Culture: Singers Are Back in Vogue; Peter Bacon Previews Saturday's Concert by Birmingham Jazz Singer Esther Miller, Who Talks to Terry Grimley Right
Byline: Peter Bacon
There's no doubt about it - this is the age of the singer. Go back ten years and although some of the big names of today were starting out - think Diana Krall, Stacey Kent and Claire Martin - no one had heard of Gwyneth Herbert, Clare Teal, Jamie Cullum, Karryn Allison, never mind Norah Jones.
While there are far more singers - or their publicists - claiming to be jazz singers, there are a precious few who are the real deal. Birmingham's prime candidate for jazz singer of the moment, Esther Miller, gets an ideal opportunity to show her quality at the MAC on Saturday.
She's been working hard in clubs and pubs around the land but has rarely had a chance to work a theatre audience and to luxuriate in the warmer acoustics of a venue such as MAC.
She has the most sympathetic frontline partner in trumpeter Bryan Corbett whose lyrical playing and romantic tone sets a singer off a treat.
Completing the band are pianist and musical director Gerry Spencer, bassist Zoltan Dekani and the ubiquitous Neil Bullock on drums.
Esther Miller was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa's east coast motor city, where she sang in church and school choirs and raided the family Nat King Cole albums for early inspiration.
She studied medicine in Cape Town, but gave in to the lure of jazz. In a wonderfully back-handed compliment, her alma mater, the University of Cape Town, reflected: 'Giving up medicine in favour of Jazz was clearly a wise move.'
In South Africa she has worked with some excellent players, including guitarist Johnny Fourie and saxophonist Winston Mankunku.
But now she's settled in Birmingham. The hospital patients and jazz club regulars of Cape Town are most definitely the losers Esther has honed her technique with classical singing lessons and delved into jazz history to take her inspiration from Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Blossom Dearie as well as the jazz/pop of Frank and Nat. …