Q&A with Alison Wedding – 2005 NJA Finalist

When did you start singing and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when singing came to you as a calling or vocation?

Well, according to my mother, I was singing before I could talk. I began singing lessons when I was 7. I got into jazz when I was about 15 (my highschool had an amazing jazz department) and attended some of those Jamey Aebersold workshops, which had a huge impact on me, and my desire to be an accomplished improviser. I continued my jazz studies at Western Michigan University (1 year) and the University of North Texas (4 years). Been singing, composing, and teaching ever since!

Which musicians (singers or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?

This is a difficult question, because there are so many… here are just a few, in no particular order…
Bjork- she is one of the most unique musicians I have ever heard. She is mysterious, courageous, pushes the boundaries, and isn’t afraid to do whatever she wants. I am drawn in completely by every note she sings…
Michael Brecker- I love his compositions (especially off the album “Now You See It, Now you Don’t”) and his use of motivic development in his improv.
Chris Potter- much of the same reasons I like Brecker. His ideas are really singable and he is a true master of his instrument!!
Shawn Colvin- she is such great song writer, and has such a unique voice. I know her voice immediately right away when i hear it. She is an amazing live performer.
Chet Baker- he had such a profound impact on my improvisational style, especially in the beginning of my studies. I love both his trumpet playing and his singing- so melodic.
Of course, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McCrae, Betty Carter, Billie Holiday… I’m pretty sure you all know why…

What do you look for in a rhythm section?

I look for players who first of all enjoy playing with a vocalist and aren’t afraid to be themselves whilst accompanying a singer. They need to be able to play all sorts of styles well (not just straight-ahead jazz- my originals encompass many different styles). I love a rhythm section who is sensitive to what is needed of them- they can play extremely quietly with the fiercest intensity, and then crank it up when required. And of course, a rhythm section who isn’t afraid to be spontaneous. and have fun!!!!

What are your favourite lyrics, and why?

Again, a tough one to answer…
– probably anything by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Shawn Colvin, Jonatha Brooke – they are great story tellers.
– Bjork’s and Tori Amos’ lyrics as well- they have a twist on them that make them stand out. All of these artists I’ve mentioned hit on things in their lyrics that I have experienced or felt, but they put it in such a different way than I would that I’m pulled in.
– Gian Slater, another vocalist in the Wang Comp, is a beautiful composer of music and lyrics as well… I LOVE her writing. Two tunes that stand out to me are ‘Landscape’ and ‘Everybody’.

What are you listening to now?

I have been listening to so many different things- so many different styles
Chris Potter, Wayne Shorter, Carmen McCrae, Nat King Cole, Thirsty Merc, Coldplay, Bjork, Shawn Colvin, Keith Jarrett, Peter Gabriel, D’angelo…

What do you hope to get out of the Wang competition?

I am looking forward to hearing the other vocalists and hearing what they have to say through their music, whether it be through original material or interpretations of standards. It will be quite inspiring, I’m sure! There are quite a few vocalists in the comp I have never heard sing, so I’m excited about hearing them for the first time!!
I also hope to perhaps gain a wider audience through the comp. I have a new album that will be out just in time for Wang (Sometimes I Feel Jazzhead Records)- hopefully people will want to check it out!