Chapter 6: Times in my life - The search for a Voice (Part 2)

Estelle writes ...

On my swing

Bare feet grounded deep in spiky grass leaning back on the throw of two and sinking my eyes into cloud-circles. I wasn't looking for my voice, I was zooming forward speeding through the sky until my daydreams took me beyond the blue and into space. That's what I imagined while singing on my swing and it was a good place to be. 

I'd watch ants and beetles for hours on end, crouching in a sandpit building towns and cities around them or climbing up a tree. If there was a breeze I would sing along to the rhythm of leaf and twig shadows dancing in the semi shade. Playing with my friends was fun but I loved being on my own more, chasing those elusive shadows with my voice in the outdoor flow.

It all seemed to come to an end too soon.The last of the hot bright light fading into dusk and another day was done. If I wasn't singing myself to sleep at night there'd be a new melody to chirp along to on one of my mum's records when it was too cold to go outdoors. Nature was my first influence and still is my main source of inspiration.
18 going on 19
in the garden at
WEA Records
Face down with my head resting on my arms listening to Nancy Wilson on the reel to reel or Ernestine Anderson swinging like crazy on a cassette someone gave me was my first introduction to jazz singing. The freedom of expression that was Betty Carter and Shirley Horn's unmatched interpretations followed.

Lorez Alexandria singing 'Baltimore Oriole' is still way ahead of it's time, not just vocally but instrumentally too. A strong but subtle recurring bass riff and the drumming far out in front. This track has been remixed countless times but the original version could've been recorded yesterday. The unsung heroes and heroines of beautiful or unusual songs whether self penned or retold are usually the ones I gravitate towards. Those with a unique sound and tone that is identifiable as theirs and theirs alone.

Doing another demo
Was it sitting at the back of the room in a jazz club blocking one ear and softly scatting along to solos and harmonising with melodies that helped me find my voice? I'm sure it must've helped! I know that most musicians I have worked with, have taught me something about interpretation, dynamics and phrasing. Drummers and bass players have been and still are some of my best teachers.
The way the singer relates to a song is a reflection of who they are and how they feel. It's not just technique or stylistic elements that are important, it's about living the song. I don't think you ever stop finding your voice. Its a journey of sound that doesn't end. Joni Mitchell singing 'Both Sides Now' on her concept album of the same name (May 2000) is a very different song to the one she sang in the 1960's. This release demonstrates how her life's experiences have enriched what was already a masterpiece in song writing over thirty years ago.
Richard Kaby's rainbow
Every song has a story. I was walking in the bush in Botswana in 1987 when a cool breeze and a sudden cloudburst inspired me to write what was then 'Tswana Skies.' I got soaked but had a notepad in my bag so jotted down the words after the storm had subsided. A few drops were still falling from the sky while the sun was starting to set but I couldn't see a rainbow. It was twenty years later when I recorded an official version of this song for my 'Information' album. Producer and songwriter Craigie Dodds was another important teacher in my life. He showed me how to go inside and look deeper. How to make the mental journey to my memories and relive those moments in real time with honesty.

Who we meet and who we work with can add a lifetime of experience in one sitting and being older or wiser doesn't always enter into the equation. 

Jan writes ...
I met Estelle on line. A zen moment on My Space looking at the photographs of Richard Oakland. Clicking on the music player her song 'Where is the Rainbow?' came out of the speakers, wafting half way across the world into my studio in Tennessee. That did it. I knew I wanted to work with her.
One Halloween I went to see her at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean St. London. We kept in touch and as I settled into my new other life in the UK I realised Estelle would be the person to bring the Freeman/Pulsford songbook alive.
And here we are now. Nearly a year later with 16 songs ready to record, lots of preproduction work, pictures, videos, rough mp3s, tryout arrangements, charts written, travels from Switzerland to Suffolk to London to virtual space and back. Late night and early morning Skype sessions with brainstorming sessions to make your head ache. Lyrics and keys tweaked. Charts transposed. Recording engineer and studio contacted - not to mention considering the musicians who will play with Estelle … there's a lot to making an album! Oh did I mention the budget? Lots of spreadsheets and flow charts - and that's before we play a note.
We are blogging the adventure and getting ready to crowd source the album. The audience will be part of the making of this album - true patron of the arts. It's a brilliant alternative concept to the old corporate way of doing things and makes the listener more involved with the music from start to finish.
Estelle is a fantastic performer, writer and artist. Her illustrious career in South Africa paved the way for London. The time is right to launch a new collection of classic songs into the world of jazz and beyond with Estelle Kokot at the front of the stage.

Chico writes ... 

One of the most treasured times in an artists' life is when he/she realizes that he/she has something to say that is worth sharing with the rest of the world and when his/her skill set reaches the point where that expression of one's self becomes realistic. This is the moment where the discovery of one's voice is tangible existence, something real that can be informed by ones life and experiences, where the expression takes shape and begins its' journey of developing metamorphosis.

One begins to feel the need to document the metamorphosis, to observe the change and submit to it's calling. The finding of one's voice is one of the single most important achievements in an artists life, the identifying element and true resonance of the truth within. It is the true expression of the "Times in One's Life."

Photo by Marcel Meier

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