|Born||26 August 1981
Wimbledon, London, England
|Instruments||vocal, piano, ukelele, melodica, kazoo|
|Labels||Monkeywood Records; Naim Edge|
|Associated acts||Fiona Bevan; Black Coffee; Will Rutter|
Gwyneth Herbert (born 1981) is a British singer-songwriter and pianist, initially known for her interpretation of jazz and swing standards, and now established as a writer of original compositions. She lives in Hackney, London.
Herbert performs with a band comprising: Al Cherry (guitars); Sam Burgess (bass); David Price (percussion); Steve Holness (piano).
Born into a musical family in Wimbledon, London, Herbert was brought up in Surrey and Hampshire in the south of England. She began playing the piano at the age of three, achieving Grade 5 by nine, and was writing basic songs at the age of five. She also learned the French horn, achieving Grade 8 by the age of 15.
Throughout her teenage years she played music with local orchestras and bands such as the Surrey County Youth Orchestra and also briefly formed a short-lived punk band called Wasted Minds. At 14 she recorded a demo tape of her own songs at Trinity Studios, Woking; however, despite music industry interest, she chose to continue with her studies.
At Alton College her musical tastes moved more towards jazz music. While she was studying at St Chad's College, University of Durham, she met up with fellow student Will Rutter and together they began to write and perform in the cafés and bars of North East England as a jazz duo called Black Coffee.
After leaving university, Herbert and Rutter moved to London, where they soon met a former member of Boney M, who was shortly to judge a Polish television music competition. She and Rutter were invited to enter, and Black Coffee won the competition.
After returning to London, Black Coffee continued to perform in local bars, before being introduced to Ian Shaw, a noted jazz vocalist. This led eventually to the production of a debut CD, First Songs, credited to "Gwyn and Will", of both original songs and standards, which was launched at London's Pizza Express Jazz Club in September 2003. The Herbert/Rutter song "Sweet Insomnia" featured guest vocals from Jamie Cullum. The album received a significant amount of radio airplay on Jazz FM and BBC Radio 2, and was promoted by Michael Parkinson.
Bittersweet and Blue
Soon after, Herbert was signed to the Universal Classics and Jazz label and released, in September 2004, her first major label album, Bittersweet and Blue. This comprised mainly standards, with several Herbert/Rutter original tracks. Herbert's version of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", taken from this album, was featured on the soundtrack of romantic comedy Leap Year, directed by Anand Tucker and starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.
Between Me and the Wardrobe
Herbert left Universal Classics and Jazz to pursue a less commercial and more personal musical direction. Collaborating with Polar Bear's Seb Rochford in a production role, Herbert's Between Me and the Wardrobe, an album of self-penned songs, was recorded in three days and never intended for general release. The album was initially released, in 2006, on Herbert's own Monkeywood label before being picked up by Blue Note Records, making Herbert their first UK signing in 30 years. Stuart Nicholson of The Observer said that on this album Herbert "lets the lyrics do the work for her. They are well thought out, moving between artfully constructed soft-focus simplicities to poignant yearning".
Ten Lives and All the Ghosts
In early 2008, Herbert was commissioned by a collaborative project between Peter Gabriel and Bowers & Wilkins to record an acoustic album at Gabriel's Real World Studios. The result of these sessions – Ten Lives – was released as a digital download in July 2008, available only from the Bowers & Wilkins website as part of their Music Club.
Remixed versions of these songs were to form the basis of Herbert's album All the Ghosts, which was released by Naim Edge in July 2009 in Europe to critical acclaim; the album was released in the United States in June 2010. This album also featured two further recordings – including a cover version of David Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" – by Robert Harder, who had previously collaborated with Herbert as recording engineer of Between Me and the Wardrobe. It was remastered for vinyl by Steve Rooke at Abbey Road Studios, London and reissued in LP format in 2010.
Clangers & Mash
In October 2009, Herbert returned to Harder Sound Studio to record the song "Perfect Fit" which she gave away as a free download, available exclusively from Naim Edge. It was also released as a single on 7 March 2011. The track was also one of nine tracks on her EP Clangers & Mash, released on 1 November 2010, which included remixes, by Seb Rochford of Polar Bear, of some of her previously published songs.
