Tessa Souter

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Tessa Souter
Tessa Souter
Tessa Souter
Background information
Born London, England
Origin English and Trinidadian
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) singer, songwriter
Years active 1999–present
Labels Nara
Venus Records
Motéma Music
Website tessasouter.com

Tessa Souter /ˈstər/ is an English and Trinidadian jazz singer-songwriter based in New York City, one of New York's leading jazz vocalists.[1] Her music has Northern African, Middle Eastern, and Celtic influences.[2]


Tessa Souter was born in London to a Trinidadian father and an English mother.[3] She studied piano from the age of 8 until, at 12, her piano teacher heard her voice and encouraged her to take up singing. She learned guitar by ear to accompany herself and began writing songs. She graduated with a degree in English literature from London University and got her first job in journalism at Parents magazine, before going on to freelance as a features writer for, among other British press The Independent, The Times, Elle, Vogue, as well as Australian Elle, Sydney Morning Herald and HQ. An interview for the UK's Sunday Correspondent magazine with Lifetime Achievement for Services to Photography journalist Stefan Lorant led her to visit him in Massachusetts, and a trip to visit another friend in San Francisco turned into a four-year soujourn, where she worked as a house cleaner for two years while establishing herself as a freelance journalist for the UK, American, Australian, and Hong Kong press. In 1994, she was one of the original six members of the Writer's Grotto, along with Po Bronson, Ethan Canin, Josh Kornbluth, Ethan Watters and David Munro.[4]

She moved to New York in 1997 where she began sitting in on jam sessions around the city. Soon after, she won a scholarship to Manhattan School of Music, but dropped out after one semester to pursue her career and study privately with Mark Murphy who invited her to run his workshops in exchange for mentoring her. The Los Angeles Times calls her “one of the few exceptional standouts in the crowded field of female jazz singers.”

A singer of rare poise and intelligence, Souter has distinguished herself over the past decade or so as one of jazz's most interesting vocal artists.[5] She has made four critically acclaimed CDs as a leader, Listen Love (Nara, 2004), Nights of Key Largo (Venus Records, 2008), which won Swing Journal's prestigious Gold Disc Award, Obsession (Motema, 2009), and Beyond the Blue (Venus Records-Motema, 2012-2013), which features her own lyrics to jazz arrangements of classical gems, and was picked by the London Times as one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2013. She also appears on legendary bassist Charnett Moffett's Spirit of Sound (Motema, 2013). She has performed at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center), The Blue Note, Joe's Pub,[6] The Jazz Standard, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, The Kitano, London's Pizza Express Jazz Club, Pizza on the Park, and Ronnie Scott's, Omsk, Ekaterinburg, Kirov, Samara, Vitebsk and Minsk Philharmony, among other Philharmonic halls in Russia and Belarus, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and other venues around the world.

She has performed and/or recorded with such jazz artists as Steve Kuhn, Joe Locke, Gary Versace, David Finck, Joel Frahm, Gary Versace, Jay Leonhart, Kenny Werner, Ron McLure, Billy Drummond, Gene Bertoncini, Lew Soloff, Santi Debriano, Daniel Kramer, John Hart, Essiet Essiet, Jay Leonhart, Marvin Sewell, Romero Lubambo, Gwilym Simcock, Nikki Iles, Asaf Sirkis, Winston Clifford, Lekan Babalola, Howard Johnson, Joe LaBarbera, Marvin Sewell, Charnett Moffett, Alec Dankworth, Jim Hart, Winston Clifford, Lynne Arriale and Larry Koonse.

Musical influences and style[edit]

Souter's musical influences include Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Milton Nascimento, Billie Holiday, Carmen Jones, Captain Beefheart, Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Mark Murphy, Andy Bey, Sheila Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves among many others.

She has been called "stunningly original" (Christopher Loudon of JazzTimes), "an astute and expressive jazz singer" (Nate Chinen of The New York Times) and her compositions have been described by Siddhartha Mitter of The Boston Globe as "... scintillating ... haunting ... poetic and concise, ... Souter ... writes in much the same way that she sings: with great poise, attention to space, and little ornamentation."



  • Anything I Can Do... You Can Do Better: How to Unlock Your Creative Dreams and Change Your Life (Vermillion, 2008)[7]


  1. ^ Johnson, Martin. "Voicing Her Pleasure: After Years of Writing Stories, Tessa Souter Now Sings Them." The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704409004576146362989029834.html?KEYWORDS=tessa+souter
  2. ^ Canter, Andrea. "A Growing “Obsession” in Vocal Jazz: Tessa Souter at the Artists Quarter, May 12th." Jazz Police, May 10, 2010. http://www.jazzpolice.com/content/view/8997/115/
  3. ^ Tessa Souter, Mars Jazz promotional page. http://www.marsjazz.com/tessas.html
  4. ^ artist's website
  5. ^ San Jose Mercury News
  6. ^ Joe's Pub website. http://www.joespub.com/component/option,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,99/id,4888
  7. ^ Paul Freeman. "Tessa Souter: Anything she can do." Pop Culture Classics, February 2011. http://www.popcultureclassics.com/tessa_souter.html

External links[edit]