Parlophone Music /Warner presents biography of Stacey Kent's album, The Changing Lights
Biog of THE CHANGING LIGHTS by Richard Robert. Album release date: Sept 16, 2013.
The critic Gilles Tordjman once wrote that Brazil was not a nation, but "a region of the heart, where everything seems to ring to the tune of a stronger and more accurate vibration". This is a sentence that Stacey Kent could no doubt make her own.
At the age of 14, the American singer discovered the endless charms of the album, Getz / Gilberto, an historic encounter of jazz and bossa nova, after which nothing would ever be the same. Over the course of a musical journey that has wandered freely in the open spaces of jazz and song, Brazil became, in her eyes, more than a country: a kind of internalized poetic horizon, a chosen land on an intimate scale, adjusted to the proportions of her soul, her singing and her inspiration. Whether she literally celebrates them through covers of Tom Jobim, Sergio Mendes or Luiz Bonfá, or whether she summons the spirit through the finesse of her performances, Stacey Kent has never loosened the emotional ties that bind her to Brazilian music. An eternal student, this well-informed polyglot, with a degree in comparative literature, has followed her passion to the point of learning the Portuguese language and taking an interest in the cultural and political history of the giant auriverde.
It is this passion, made both of depth and lightness, that pervades her tenth album. The Changing Lights is not "Stacey Kent's Brazilian record". It is more a recreational break or a sound postcard than a stuffy exercise of style. In collaboration with her partner and husband, the English saxophonist, composer and arranger, Jim Tomlinson, Stacey Kent simply displays all the sensitive qualities of a musician for whom Brazil represents, precisely and foremost, "a region of the heart".
To do this, the singer, who has lived between England and Colorado for the past two decades, felt no need to go to a studio in Rio de Janeiro. In Sussex, where the recording sessions for The Changing Lights were held, she surrounded herself with her close musical guard - Jim Tomlinson on tenor and soprano saxophones and flute, Graham Harvey on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass, John Parricelli on guitar, Matt Home and Josh Morrison on drums. Roberto Menescal, the legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer, also lent his talent to two tracks on the album. In this good company, she was immersed in the turbulent and welcoming water of a feeling that is very familiar to her: the sumptuously volatile mixture of happiness and sadness that answers to the bittersweet name, saudade. "Especially on this record, and in my musical world in general, this word is my cornerstone", says the singer. "It has no equivalent in other languages, and Brazilian music has given it a unique flavour. But what it refers to is a universal feeling, which belongs to the human condition: a vague nostalgia directed towards what one has lost as well as towards what one has never had nor experienced. Here, I am thinking about the lyrics of the song, Samba Saravah (Samba de Benção): - Mas pra fazer um samba com beleza, é preciso um bocado de tristeza. But to make a beautiful samba, a little sadness is needed. -That is the atmosphere that we wanted to create on The Changing Lights; on that spiritual and emotional level, this is a profoundly Brazilian record."
In fact, the album, from start to finish, is infused with a melancholy wavering between light and dark: freed of the burden of pathos and pomposity, this chiaroscuro marries, with a rare accuracy, all the sparkle and heartbreak of real life. Opening with a light reinterpretation of This Happy Madness, an adaptation of Estrada Branca, by Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes, the album continues with The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain: an original song that evokes a nomadic and romantic existence in light touches, and whose harmonic, melodic and poetic texture, draws a musical fabric tailored to the voice of Stacey Kent. By themselves, these first two tracks, which seem to answer and embrace each other like lifelong lovers, announce the wonder that is at work in the album. The Changing Lights is indeed the meeting place where standards from the Brazilian repertoire and compositions by Jim Tomlinson dissolve any spatial and temporal gaps: in the miraculous moment of playing and singing, we hear them link intense relationships of complicity. "Searching for songs that work together and that, once united, roll out all their magic: that is one of my greatest pleasures, confides Stacey Kent. The joy that The Changing Lights gives me, owes much to the balance that we found between compositions and covers: there is a sort of winding movement between them, as if they belonged to each other."
