Welcome to the Semi-final of the 15th Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition in 2017

1:00 Rehearsal time. Montreux Palace – Petit Théâtre: The Band is there patiently practicing the arrangements with the incredible seven contestants. They started at 10 o’clock. Three fine musicians support the singers: Julien Coriatt (France) plays beautifully piano, Gabriel Midon (France) with fantastic sense of time on Bass and the fine tasteful drumming comes from Fred Bintner (Paris) living in Switzerland.

4:30 The audience arrives, people take seats in the front, the singers are prepared and soon the show will start. Seven candidates will perform in the next hours. The jury will take a decision about who will be the three finalists. I am excited. And I am not the only one…

5:00 Every seat is taken, we wait for the jury to arrive. Who is in the JURY?

This year, the jury will be presided by Cécile McLorin Salvant. The other Jury members are: Jérôme Berney (Composer), Laurence Desarzens (Director of the Music University Lausanne – Site Flon), Elina Duni (Singer, Composer), Stéphane Gobbo (Le Temps Swiss Newspaper, Head of Culture), Thierry Savary (Radio Fribourg, Director).


SEMI-FINAL at July 4th 2017, Petit Théâtre- Montreux Palace, Order of appearance: alphabetical order, Performance: 10 minutes maximum per candidates. 6 :20 – 7 :00       Jury’s deliberation and announcement of the finalists. The Montreux Jazz Artist Foundation has received 100 eligible applications from young singers under 35 from 40 different countries, from which 7 candidates have been selected by the Jazz and Contemporary Music School, EJMA in Lausanne and Cécil McLorin Salvant to play at the semi-finals in Montreux. And here we go…

5 :10 – 5 :20       Ast Miriam – Germany, 1989

The first song of this evening is FOUR by Miles Davis with lyrics by John Hendricks – put to the solo of Miles. She starts it out only with drums and a switch in the time feel of 4/4 switching to a 6/8 triplet feel – nice. The vocalized solo is performed only with bass – which breaks it down to the essence. Now she starts scat singing with a lot of fun and bebop-language, trading 4th with the drums. Fred Bintner on the drums is a great partner for the theme at the end. Nice arrangement, the audiance is clapping, screaming. DIVERGENCE is her second tune – an own composition. It is about the end of a relationship and the beginning of something new… Its a beautiful ballad – inspired by jazzharmony and popy sounds and pop chord progressions – all presented alongside the marvellous melody. She sings interesting embellishments in the theme, beautiful colors in Miriams voice unfold within the story she tells. A beautiful personal approach to music, a complex arrangement well performed by the band. Wow. Big applause guides Miriam to the door – WOW!


5 :20 – 5 :30       Conti Christian – USA, 1984

I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU is his start – making Jazz history alive. He sings the song with a full voice and entertainer qualities. Now his solo starts – and surprise: Chet Baker seems to be a big inspiration for him. That changes the mood immediatly. He surely did his homework and presents cromaticism, double time phrases, beautiful phrases – the band is steaming behind him. In the second chorus of his solo he goes to double time and starts interacting withJulien Coriatt at the piano. wohoooooo. From the B-part he takes it out to the last theme – flirting with the audiance. “This next song is a ballad. And I wrote it when I was sad… ” IF ONLY YOU is the title. He starts singing and within the first sentence he touches me, it’s not the entertainer anymore but an honest statement from a young man. He wears a suite and I imagine him singing the song in a jazz club – loving his life and the jazz tradition. YEAH.

5 :30 – 5 :40       Decker Sara – Germany, 1984

YOU’RE EV’RYTHING by Chick Corea is Saras first song. She introduces a loop as a vamp to start the song – making the bass to join her. Now drums come it – sound of percussive improv from her, lines together with the piano. Good start. Its a difficult composition especially for improvising. And thats what Sara does. Such an easy journey it sounds – but the specialist knows it isn’t an easy journey. She makes the audiance feel comfortable, enjoy the ride or flight of the birds… Nice impro to take the song out. Her second song is a standard. HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN starts with a vocalese getting us in the mood for the song, telling a story. Saras voice is warm and soft and tasts the sound of every word chaning the color with almost every word – so nice. No pressure on the voice. Now she makes the bass play along a written solo and they both dive into the world of Irving Berlin – composer of the song. Surprise: from Ballad to medium swing – now for the piano solo it goes to uptempo. And we hear the first time our fine piano player give more than background and fills. The last theme plays with the time changes again, bringing it back to medium time and finally a rubato out again with Gabriel Midon on bass. The audiance cant wait till the end and starts clapping. That was deep, honest and heart felt. Lovely!

