As a jazz vocalist with a sumptuous sound and an unerring ear for fresh and unexpected material Tessa Souter knows her way around the American Songbook’s backpages. But ever since the release of her 2004 debut Listen Love, the Anglo-Trinidadian singer has cast an increasingly wide net, often contributing original lyrics to jazz standards.
On her ravishing 2012 masterpiece Beyond the Blue (Motéma), she even set lyrics to beloved themes from the European classical canon. Her new album Picture in Black and White is her most personal and universal yet, a riveting musical account of the journey launched by her discovery at 28 that her father was black. It’s another revelatory step by an artist on a decidedly unconventional path. Born and raised in London, she was making her way in San Francisco in the early 1990s as a freelance journalist—Souter helped found the storied Writer’s Grotto—when she became obsessed with jazz singing. She’s thrived since moving to New York in 1997, collaborating with an impressive roster of players. In recent years she’s also started forging close ties to some top Bay Area improvisers, particularly the brilliant Bulgarian-born, Venezuelan-raised guitarist Hristo Vitchev.
Tessa Souter, vocals
Hristo Vitchev, guitar
Dan Robbins, bass