This beautiful alchemy occurs throughout the record. The palpitations of the evergreen One Note Samba (Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça) resonate in the lively and mischievous virtuosic passages of Waiter, oh Waiter. The notes showering down in Mais Uma Vez, a chronicle of a love lost and then re-found, resonate, like a troubling extension of harmonies descending from another famous standard by the Jobim/de Moraes duo, How Insensitive - a moving song about break-up and regret that Stacey Kent has adorned with a new quivering exquisiteness. The ethereal melodies of Like a Lover (Dori Caymmi) and The Face I Love (Marcos Valle) appear to grant the wishes made a little further along by Chanson Légère, in which Stacey Kent, in the French lyrics, dreams of a refrain that floats "like a soap bubble, a cloud of cotton, a butterfly wing". At the heart of the album is an instrumental version of O Bêbado e a Equilibrista by João Bosco that, like the waters of a miraculous spring, empties into the crystalline wave of Smile by Charlie Chaplin.
These interactions and connections could not have happened without the high artistic standards that presided over the conceptualisation of The Changing Lights. On the musical side, the writing and arrangements by Jim Tomlinson, weave a web of infinite delicacy, teeming with details that never alter its fluidity or consistency. "I wrote for the group as if it were a guitar", he said, to explain the typical Brazilian rhythmic and harmonic richness that emerges when listening to the album, as well as the sense of unity and harmony that emanates here from the ensemble. Roberto Menescal also contributes to the guitaristic sound of the album with his special arrangement of his own 1960 classic, O Barquinho, as well as adding his own telling touches to Tomlinson's A Tarde.
On the poetic side, Stacey Kent was able to count on quills that know all about the subtleties of her sensitivity. A long-time accomplice and admirer, the writer, Kazuo Ishiguro, author of The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain and Waiter, oh Waiter, also provides a sublime impressionistic internal monologue, a dive into slowness, haunting and sensual swirls of memory, with the title song, The Changing Lights. As well as Mais Uma Vez, the poet, Antonio Ladeira, who Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson met at Middlebury College, where they were introduced to the delights of the Portuguese language, penned A Tarde: a variation on the themes of separation, absence, memory and ultramodern loneliness, seen through the eyes of a woman contemplating the city where her childhood sweetheart also lives. Bernie Beaupère, who has already written for Stacey's album, Raconte-moi, completes this circle of inspired poets with the lyrics for Chanson Légère. Of these writers, Stacey Kent says: "They are much more than songwriters offering lyrics: when they write, it is my voice and sensibility they have in mind. Thanks to them, I can truly express myself in the performance, and feel fully inside the songs."
With The Changing Lights, Stacey Kent attains an even higher level of accuracy of tone and delicacy of expression. In tune with the group that accompanies her, and never succumbing to the temptation of grandstanding or superfluousness, she reaches new heights of calm, intensity and clarity in this vocal art that distinguishes her from many of her contemporaries. "I'm still working on my voice, she confides with disarming humility. I try to sing the best that I can, simply because it's my profession and my reason for being. It so happens that I am a very intense person, and I cannot help but approach music that way. But I do not do so in an outrageous or extroverted manner: waves of emotions, whether joy or sadness, I express them calmly because I want to tell the stories that communicate them in the best way possible. Yet there are many kinds of stories in The Changing Lights: therefore, it was important to deliver the songs as well as I can."
That is why the voice of Stacey Kent, at the height of her abilities of suggestion, reveals itself here more than ever in the magnificent and complex nakedness of her expression. Under the quivering surface of her singing, there are a multitude of currents and forces, a permanent ebb and flow of feelings, murmurs that are in turn anxious and serene, mixed up and calm, which she is able to harmonize like no one else.
Jim Tomlinson says, in paraphrasing Kazuo Ishiguro’s comments, "Stacey's style reminds me of the best film actors who, on camera, develop a very different style to stage actors, who are still required to project their voices and gestures in order to be express themselves across the space of the theatre. In film, an actor can do a lot with very little, whether in terms of expression, gesture, inflection or tone of voice. With Stacey, I believe that we create a style of music in the same way, where even the smallest gestures have great significance."
It is there, in the richness of these nuances, that open onto the vast dizziness of our deepest feelings, that The Changing Lights reveals itself as much more than an album. For those who have the good fortune to discover it, it very quickly becomes "a region of the heart" for them too recognizable and inhabitable by all human beings endowed with emotions.
