Getting all jazzed up with Jen De Ness
Meet the local jazz sensation promising to deliver a show with an attitude at this year’s fringe festival!
We’ve got high hopes of this year’s fringe festival - with an array of local artists and musicians set to perform, the festival promises to showcase some of Perth’s best talent. In light of this year’s performances, we’ve been speaking to local jazz sensation, Jen De Ness, to get the inside scoop on her upcoming jazz cabaret show for Perth's Fringe Festival, her favourite collaborations to date, and her hometown comforts.
What first drew you to the jazz/blues genre? Do you take inspiration from any particular artists?
I grew up around musicals, blues and folk/pop music, and was very influenced by the likes of Burt Bacharach and singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Bowie and Carol King. I studied classical singing as an adult, but as soon as I heard Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, I got a passion for the blues and jazz. When I heard Peggy Lee, she introduced me to the idea of blending Jazz/blues with cabaret storytelling. Coupled with my University studies, this inspired me to start putting on original Jazz Cabaret shows with a difference.
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs you write?
Big question. It’s so varied and constantly changes. Relationships, the world around me, and nature are always a constant source. I’ll often get inspiration around water—in the shower, washing the dishes and swimming! I don’t write songs in just one particular genre and each song has its own soul in a way, so I just let it be what it is. I’ve been playing the piano a lot recently, and I’ll often be inspired by certain melodies, or by other musicians. My songwriting partner, Bill, will often come up with a riff, and the next know I’m writing melodies and lyrics and adding in bridges.
You’ve worked alongside various different musicians (Jazz, Blues, Classical) —what are your most memorable collaborations to date?
My quintet for the Fringe show is currently my favourite. In London and New York, I loved arriving solo with my charts in hand and collaborating with various local jazz musicians. Bill and I also enjoyed playing in London and at Nottingham Jazz club to celebrate our original “See things like you” Album last year. The completely original de Ness Sextet was also fabulous— Ashley Arbuckle , (Principal violinist for WASO, London Symphony Orchestra) wrote original Cello and Violin lines for each of our original tunes!
Where are some of your favourite venues to play at in Perth?
What performances do you have coming up?
We’re doing two performances of our original Jazz Cabaret floorshow called “See things like you”. This is our first year at Perth Fringe and we’re performing at our favourite Jazz Club in town, the Ellington. I’m joined by a group of four of my favourite musicians—fellow composer Bill Atkinson on guitar, Peter Grayling on cello, Satish Krishan on percussion and Mark Cunniffe on piano. I’m also looking forward to our ongoing Ocean Studios live concert Recordings—we have different guests each week with myself as the MC and our house band accompanying.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’ve just arrived home from touring our “See things like you” Album, and we’re really excited to start work again on a new album—a Jazz Chillout lounge Album very close to my heart. The songs are the sort of music you can put on to chillout to with their smooth tunes and cool grooves. Versions of favourites like “Summertime” and “Autumn Leaves” are featured in new ways alongside soul, jazz, pop and blues original songs.
What do you miss most about Perth when touring?
I miss Perth’s beautiful beaches, strolling along the river, my family, friends, fans and putting on shows with my wonderful Perth musos (some of whom are like family!) I also miss playing my grand piano in our recording studio and meditating in my back sunroom in Fremantle!
Where are your favourite Perth hangouts?
Our Ocean Studios just South of Freo is one of our favourite hangouts. We’re also walking distance to East Fremantle café strips and Freo centre, so these are all local hangouts for us.
You can catch Jen De Ness performing with her quintet at the Ellington Jazz Club on January 29th and February 5th at 7pm.