5 :40 – 5 :50       Hulsman Helena – Netherlands, 1984

Working as a Marine Biologist Helena lives in Singapoor. She followed her love for jazz and singing just recently. And this sounds good – she is blessed with a real jazz voice, timbre from the “old days” – impressive: SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE. It all comes with ease – remarkable high notes and a contrasting intimate sound happen here – well she definitly has a big talent not just for Biology – but for Jazz as well. She ends SOFTLY from out the impro – no theme out but a powerful improvisation. Helena comments “this is life changing for me”. TICK TACK is her own composition about being 33 years old and waiting for the “Prince on the white horse”. This is a bluesy song, a little bit of Country and a spice of pop in it. Her twangy voice in this song fits in the UP TO DATE style of singing – Adele is a role model for this. She has hip flips in her voice, strength and super good intonation as well. So here waits a carreer, a journey, I life with something else than biology I would say. Very touching.

5 :50 – 6 :00       Lövmark Alexander – Sweden, 1985

WINTER AND FLOWERS written in 2011 – the first composition of this Sweedish Man. He has a shining voice, counts in, guides the band through the interesting and special arrangement with kicks behind him. In his impro he suddenly sounds a little bit like Kurt Elling but than takes highest notes in a pitch perfect falsetto voice. Thats playful and impressive at the same time. The band follows him on his journey – another great pianosolo by Julien Coriatt guides him back to his theme out. He smiles at the musicians. And another YOU’RE EV’RYTHING – he grew up with it – his parents had Chick Coreas record LIGHT AS A FEATHER. he starts improvising light as a bird, flighing it seems… having fun with the band.  The theme out has some variations. He feels very comfortable in this difficult high range for a Tenor, totally mastering it. oh my god – this will be so difficult for the jury… I must admit – I heard him taking much more risks in the rehearsals and I know his big potential. So another WOW from me…

6 :00 – 6 :10       Monin Talie – South Africa, 1988

Talie anounced her first song with a sympathic warm voice – I am already feeling good because of her nice presence. From 1957 and the album THE BIRTH OF THE COOL the song called BOPLICITY is performed by her in an interesting arrangement – adding some bars for scatting between the lyrical lines. Now her scat solo starts – behind kicks from the band. A beautiful voice unfolds, great sense for timing in the swing – her sweet fills and every well arranged – presented with a smile… yeah – as if it was invented that second. Her voice reminds me of Dee Dee Bridgewater somehow. LITTLE BIRD is her own song sang in French. The intro is sweet and soft. But now: she counts in a quick tempo and: sings a bebop tune. The band is steaming and so is she. Wow – own composed bebop tune in the tradition of Jazz but fresh and cute. Love it.

6 :10 – 6 :20       Totenhagen Laura – Germany, 1992

“The song talks about that special person in your life, that simply blows you away: I GOT A KICK OUT OF YOU”. The song comes along totally different then we heard it at the beginning of the evening. Laura makes an interesting und unexpected appearance: dressed in white and a little pale and somehow fragile – she starts singing with an open and warm low voice with a beautiful powerful timbre. This is an interesting contrast. Her arrangement of the song changes from harmonically intense to surpising uptempo and nice modern jazz harmony. She starts her solo and constantly builts it up from soft and low to high and higher and super high whistle register … still with incredible rhythmic approach… Her second song is a poem from Yehuda Amichai set to Music – about busy rushing times in your life. Here modern jazz with a free approach is presented, the song changes between groovy parts and somehow free influences all delivered with an attitude of freedom of choice and the history of for instance Jay Clayton… The band follows this journey and we hear something really unexpected and modern. The voice as somethow theatralic now. One more time the song and: Over. The band also is applauding now for Laura. wooooo.


7:10 Cécile McLorin Salvant enters the stage and talks about performing and losing vocal competitions – and not being chosen after sending in something.. So keep playing and singing, its fine!!!! So here we have the three finalists:

Alexander Lövmark … Talie Monin … Sara Decker




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