At once unassumingly virtuosic and uncontrivedly emotional, New York Times critics pick and two-time Sunday Times magazine Top Ten Jazz CD of the Year (2013 and 2018), New York-based jazz vocalist Tessa Souter is “a beguiling artist who infuses everything she interprets with voluptuous intelligence and keen emotional insight.” (KQED ARTS). Born in London of English and Afro-Caribbean parents, the critically-acclaimed singer’s gorgeous voice and penchant for exploring music mostly untouched by other vocalists has set her apart as “one of the few exceptional standouts in the crowded field of female jazz singers,” (Los Angeles Times).
Souter, with gorgeous, often breath-taking vocalizing and deeply moving songwriting, ranks in the uppermost echelons of contemporary artists.” PopCultureClassics
Mentored by jazz legends Mark Murphy, who called her “a true musician and extraordinary talent . . . [and] remarkable and very moving”, and NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, who puts her “at the top of my list of great talent,” Souter has cast an increasingly wide musical net, from contributing original lyrics to instrumental jazz standards, and re-imagining classic British rock, to her Third Stream project, Beyond the Blue—a London Sunday Times Jazz Album of the Year, with legendary jazz pianist Steve Kuhn and featuring Souter’s original lyrics to classical gems by Albinoni, Chopin, Beethoven et al.
Best of all, she delivers it with a wink and a wit worthy of the toniest joints in town” Time Out New York
She has recorded five critically acclaimed CDs including her self-produced debut, the Flamenco-tinged Listen Love (Nara, 2004), Nights of Key Largo (Venus, 2008), recipient of the prestigious Swing Journal Gold Disc Award, Obsession (Motema, 2009), Beyond the Blue (Motema-Venus, 2012), and her latest, Picture in Black and White (NOA, 2018). The second of her recordings to make the Sunday Times’ Jazz Record of the Year list, Picture in Black and White is an emotionally resonant invitation through music to reflect on the African diaspora experience of slavery, loss, love, redemption and the pellucid and lasting repercussions of that period in history. AllAboutJazz called it “a remarkable journey to the interior of the human heart.” It was Album of the Week in the London Evening Standard and the Sunday Times when it was released, and was the Number One pick for Jazz Vocal Album of the Year of WVCR-FM’s Jay Hunter, and of Ken Dryden and W. Royal Stokes in the Downbeat Critics Poll.
Rochester International Jazz Festival organizers Marc Iacona and John Nugent appear to have a tried and true method for assuring a perennially solid basis to the artist lineup: pencil Tessa Souter in early. She first appeared in 2007 and has been back more often than not since then. In that time, she’s amassed more complimentary adjectives than any other singer in the festival.” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
Since giving up her former career as an international features journalist for magazines and newspapers to devote herself to music, Souter has performed and/or recorded with a veritable who’s who of jazz, including Lynne Arriale, Alan Broadbent, Dezron Douglas, Billy Drummond, Joel Frahm, David Gilmore, Tom Guarna, Howard Johnson, Larry Koonse, Steve Kuhn, Dana Leong, Joe Locke, Romero Lubambo, Francois Moutin, Yasushi Nakamura, Clarence Penn, Mansur Scott, Marvin Sewell, Yotam Silberstein, Lew Soloff, and Kenny Werner. She has performed at venues all over the world, including SF Jazz, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Mezzrow, the Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Pizza Express, Ronnie Scott’s, the London and Edinburgh Jazz Festivals, Star Eyes (Nagoya), Body and Soul (Tokyo), and the Blue Notes in New York, Beijing and Shanghai. Pre-pandemic, her 17-year monthly residency at New York’s iconic 55 Bar was frequently standing room only. She has appeared seven times at the Rochester International Jazz Festival.