music, aside from Cyndi Lauper I can count Darlene Love who recorded 'Night of Peace' co-written with Seth Glassman and Faye Tozer of Steps who did a wonderful job on the co-written 'If you Believe' and Vaneese Thomas who sang 'Empty Promises' for the film 'All the way to the Top" One of the first Freeman/Pulsford collaborations. I also have to mention Happy Charles who sang my demos for many years. We also worked on many Dance tracks with DJ Julian Marsh and a lovely couple of Xmas albums.

And then I met Estelle … 

Estelle writes ... 
I sing, write songs, play piano and have an obsessive compulsion to rearrange everything that's put down in front of me! My musical leanings curve towards jazz but I love straight ahead melodies too. There's a vast amount of instrumental stuff (all genres) that I appreciate and enjoy but a good song always gets my ear. I find it hard to categorise music. If I love what I hear, it doesn't matter what it is or where it comes from. Sometimes that beauty can be harsh and stark like being in the Namib Desert, there's liquid somewhere in that sand.

Strong characters with a unique instrumental voice, these are
the musicians I like to work with. I've never enjoyed being 'backed' in the conventional sense. It seems like lemon without honey and ginger in a hot rum drink. Give me some cayenne, then we add the spice and start stirring till we feel it simmering!

Back in 2005/2006 a good jazz shark whispered 'go have a look, you will love it' about Myspace. I remember thinking it was all a bit out there and edgy... it didn't take me long to adjust and soon I was feeling brave enough to upload photos and was excited and inspired by all the wonderful musicians and artists who were using the site. I enjoyed this new world of making friends I couldn't touch or smell and whose shadows would probably never overlap mine! This is where I encountered Jan Pulsford via a comment she left on Richard Oakland's photo of a poppy. We stayed in contact on line but it was more than a few moons later before Jan came to see my Halloween show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho.

Touching base every so often on Skype, Jan sent a couple of tracks she had co-written with Chico Freeman. I was struck by what I heard. The musical synergy between these two people was obvious. The songs resonated with me and though I know it sounds a bit bold to say so, I feel like they have been waiting for me to find them, these songs. The variety, life's experiences so eloquently expressed, each one has it's own personality. I couldn't wait to start exploring the possibilities and learning them!

Jan's lyrics effortlessly interwoven with Chico's melodies and at times intricate harmonic structures inspire me to not only dive deeply and swim inside the music, but to look at drawing from my own experiences. In December 2012 Jan and Mr Freeman came to visit. I knew straight away that this was going to be a lot of fun and that working with these two passionate and talented people would have quite an impact on my musical life! 

How it all ends up taking shape over time, the one thing we have is the love for what we do, bonding us as our story unfolds. For me that is the musical heart speaking loud and clear.
Softly gentle or from a place deep and strong, the singer's voice has no sound without a good song.

1 comment:

  1. The photos and photo collages used for the main photo of each chapter all have meaning. This one brings Estelle into the picture ... Can anyone guess how?