Sultry, sassy, cheeky – Tamara Kuldin is all that and much more. A jazz seductress with a honey-rich voice that soothes and captivates and gives birth to a whole range of emotions, she’s one of the fixtures of the Melbourne scene. Her playful attitude is not to be taken lightly; it’s part of a well-crafted artistic persona, a singer whose perfect phrasing allows her to deliver lyrics in a way that sees every word reach its target. If her 2015 album, ‘Secret Love‘ was a delightful demonstration of her sexy approach to the jazz canon, her latest venture ‘Love, Longing & Lullabies‘ is testament to a kind of artistic maturity that allows her to dive deeper to the songs she sings, without abandoning her inherent sensuality. The album will be launched with a concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, followed by a gig at Paris Cat, which regularly features Tamara and herprojects, as the aptly named ‘Dirty Martini’.
AustralianJazz.net: How did ‘Love, Longing & Lullabies‘ come to be?
Tamara Kuldin: Pretty much as soon as I launched my album ‘Secret Love’, in 2015, the idea of recording a jazz lullaby album started blossoming. Something kidlings could fall asleep to and parents could enjoy with a glass of vino!
In 2016 I steadily started pursuing the idea. I knew who I wanted to work with- I was pretty determined I would work with Sam Keevers (piano), Julien Wilson (tenor sax), Jonathan Zion (double bass), Craig Fermanis (guitar) and Danny Fischer (drums). Each of them are obviously such fine musicians and there is a particular sensibility and approach I knew would work…and it did! I had a few road blocks on the way, where I had to postpone the recording, but eventually we got there.
I’ll never forget the first time Sam and I sat down to work on my arrangement ideas…I felt like a little kid, I was so excited. And then hearing all the boys seamlessly bringing each song to life…pretty special. As for the choice of songs and approach, the idea evolved from a lullaby album to something quite ‘lulling’ and gentle to listen to. The words ‘warm’, ‘evocative’ and ‘melodic’ were ever present as I finally decided on which tunes to include. There are some songs I have always loved and had specific arrangement ideas…and this was the perfect platform for them.
AJN: What was the first song that you worked on for this album?
TK: Hmmm…I think it was ‘My Favourite Things’. I had a chat to Sam about what I envisaged. The arrangement was loose – it was about the feel and style, not being the perky and sweet original we all know. In truth, this is perhaps my favourite track. The band sound absolutely incredible.
AJN: In what way is ‘Love, Longing & Lullabies’ different to ‘Secret Love‘?
TK: I think it’s quite different. ‘Secret Love’ is what I describe as an ‘uplifting bouquet of song’. Playful melodies, some sweet, some sassy…an eclectic mix of European tunes, standards and latin inspired vintage tunes. ‘Love, Longing & Lullabies’ explores the more sweet and demure side of song for me. There is a sense of intimacy threading through the whole album, that I think I only touched upon in Secret Love. I love singers like Joni Mitchell and Eva Cassidy along with my other loves such as Esther Phillips, Doris Day…too many to mention. ‘Love, Longing & Lullabies’ has a bit more of a contemporary feel.
AJN: If you were to put the words ‘Love’, ‘Longing’, ‘Lullabies’ in an order that narrates your life’s story, what would that order be?
TK: Wow. Good question. Difficult question! Let’s say ‘Love’ first. I am a hopeless romantic… I think that’s why I love the lyrics of so many of the songs I sing. Unpretentious, whimsical and embracing the fun of love.
Perhaps ‘Longing’ should have come first! I just remember singing in my bedroom as a little girl, listening to Doris Day, Nat King Cole, Olivia Newton John (yes..it’s true, don’t hold it against me) and dreaming of the day I’d get to sing in front of an audience. I was always humming a tune.
Finally ‘lullabies’…life is so busy, give me a little whisky, a quiet cosy spot and some time on a warm patch of grass with no distractions…and that’s lullaby enough for me!
AJN: Your ‘stage persona’ is often described as ‘sassy’,’sultry’ and ‘cheeky’; how deliberate is this?
TK: Ha! It’s funny, one muso I was performing with asked if I’d taken something before the gig that let me be so open with the audience! I think my stage persona is just a more magnified version of myself. It’s important for me that the audience feel connected and involved. I don’t just want to sing ‘at’ them. I like having a bit of a chat…and yes, sometimes the chatter does get a little cheeky, but I don’t think the audience mind! If the audience are at ease, relaxed and happy…then so am I! It’s also about the songs. Each song has a story…I love being the storyteller.
AJN: How different will your Melbourne Recital concert be to your other,regular gigs?
TK: It will be different. Not to say I’ll be on my ‘best’ behaviour, but the tone of the songs is different from what I usually play. Not so much of the big sassy tunes I tend to throw in the mix. I think it will be a beautiful and relaxing way to start the weekend and hopefully the audience will get swept away in the music and enjoy! Listening to these musicians play together, is a real treat.
AJN: How did you get into jazz?
TK: I actually started in more of a pop/folk genre. I got into Triple J unearthed, released an album of original tunes and then found myself doing a mixture of soul/funk and jazz gigs, getting hired as a vocalist. But I always loved jazz. It wasn’t until after I had returned from overseas, perhaps 2011 that I gently started pursuing it. I had my little black book of musos I wanted to play with…all ticked! I love it. I do my thing and I feel that as I get older, I discover more and more possibilities and the learning never stops. More goals to kick… I’m excited about this year already. Some nice things shaping up.
AJN: What’s the secret of a good Dirty Martini?
TK: A beautiful Italian bartender making it for me.
AJN: Which song best describes your current state of mind?
TK: A medley of tunes – as always. Perhaps ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ and the third… maybe ‘Claire de Lune’. It’s raining outside…it’s beautiful.