Everybody loves Kristin Berardi and James Sherlock. As individual artists, they are among the best in the wider jazz community; he is a master guitarist, one always sought after by singers and she is probably the brightest star in the dazzling constellation of Australian vocalists. As a duet, they have established a partnership of rare intimacy and honesty, taking songs and stripping them down to the bare essentials, the core. Now they have a new album out, ‘I’m glad there is you’, comprised of a series of wonderful standards.
How did ‘I’m glad there is you’ come to be?
Kristin Berardi: We like making music together firstly and we wanted to do some more playing this year, and making an album seemed like a good idea.
James Sherlock: We live in different cities and both have other projects, but playing with Kristin is so important to me that I just nag her until we find opportunities to play and/or record. It was recorded half in Melbourne and half in Queensland.
Is the title a comment on your relationship?
JS: Maybe? Could be thinking about that too much… it’s a great song!
KB: No. Just the name of one of the songs on the album.
What is it that you most admire about each other?
JS: Kristin’s ability to inhabit songs and really communicate not only with listeners but also with the musicians she plays with; everyone loves playing with her!
KB: I love that James loves this music so much, and he listens so much. Sometimes it really freaks me out, but it’s like he knows what I’m going to do before I do! It’s easy to make music with someone who’s a good friend. There’s a trust there but also we have fun. That’s important.
What annoys you the most?
KB: He knows more German words than me.
JS: She’s annoyingly polite?!
What is it about the duet setting that you find most interesting?
KB: Duo is wonderful, as it’s very freeing… there is a lot of space. You can easily take things in different directions, and there’s only one other person to communicate that to in the moment. It also makes you really have to be on top of your game, as there is literally nowhere to hide. It takes a lot of trust, and acceptance of silence too. I really love playing in the duo format.
JS: The spaciousness of the duo is so great; it can also be really uncomfortable and risky. Good duos require a high level of trust. I also like the flexibility, we can change direction and follow each other around without having to worry about other musicians.
Which is your favourite duet album?
JS: Lots… Favourite duo recording with voice at the moment… Tony Bennett and Bill Evans.
KB: Hmmmm… not sure I have one, to be honest. I mainly listen to band albums, but when I was starting out, I listened a lot to Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass.
What is the appeal of standards?
KB: They are just SO darn good! They are such well-constructed songs, and I just really enjoy singing them, and doing my own thing with them… well, that’s the aim. Doing standards, respecting what the composer wrote and then making it your own, or expressing it the way youd like to.
JS: Songwriting is such a unique specialist skill; great writers, like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin were geniuses who just concentrated on writing songs. I write a bit, but it’s such a different skill that I find it hard to get excited about my own writing when there are such great songs to play. Things change, though; personally I’m just not interested in writing at the moment, I’m really concentrating on playing my instrument and learning more about the music I love.
What would you tell to people to get them to come to your gigs?
JS: Amazing singing for a start! Each performance is unique and we always have lots of fun when we play!