You could try following the thread of Vivian Sessoms‘ career, from her first break, opening for Marvin Gaye at the age of 9 to her transformative collaboration with her mentor, RyuichiSakamoto, to becoming one of the most sought-after session vocalists in the trade, having recorded hundreds of songs, jingles, voice overs and commercials, and sang in hundreds of stages, performing live all over the world.
You could also lose yourself in the list of names she’s worked with, from Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Cher to Towa Tei and Lalah Hathaway, but also Chris Botti, Christina Aguilera, Diddy, P!nk, Chaka Khan, Ke$ha, Rob Thomas, Patti Labelle, Patti Austin, and Sinead OConnor.
You could even trace her musical inclination back to her Harlem upbringing – or her family history: the daughter of a former jingle and session singer and a flautist and percussionist who worked with James Brown, among others, she is also Nancy Wilsons niece, so yes, it’s fair to say that music is in her blood.
“Growing up, there was always music to express the way I was feeling. I was so immersed in it, that I kind of viewed music as a kind of backdrop to my life”, she has said in an interview, describing how she developed her musical identity, in nightclubs, churches and regular jam sessions at home.
Or you could do none of the above and just immerse yourself to her music and surrender to the power of her voice and find yourself dancing to her electrifying jazz-funk renditions, mesmerized by her delivery. A high-energy performer, she never holds back, milking each song down to its last drop. When she’s entering funk territory, she ‘s bound tomake you sweat without even moving (although it is impossible to remain still when she sings) and when she’s mellow, you can feel her every breath wrapping you up and soothing you.
You can thank Ryuichi Sakamoto for (at least some of) that. The brilliant composer gave Vivian her big break when he made her a member of his band, comprised by acclaimed musicians such as drummer Manu Katche (Peter Gabriel, Sting), Victor Bailey (Weather Report, Madonna) and Darryl Jones (Miles Davis, Rolling Stones). Sakamoto himself became her mentor, teaching her about song-craft, performance and musicianship and inspiring her to push herself towards perfection to match his artistry. Growing as a performer, she distilled her experiences into songs, culminating to the release of her album ‘Sunny One Day’, a seamless blend of soul, funk, jazz, r’n’b and rock elementsthat remains her trademark sound to this day.
A thoughtful, insightful and empathetic songwriter, she could not have been unaffected by the current climate in the US, adding her dominant voice to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, with her song ‘I can’t breathe’.
This is not the first time that vivacious, vibrant, vigorous Vivian is coming to Australia; she has made friends and established a concrete fan base, waiting to see her in Perth, Hobart, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. Supported by some of the best musicians in the scene – not least among them pianist Brenton Foster and drummer Daniel Susnjar, she’s touring the countryto present her latest album, LIFE, her ‘jazziest’ yet.
It is an album echoing her approach to jazz, blending it with funk and r’n’b, built around danceable beats and lush orchestrations, effectively crossing the barrier between jazz and soul to the point where you finally get the idea: that for Vivian Sessoms, there is no barrier.
Vivian Sessoms will perform at the Paris Cat Jazz Club in Melbourne on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 June.