APRIL 2013: STACEY RETURNS TO THE STUDIO. HER FOURTH ALBUM ON EMI, 'THE CHANGING LIGHTS', IS DUE FOR RELEASE IN SEPT 2013!
In April, 2013, Platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated, Blue Note artist, Stacey Kent, returns to the studio to begin work on her new album, THE CHANGING LIGHTS.
Stacey is one of EMI's best-selling artists worldwide and her new album is due for release in Autumn, 2013.
Stacey's move to the legendary Blue Note label in 2007, with the launch of Breakfast On The Morning Tram, marked a more confidently individual style. Giving free reign to all of the influences that inform Stacey's musical personality, Stacey recorded an album of Bossa Nova, French chansons, American standards and originals that became a worldwide hit that was released in 40 countries, with Stacey's extensive touring taking her to over 30 of them.
Since the release of her first album, Close Your Eyes (Candid 1997), Stacey has defined herself as one of the finest interpreters of the Great American Songbook of her generation. Her subtly persuasive style has become increasingly honed, even as she has expanded her musical horizons.
Since signing to EMI, all three of Stacey's recordings have been worldwide, best-selling albums, with over a half a million sales to date: Breakfast on the Morning Tram reached Platinum status in France, and Double Gold in Germany, as did Raconte-moi, and her current album, Dreamer in Concert, her first ever live album, released in 2011, continues to reach an ever-growing audience.
It is hard to categorise Stacey. An American who speaks fluent French as well as Italian, Portuguese and German, she is able to transcend genre and national boundaries with an ease and in a way that few other artists can. The most recent country to embrace Stacey and her music is Brazil. Having first toured there in 2008, she is now a regular visitor to the country where most recently, she toured with Marcos Valle, whose song So Nice (Summer Samba) she recorded as far back as 2002. Her recording of Les Eaux De Mars (the Waters Of March) was featured in the recent film documentary, A Música Segundo Tôm Jobim, and when President Dilma Rouseff went to New York in 2011, it was Stacey's album, Raconte-moi, that she bought on a shopping trip. As a measure of how much Stacey has been taken to heart by Brazil, she was also invited to perform alongside Marcos at the 80th Anniversary of the iconic statue of Cristo Redentor in Rio De Janeiro, last year with Stacey and her husband, the saxophonist and composer, Jim Tomlinson, being the only non-Brazilians to perform.
Brazil's love for Stacey is more than reciprocated and in her next album, she will put that love center stage. However, not content simply to record an album of "sure fire" Bossa Nova hits, the programme will include a mixture of Brazilian classics, alongside newly composed songs in English, French and Portuguese.
The songwriting team of Jim Tomlinson and Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded 'Best Jazz Song' at the 2007 International Songwriting Competition for The Ice Hotel and they have just completed a new song for Stacey, entitled The Changing Lights, which will make its debut on the new album alongside the compositions of Marcos Valle, Tom Jobim, Roberto Menescal and Dori Cayymi
Ishiguro speaks about Stacey'a confessional style:
"Stacey's singing never lets us forget these songs are about people. Her protagonists come to life so fully in her voice, you sometimes have to remind yourself the CD has no visuals. She has, in fact, much in common with today's finest screen actors who, assured of the camera's ability to pick out detail, portray complex shades of personality, motive and feeling through subtle adjustments of face and posture....here's a great jazz diva of our age."
STACEY KENT TO RELEASE 'DREAMER IN CONCERT' ON JUNE 5, 2012
FIRST-EVER LIVE ALBUM RECORDED AT LA CIGALE IN PARIS
Stacey Kent sings from the soul. She tells us her stories with faultless phrasing and a lucid, enchanting voice. On the stage of La Cigale last year in Paris, Stacey shared intimate and intensely emotional moments with a knowing and captivated audience, who had flown in from all around the world to take part in the recording of her first-ever live album, Dreamer In Concert. Stacey will perform at Birdland in New York City June 12-16. Click here for a full tour schedule.
