ArkivJazz had an informative and interesting talk with Swiss singer Lucia Cadotsch, after her recent appearance at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Lucia’s CD Speak Low presents a unique and original take on standards, featuring her vocals supported only by tenor sax (Otis Sandsjö) and double bass (Petter Eldh).
ArkivJazz: Were you a young jazz fan when you were growing up?
Lucia Cadotsch: I grew up with a jazz collection at my home in Germany. My father is a jazz fan and an amateur saxophonist, so it was always natural to have jazz music around.
AJ: Which artists did you listen to?
LC: Dinah Washington was important to me. Also, there's Abbey Lincoln, Dianne Reeves, and Shirley Horn. Sarah Vaughan's After Hours was another record I enjoyed when I was very young.
AJ: How about Nina Simone?
LC: She came into my life much later. Actually, the artists I think are much closer to my musical expression are those I discovered later. For example, when I started jazz when I was 22, a teacher came up to me and said, “I can hear that you listen to a lot of Billie Holiday,” and I never had. Then I started listening to Billie Holiday and I thought, “Wow…she just totally sings the way I feel.” That’s something that, when I look back, I was always looking for - not this artificial way of singing but more of a way of singing that comes from the speaking voice – the sounds of the words and the way the language is modeling the sound. That’s how I hear Billie Holiday. It was an encounter like where you are looking for your own sound, and then all of a sudden you hear a musician that feels like a “soul mate” in a way where they are so close to how you’re feeling as far as the phrasing, intonation, and sound.
AJ: Do you feel the same way about Dianne Reeves?
LC: No, not at all. Her music was very foreign to me. I was listening to her but it was always hard for me to sing along. It was not as natural as when I found Billie Holiday’s music. Abbey Lincoln was someone else that I listened to when I was very young. She also has more of a roughness in her expression. I feel closer to the singers like Nina Simone, who come from a chanting voice rather than the classically trained jazz style.
AJ: When did you start performing your own music?
LC: I started a Billie Holiday tribute band, but later took a break and thought I need to do my own music. I always sang jazz for small private gigs but had another band where I was writing original music. I listened to Nina Simone a lot during that time. She was inspired by Billie Holiday, but all of those same standards sound so much like Nina Simone. She really managed to find her own voice, which was very inspiring. I thought there must be a way to take it a couple of generations further and find my way because I’m not interested in doing something that exists already. There are so many amazing versions of those standards, and I wondered why should I start playing in a way that has been done when I could search for my own way?
AJ: Was this around the time that you started performing with your current band?
LC: Yes. Regarding the band, I tried a couple of sessions with other players. I was looking for a sound that left out all of those harmonic clichés and the typical jazz chord progressions. I thought “I’m going to strip it down to Bass and voice.” and called up Petter Eldh. We had been playing in another band before for about ten years, and he‘s always trying to find new ways to do something original. I asked him for a duo gig, and he said: “this is scary, but ok, I’m in.” The next day he called and mentioned saxophonist Otis Sandsjö, who wrote some solo sax music for a contemporary dance piece. Otis had this whole overtone and circular breathing technique, and Petter thought it would be an amazing sound to add to our duo. At the first rehearsal, it was really magic. One special thing about the band is, we did all of those arrangements working together. It was us coming together, listening to a lot of recordings, taking bits of each recording that we liked and arranging them into a whole new thing.
AJ: Have you added any new tunes to the band’s songlist lately?
LC: Yes, we added “Wild Is The Wind” and “Ballad of the Drowned Girl” by Kurt Weill, and “Lilac Wine” and “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” by Randy Newman. Also, we added “So Long” by Rickie Lee Jones, staying a little bit on the folky side. We’re planning to record at the end of the year.