The Sea Cabinet
In January 2010, Herbert was commissioned by Snape Maltings as artist in residence to write, record and perform a new body of work based on stories of the sea. This was performed in October 2010 at Snape Maltings. An album of this music, The Sea Cabinet, was released in May 2013 and launched in a series of concerts from 23 to 26 May at Wilton's Music Hall in London's East End. In a review of the album launch, The Guardian's John Fordham said that "Herbert's imaginative narrative, and her casually commanding voice – whether softly nuanced as confiding speech or at full soaring-contralto stretch – were the central characters in an entertaining and often moving show that opens a new chapter in her creative story".
The Financial Times' four-star review called it "a concept album about the debt British history owes to the sea". In a four-star review The Independent described it as a "cabinet of curiosities" with "a cabaret approach to storytelling, in rollicking sea shanties and waltzes", and "inventive" instrumentation "featuring wheezing accordions, warbling woodwind, tinkling music boxes and rolling bells".
Commenting on her live performance in July 2013 at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival in Glynde Place, East Sussex, Nick Hasted of The Independent said: "Gwyneth Herbert sings the shanties on her The Sea Cabinet album with happy, cabaret sensuality, detailing a relationship’s shipwrecked, sunken past in 'I Still Hear The Bells'".
In 2010, Herbert won the Stiles and Drewe Song of the Year Award with her composition "Lovely London Town" from a musical she is writing with playwright Diane Samuels. The musical, which is to be called The A-Z of Mrs P, tells the story of Phyllis Pearsall's creation of the London A to Z street atlas. The play was performed in workshop with actress Sophie Thompson in May 2011 and is scheduled for production at Southwark Playhouse in February 2014.
In April 2012, her one-act musical Before The Law was awarded second place in the inaugural Sidney Brown Memorial Award for Most Promising New Work which is run by Mercury Musical Developments (MMD), the organisation which supports new musical theatre writing. Before the Law is the companion piece to After Lydia, a one-act musical based on Terence Rattigan’s play of the same name, which was commissioned by Sounds of England and had a staged reading at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury, Berkshire in August 2012, A collaboration with Christine Denniston, and directed by Maria Freidman, it had a subsequent reading at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London.
In July 2012 she performed, with BBC Radio 3 DJ Max Reinhardt and Paris-based singer China Moses, in a revue by Alex Webb which told the story of Café Society, New York’s first non-segregated nightclub. The show had a London Jazz Festival premiere at the Southbank Centre and a successful run at Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre.
|First Songs (with Will Rutter as "Gwyn and Will")||27 October 2003||Dean Street Records|
|Bittersweet and Blue||27 September 2004||Universal Records|
|Between Me and the Wardrobe||2006||Monkeywood Records|
|Between Me and the Wardrobe (reissue)||20 August 2007||Blue Note Records|
|Ten Lives (digital download)||1 July 2008||B&W: Bowers & Wilkins Music Club|
|All the Ghosts||13 July 2009 (CD); 2010 (LP)||Naim Edge|
|The Sea Cabinet||20 May 2013||Monkeywood Records|
|Clangers & Mash||1 November 2010||Naim Edge|
|"Perfect Fit"||7 March 2011||Naim Edge|
References and footnotes
- "Hackney People:Gwyneth Herbert". Hackney Council website. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Peter Lindley (27 September 2012). "Live review: Gwyneth Herbert – Hippodrome Casino". Morning Star (London). Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- John Fordham (4 August 2009). "Gwyneth Herbert: the door-to-door diva". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- "Singing songs of Suffolk and the sea". East Anglian Daily Times. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Jack Foley (2003). "Gwyneth Herbert – I suppose for as long as I can remember, singing’s always been my complete passion". indielondon.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
- Kathryn Shackleton (14 January 2004). "Gwyneth Herbert & Will Rutter First Songs Review". BBC website. Retrieved 25 April 2011."First Songs is a lovingly crafted debut. The self-penned numbers are coherent, perceptive and quietly dramatic, and though the instrumentation lacks variety the arrangements are top-notch."