After 8 studio albums, Dreamer In Concert is the first album that captures Stacey's magical onstage persona. She delivers fresh interpretations of some of the most emblematic songs in her repertoire, including the standards of the Great American Songbook, “The Best Is Yet To Come,” “They Can't Take That Away From Me,” “It Might As Well Be Spring” and others. She also revisits the classic French songs “Ces Petits Riens,” “Samba Saravah” and “Jardin d’Hiver.”
The repertoire also includes 4 previously unrecorded selections; 2 from Antônio Carlos Jobim, “Waters of March” and “Dreamer,” and 2 new compositions by her husband, saxophonist and the album's producer, Jim Tomlinson; “Postcard Lovers,” with lyrics by the novelist, Kazuo Ishiguro (author of Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go) and “O Comboio,” penned by the Portuguese poet, Antonio Ladeira, which Stacey sings, beautifully, in Portuguese.
Dreamer In Concert is Kent’s third album for the Blue Note label. Breakfast on the Morning Tram, was released in September 2007 and became certified Platinum in France, certified Double Gold in Jazz in Germany and was nominated at the Grammy Awards for Best Vocal Jazz Album in the U.S. Her follow up album, Raconte-moi, released in Spring 2010, is certified Gold in France and Germany received critical acclaim worldwide, becoming one of the biggest selling French-language album outside of France that year.
The track listing for Dreamer In Concert is as follows:
1. It Might As Well Be Spring 7:29 (Oscar II Hammerstein / Richard Rodgers)
2. Ces Petits Riens 4:01 (Serge Gainsbourg)
3. Postcard Lovers 6:20 (Kazuo Ishiguro / Jim Tomlinson)
4. If I Were a Bell 4:07 (Frank Loesser)
5. Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars 5:31 (Gene Lees / Antonio Carlos Jobim)
6. Waters of March 3:57 (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
7. The Best Is Yet To Come 3:36 (Carolyn Leigh / Cy Coleman)
8. O Comboio 4:29 (Antonio Ladeira / Jim Tomlinson)
9. Dreamer 5:16 (Gene Lees / Antonio Carlos Jobim)
10. Breakfast on the Morning Tram 5:29 (Kazuo Ishiguro / Jim Tomlinson)
11. They Can’t Take That Away From Me 5:17 (Ira Gershwin / George Gershwin)
12. Samba Saravah 5 :07 (Pierre Barouh / Vinicius de Moraes – Baden Powell)
13. Jardin d’Hiver 4:32 (B. Biolay – Keren Ann Zeidel)
14. They Say It’s Wonderful 5:48 (Irving Berlin) **U.S. VERSION BONUS TRACK**
Recorded by João Paulo Nogueiro at La Cigale, Paris, France on May 30 & 31, 2011
Mixed & mastered by Curtis Schwartz at Curtis Schwartz Studio, England June-August 2011
Arranged & produced by Jim Tomlinson for Token Productions
Stacey Kent, vocals, guitar
Jim Tomlinson, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone & percussion
Graham Harvey, piano & Fender Rhodes
Jeremy Brown, double bass
Matt Skelton, drums & percussion
ENGLISH VERSION OF THE LINER NOTES ON STACEY KENT'S RACONTE-MOI
LINER NOTES ON STACEY KENT'S RACONTE-MOI
by Jake Lamar* (from the 'Raconte-moi' CD booklet)
"Making this record reminded me all over again why I became a musician," Stacey Kent tells me.
I have just fallen in love with the record, Raconte-moi, Stacey's eighth album in a luminous career. This time Stacey, an American, has produced a collection of twelve songs sung entirely in French. Ten of the songs are by French composers. As an American who has lived in France for 17 years and who knows the reverence for la chanson française, my first reaction to Raconte-moi was: Quelle audace!
For Stacey, who grew up in New Jersey and Colorado, the dominant feeling while making this record was not boldness but an "automatic innocence," a cultural naiveté that came from singing in her second language. Not that she was a complete stranger to la chanson française. Her previous record, the superb Breakfast on the Morning Tram, featured two works by one of the masters of the tradition: Serge Gainsbourg.
But a key inspiration for Raconte-moi came from the inimitable Henri Salvador. After meeting on the set of a French television show, the two exchanged albums. Stacey, enchanted by "Jardin d'hiver," Salvador's latter-day signature song, began including it in her concert répertoire. In her interpretation, "Jardin d'hiver" (composed by Benjamin Biolay and Keren Ann) is a song of seduction, an invitation to eternal pleasures. Stacey started searching for more French songs to sing.
