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by Catherine Blanch.
Perth singer, songwriter and recording artist Jen de Ness has been performing across the country and around the globe for more than 20 years. She has performed with some of the world’s finest musicians singing Jazz originals and classics, cabaret, blues and night club dance tunes.
For her Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival debut, Jen de Ness is presenting See Things Like You at La Bohème. We speak with her via email.
“In 1999, I performed at Victor Harbour Music Festival with Bill Atkinson (my partner) in ‘de Ness’, playing original songs; acoustic groove, blues and contemporary. It is great to be performing in Adelaide again and catching up with old friends.”
Tell us about your show at La Bohème.
“I wanted to create a very intimate, stripped back performance in duo with my fellow composer and guitarist, Bill Atkinson. The show involves funny and heart-warming stories and songs about characters that visit the Green Tile Tango Club after being dumped. We journey through ballads and swing tunes to bossas and blues to share a song, a drink or just a great night out to help them celebrate life and love again.
“Everyone gets what they need from the club. Sam gets his story, Esta finds love, Jack gets his lesson and we all belt out, ‘Forget About Pierre!’ The setting for the show comes from a song Bill and I penned called Green Tile Tango – and to get the full story on that you’ll have to come to the show!”
Where did the show title come from?
“See Things Like You is one of the first songs I wrote at the end of love affair and it has become a popular tune in my septet. It has now evolved into a slick and funny swing tune, sung by a burnt out writer!”
Your show has been described as a delicious cocktail of tongue-in-cheek cabaret, smoky bluesy numbers, and Kerouac-meets-Piaf. Tell us about that.
“We will be ‘gently poking fun’ with a lot of love. Kerouac meets Piaf was phrased by one of our Ellington Jazz Club fans years ago, and describes some of the songs well. Quoted from a review of one of my London shows – there certainly will be some smoky bluesy numbers, as I love to sing those.”
You tour in many formats, from a duet to septet. Tell us about your band members. How many will you be performing with here in Adelaide?
“When I travelled solo to London last year, I sourced musicians locally who I am delighted to play with again when I return.”
Being a songwriter for more than 20 years, what drew you to performing Jazz, blues and cabaret?
“I love singing Jazz, Blues and Latin and beautiful ballads and have been influenced by so many wonderful singers and songwriters including Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Piaf, Julie London, Billie Holiday, Jobim, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell. Peggy really introduced me to the idea of blending Jazz/blues and cabaret storytelling with attitude that just makes you feel good. I loved this.
“The first funny cabaret tune I penned was with my mother, writer Joan Eveline, and was called Don’t Fit In. In 2000, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek cabaret tune for a women’s choir I directed called Feminist Brigade. More recently, I wrote Forget About Pierre - a good time can-can tune which I wrote specifically for the character Jauqi, as her solution to being dumped!
“Bill and I tried out some of the Green Tile Tango cabaret on London audiences in 2010 and they loved it which spurred us on to come back and put on a full show at Subiaco Theatre with the Violin/Cello sextet.”
Will you be performing originals only at your show? If not, share with us some of the covers you will be doing?
“The show is mostly original songs, but we will be playing a changing medley of well-known jazz/blues ballads such as Les Feuilles Mortes – Autumn Leaves, The Man I Love, Whatever Lola Wants, Stormy Weather and Cry Me A River. If I can talk my man into doing Fever without a bass player – we may even drag that out as a tribute to Peggy!”
Performing covers, do you stick to the original sound or do you make them your own?
“Whether I am singing my own songs or other composers’, singing is all about sharing the deep joy and universal connection of music and storytelling. When I choose a song written by another composer, I somehow become part of that song, so in a sense I suppose you could say I make it my own each time I sing it, by making it new and alive.
“My own originals can be played in various ways too, depending on the show. Sometimes we will do a ballad as a bossa-nova and vice-versa. Then for some songs, I feel the need to keep the song very true to its original sound because I want to bask in the beauty of the chords, harmony, lyrics and melody.”
You tour the world as a performer. What has been your favourite country so far? Where would you like to perform that you haven’t so far?
“I really love the London audiences. They want to become a part of your show and seem very willing to leave behind the workday and be transformed by the magic of music, a good story and a few laughs and sing-a-longs. It made me realise how much I love the connection of entertaining and so-called ‘cabaret’. I can’t wait to return to do some more shows there. I am open to travel all parts of the world for music.”
What do you have planned in the way of touring after the Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival?
“We have some more performances in Perth and Melbourne and are currently working on recording our next CD after we return to Perth in our newly opened Ocean Studios. We are planning a tour to London, Spain, France, NY, and Canada hopefully next year, which I’m really looking forward to.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“I’m really looking forward to sharing some great nights of fun, laughter, beautiful music and a story or two with Adelaide audiences.”
Jen de Ness performs See Things Like You at La Bohème from 7pm on Fri 26 Jun until Sun 28 Jun.
Book at TryBooking.com. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.