- "Gwyneth Herbert interview with Record Collector Weekly". Record Collector Weekly. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
- Rebecca Grundy (spring 2008 (issue 24)). "So what exactly lies between Gwyneth Herbert and her wardrobe?". Durham First (University of Durham). Retrieved 9 May 2011. Gwyneth Herbert attended St Chad's College from 1999 to 2002 and obtained a BA (Hons) in English Literature.
- "Interview with Gwyneth Herbert by Lance". bebop spoken here: Jazz in the North East and beyond. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
- "Gwyneth Herbert Quartet". Oxford Jazz Festival. April 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- John Fordham (25 September 2003). "Gwyn Herbert/ Will Rutter". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 June 2011.
- Linda Serck (27 September 2004). "Gwyneth Herbert – Bittersweet And Blue". Album Reviews. musicOMH. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- "Soundtracks for Leap Year (2010)". IMDb. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Holly Williams (14 April 2013). "Second life: What happens when Next Big Things fail to hit the big time?". The Independent on Sunday (London). Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Colin Buttimer (3 August 2007). "Gwyneth Herbert Between Me And The Wardrobe Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- Andrew Perry (8 December 2007). "Gwyneth Herbert: The one that got away". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "Gwyneth Herbert: Biography". Naim Label. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- Stuart Nicholson (12 August 2007). "Gwyneth Herbert, Between Me and the Wardrobe". The Observer (London). Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Arwa Haider (25 August 2008). "Gwyneth Herbert's got some stories to tell". Metro (London). Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "Gwyneth Herbert 'Ten Lives'". Bowers & Wilkins. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- John Eyles (8 July 2009). "Gwyneth Herbert: All The Ghosts Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- Andrew Perry (4 July 2009). "Gwyneth Herbert: All The Ghosts, CD review". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- John Fordham (28 August 2009). "Gwyneth Herbert: All The Ghosts Review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- "Gwyneth Herbert – All The Ghosts". Discogs. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- "Gwyneth Herbert to release ‘Perfect Fit’ and a free remix". aaamusic. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Edwin Huxley (29 October 2010). "Gwyneth Herbert new album, Clangers & Mash". Buzzin' Fly. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
- John Fordham (16 December 2010). "Gwyneth Herbert: Clangers and Mash – review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- "Gwyneth Herbert – An exploration of the sea". Aldeburgh Music. 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- "Concert review: Gwyneth Herbert, An Exploration of the Sea, Britten Studio, Snape, 1st October 2010". The Art of the Torch Singer. 2 October 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- Dave Price (18 April 2012). "Sea Cabinet". Dave Price Music. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- "Gwyneth Herbert 'The Sea Cabinet'". Wilton's Music Hall. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- John Fordham (28 May 2013). "Gwyneth Herbert – review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- David Honigmann (24 May 2013). "Gwyneth Herbert: The Sea Cabinet". Financial Times (London). Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- Holly Williams (18 May 2013). "Album: Gwyneth Herbert, The Sea Cabinet (Monkeywood)". The Independent (London). Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- Nick Hasted (8 July 2013). "Music Review: Love Supreme Jazz Festival, Glynde Place, East Sussex". The Independent (London). Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- "Gwyneth Herbert". Sidney Brown Memorial Award. 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- "Sounds of England". Watermill Theatre. August 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- Alyn Shipton (10 March 2010). "Review: The Patsy/ Gwyneth Herbert". LondonJazz. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- Augustine Dias (19 July 2012). "Jazz at Cafe Society". LondonJazz. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Peter Quinn (19 July 2012). "Jazz breaking news: China Moses and Gwyneth Herbert Dazzle at Jazz at Cafe Society". Jazzwise magazine. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Martin Chilton (19 March 2012). "A celebration of Peggy Lee". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- "Gwyneth Herbert & Will Rutter: First Songs". The Elvis Costello Wiki. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- "Ten Lives". Last.fm. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- "Monkeywood Records". Cadiz Music. Retrieved 28 May 2013.