The selection on Raconte-moi mixes beloved standards with songs composed especially for Stacey by younger talents. A dreamy sensuality flows through many of the songs, particularly "Au coin du monde" (another Biolay-Keren Ann work), "Mi Amor" by Claire Denamur and "Sait-on jamais?" composed by Camille d'Avril and Stacey's saxophonist, producer and husband, Jim Tomlinson. Stacey's sublime band and Tomlinson's arrangements create a soundscape that is luscious and haunting.
Two songs by the team of Emilie Satt, Jean-Karl Lucas and Bernie Beaupere, the album's title track and its first single "La Vénus du Mélo," highlight one of Stacey's most striking vocal qualities: a playful intimacy, a wit that is both mischievous and endearing.
There is something subtly different about Stacey Kent in French. Her insouciance is spicier. Along the whole range of emotions that Stacey's crystalline voice expresses, there seems to be a certain intensity that the French language brings out. The tender vulnerability of her voice in English (listen to her cover of Stevie Nicks's "Landslide" on Breakfast on the Morning Tram) becomes a transcendent cri de coeur in Stacey's rendering of Barbara's "Mal de Vivre" on Raconte-moi.
Yet Stacey never sounds overwrought. She manages the feat of being both understated and emotionally direct. Listen to her version of Michel Jonasz's (written with Pierre Grosz) "Les vacances au bord de la mer" and try not to get misty-eyed at her evocation of melancholy family life.
Stacey was introduced to the French language by her Russian-born paternal grandfather. As a young man, fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution, he spent several years in Paris, before joining the rest of his exiled family in the U.S.A. Nostalgic for his Parisian youth, Stacey's grandfather taught her French. He had her reciting poems by Baudelaire before she even understood all that she was saying. As Stacey grew older, she and her grandfather spoke entirely in French together. It was a linguistic bond that he shared exclusively with her, a tender complicity. It was her grandfather who first played Serge Gainsbourg for her.
Stacey went on to become a student of languages (Italian, German and Portuguese, in addition to French) and comparative literature before the passion for making music became a way of life. Academia's loss has become music's magnificent gain. Among Stacey's many honors is a décoration des Arts et Lettres, awarded in 2009. So one could say that Raconte-moi represents a new stage in the mutual affection between Stacey Kent and France.
Stacey’s love for both Brazilian music and the classics of the American songbook is present on Raconte-moi. But the album's effervescent opening track is the French version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova gem, "Les eaux de mars," with lyrics by Georges Moustaki. And the French adaptation of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's "C'est le printemps" features lyrics (by Jean Sablon and Jean Geiringer) that are even more bittersweet than the American original's.
Rounding out the selection on Raconte-moi are two songs that seem to speak to each other across generations. Paul Misraki's "L'Étang," famously sung by Danielle Darrieux in the 1950s, is so unabashed in its celebration of nature and romance it can seem a bit, well, old-fashioned. But anyone tempted to find fault with that must give a good listening to the album's exquisite final track, "Désuets," by Pierre-Dominique Burgaud and André Manoukian. The song reminds us that beauty, especially in a voice like Stacey's, never goes out of style.
I've listened to Raconte-moi countless times now and each time I have the same sensation Stacey Kent tells me she had while making the record. The whole experience is "fresher than fresh."
*Jake Lamar, author of Rendezvous Eighteenth, is a novelist and journalist. Born in the Bronx, New York, he has lived in Paris since 1993.
EMI MUSIC/BLUE NOTE ARTIST STACEY KENT RECEIVES NATIONAL ORDER OF ARTS AND LETTERS FROM FRENCH GOVERNEMENT
PARIS- MARCH 31 2009.
EMI Music France/Blue Note artist and Grammy® nominee Stacey Kent received the prestigious National Order of Arts and Letters, a government decoration, in recognition of her contribution to the arts, today from French Culture Minister Christine Albanel. Culture Minister Albanel cited Kent “ as a painter of sentiment, spellbinding, mixing sophistication and sentiment, a luminous and unique talent ”. Previous recipients include Rudolf Nureyev, Philip Glass, and Yohji Yamamoto.
Stacey Kent will be performing this evening to a sold-out house at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris as part of the Blue Note Record Festival marking the legendary jazz labels 70th anniversary.
Stacey Kent, a recent addition to the Blue Note roster of recording artists, now boasts seven best-selling albums including her platinum-selling “Breakfast on the Morning Tram” (2007) and “The Boy Next Door” (2003) both of which achieved Gold status.
Her most recent album, the Grammy-nominated Blue Note release, 'Breakfast on the Morning Tram' (Blue Note/EMI Music) was released in 2007, and has remained at the top of the French jazz chart as well as holding its own in the top 20 of the general album charts. Its release around the world is sure to mirror this success.
Nicolas Pflug, head of the Blue Note label in France said: "Stacey is in love with France- its language and its culture. She has sung some of the most beautiful songs in our national repertoire and her next album will be entirely in French. Receiving this National Order of Merit is a true honour for her and a great source of pride for Blue Note”.
PHOTOS:Stacey Kent, Roy Haynes, Christine Albanel (Ministre de la Culture), Médéric Collignon.
December 1, 2008
STACEY KENT NOMINATED FOR THE 51st U.S. GRAMMY AWARDS
(February 8th 2009 in Los Angeles)
Stacey Kent earns her first-ever Grammy nomination in the "Best Jazz Vocal" category for her critically acclaimed album, "Breakfast On The Morning Tram".
"Breakfast On The Morning Tram" marked Stacey Kent's return to the studio after a four-year recording hiatus, with a new album on a new label, Blue Note in Paris.
The album was produced and written by Stacey's husband, tenor saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson, whose latest album, "The Lyric", featuring Stacey, won "Best Album" at the '2006 BBC Jazz Awards'.
Booker and Whitbread Prize-winning author, Kazuo Ishiguro, has written the lyrics to four original songs on the album, including the title track.
As well as being her most critically acclaimed album to date, "Breakfast On The Morning Tram" is also her most commercially successful. Certified Gold in France and Germany, Kent's debut album for Blue Note was released in 36 countries and has sold over 250,000 copies to date. It is supported by a 2-year international tour on 5 continents.
Kent was understandably delighted by the nomination. "I feel hugely honored to have been recognized in this way. The music on this album is the most personal that I have ever recorded and so I am particularly proud to have received a nomination for "Breakfast On The Morning Tram" Many people have contributed to this project and this nomination is as much theirs as mine."
SPEECH MADE BY THE MINISTER OF CULTURE, CHRISTINE ALABANEL on MARCH 31, 2009 TO STACEY KENT IN HER PRESENTATION OF THE "CHEVALIER DANS L'ORDRE DES ARTS ET DES LETTRES", PARIS
Discours de Christine Albanel, ministre de la Culture et de la
Communication, prononcé à l’occasion de la cérémonie de remise
des insignes de Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres à
Paris, mardi 31 mars 2009
Chère Stacey Kent
Votre route a déjà croisé celle de Médéric Collignon, dans les studios
d’Arte notamment, en 2006, lorsque vous avez revisité ensemble la célèbre
chanson de Ben E. King, Stand by me. Une rencontre au sommet entre
son énergie bouillonnante et votre timbre clair et délicat, votre douceur
évanescente, tendrement mélancolique, dont vous avez fait votre
Vous êtes, chère Stacey Kent, une chanteuse de l’âme, un peintre des
sentiments. Raconter une histoire, saisir une émotion, une humeur,
l’exprimer au plus juste et la partager avec votre public, comme une
confidence, voilà ce qui vous fait vibrer. Vous explorez tous les genres
avec le même bonheur, en vous nourrissant d’inspirations multiples.
Des inspirations qui remontent à votre enfance, dans le Colorado, où vous
étiez déjà fascinée aussi bien par les comédies musicales que par les
grands maîtres du jazz. Sans oublier l’American folk – dont c’était la grande
époque –, avec Neil Young ou Cat Stevens. Vous avez d’ailleurs fait un clin
d’œil à ces racines dans votre dernier album avec la très jolie reprise de la
chanson Landslide, du groupe Fleetwood Mac.
En voyant la carrière extraordinaire que vous avez accomplie depuis, dans
la droite lignée de vos premières amours, il est difficile de croire qu’elle ait
démarrée par hasard. Heureux hasard, donc, que cette rencontre, à
Londres – alors que vous terminiez vos études de littérature comparée –,
avec cette bande de musiciens qui vous ont convaincu de passer les
auditions de la prestigieuse Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
« Hasard provoqué », confessez-vous, tant votre envie de musique était
forte, et ancienne !
Vous êtes reçue et – deuxième signe du destin – vous y rencontrez le
producteur et saxophoniste Jim Tomlinson qui deviendra votre époux et
votre plus grand complice en musique.
Dès votre premier album en solo, Close your eyes, en 1997, la critique
salue la naissance d’une nouvelle étoile du jazz, au phrasé impeccable, à
la voix limpide et envoûtante. On vous inscrit dans la lignée de Billie
Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald ou encore Anita O'Day. Mais votre style, mélange
de sensibilité et de sophistication, est unique ; et vos relectures des
standards du Great American Songbook, des grands classiques signés
Duke Ellington, Carl Sigman ou Cole Porter, sont toujours très personnelles
Vous vous imposez rapidement comme l’une des plus belles révélations du
jazz de ce nouveau siècle, couronnée meilleure vocaliste aux British Jazz
Award en 2001 et aux BBC Jazz Award en 2002.
L’une des plus touchantes aussi, par vos interprétations à fleur de peau. Vous
dites que le chant vous « permet tout simplement de vivre intensément [vos]
sentiments ». C’est ce que l’on ressent en écoutant votre musique et en vous
voyant sur scène, où vous nouez immédiatement une forte complicité avec
votre public. Une intimité. Cette intimité que vous avez voulu partager dans
votre dernier album, Breakfast On the Morning Tram, votre œuvre sans aucun
doute la plus personnelle.
Cela faisait longtemps qu’avec votre époux, vous vouliez travailler sur vos
propres chansons, vos propres compositions. Votre rencontre avec le grand
écrivain Kazuo Ishiguro a été décisive. L’une des plus importantes de votre
vie, dites-vous. Avec Jim Tomlinson et lui, vous avez eu la sensation d’être
entourée par deux artistes qui savaient saisir, l’un par la musique, l’autre par
l’écriture, qui vous étiez vraiment.
Nous connaissons le résultat : un album signé sous le prestigieux label Blue
Note, bientôt double disque d’or en France, où vous explorez une nouvelle
fois vos thèmes de prédilection, l’amour, la mélancolie, le voyage, mais en
jouant vos propres gammes sur plusieurs morceaux. Les reprises y ont aussi
leur place et notamment – pour notre plus grand bonheur – celles de deux
très belles chansons de Serge Gainsbourg : Ces petits riens et Saison des
Vous aviez déjà revisité plusieurs classiques du répertoire français dans votre
album The Boy Next Door, en 2003, et notamment l’intemporel Que reste-t-il
de nos amours ? Nous savons combien vous aimez notre pays, où votre
grand-père a vécu pendant des années, où vous avez-vous-même fait une
partie de vos études et où vous revenez aujourd’hui avec beaucoup de plaisir.
Je crois d’ailleurs savoir qu’au moment de préparer votre dernière tournée,
lorsque votre producteur vous a demandé dans quelle capitale vous
souhaitiez fêter votre anniversaire, vous avez choisi Paris ! Et la France vous
le rend bien : vous avez fait salle comble à la Cigale, au Trianon, et dans la
mythique salle de l'Olympia.
Chère Stacey Kent, en plus de votre immense talent, je veux saluer votre
courage et votre engagement. Vous avez en effet choisi de mettre votre
notoriété au service de plusieurs associations chargées de récolter des fonds
pour la recherche contre le cancer. Vous avez ainsi chanté en octobre
dernier, à Londres, pour Barnet Breast Unit Fund, Breast Cancer Care, et
Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
Je rends hommage aujourd’hui à une artiste lumineuse, généreuse et sincère.
Stacey Kent, au nom de la République française, nous vous remettons les
insignes de Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.