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The Music’s on Me is the latest album from Pianist/Vocalist Wendy Kirkland and follows her successful début Piano Divas album released in early 2017. The album contains a blend of original compositions combined with arrangements of instrumentals from Wes Montgomery, Michel Petrucciani, Don Grolnick and Russell Malone with lyrics added by Wendy herself.
With her previous release being a homage to the female performers that influenced her musical development, this current album is less thematic in nature yet stylistically similar. In a recent interview published on London Jazz News Wendy said: “With Piano Divas I was focusing on singer-pianists, whereas this time I was really looking to create as much variety as possible…” I would have to agree with this, The Music’s on Me provides the listener with a wide palette of feels, ranging from the medium swing of the title track to the more adventurous rendition of Don Grolnick’s “Pools”.
The album features Wendy’s regular working band comprising Pat Sprakes (guitar), Paul Jefferies (double bass) and Steve Wyndham (drums) along with special guests Roger Beaujolais (vibraphone) and Tommaso Starace (saxophone) both contributing.
Since the release of Piano Divas, the band has been holding down a rigorous touring schedule, and this can be heard in the interplay the group have developed. Sprakes, Jefferies and Wyndham form a formidable rhythm section providing a strong base for Kirkland to weave her vocalese.
Vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais makes an appearance on “Pools” with an impressive unisono version of the melody together with Wendy before moving into a well-crafted solo. Italian Saxophonist Tommaso Starace appears on the “September Second” and the closing track “Travelling Home” providing strong solos on both tunes and in particular the soprano solo on the latter.
My personal highlights on the album are “Pools” and the closing track “Travelling Home”, Both tracks display a slightly more modern flavour. I particularly enjoyed Pat Sprakes guitar work with wonderful solos on “O Gato Molhado” and “Sunday In New York.”
Wendy stated in a recent interview here on Jazz In Europe that she considers herself a pianist that sings and this is evident in the strong piano work throughout the album. This in no way detracts from her vocal ability and in fact, it is the instrumental nature of her vocals that make it so attractive. When listening to this album I keep coming back to Blossom Dearie and yet, while obviously influenced by Dearie it’s clear that Wendy has developed her take on it.
My Baby Just Cares For Me – Wendy Kirkland: Piano Divas
Originally a jolly little show tune sung by Eddie Cantor, updated as female empowerment jazz number by Nina Simone, and re-arranged in the style of Al Jarreau’s ‘We’re In This Love Together’ to commemmorate Al’s untimely passing this year.
from Piano Divas, released March 21, 2017
Wendy Kirkland – piano and voice
Pat Sprakes – guitar
Paul Jefferies – double bass
Stevie Smith – drums
Wendy Kirkland – pianist, singer, Hammond player
She was a childhood piano student then professional engineer and is now the English pianist who sings (an important distinction), with influences including Eliane Elias, Dena Derose, Carol Welsman and Shirley Horn
Pianist and singer Wendy Kirkland has been a mainstay of the UK Jazz scene since the late noughties, but it was her first album, Piano Divas, released in 2017 that began her ascent to wider recognition as a “Singing Pianist”, as dubbed by Jazz Journal.
The ability to sing at the same time as comping and craft solos on the piano or unison piano/voice scat lines is her forte, with influences such as Diana Krall, Eliane Elias and Dena DeRose. Further accolades were given for her 2019 release The Music’s On Me, dubbed “a huge leap forward” by Jazz Views. Both albums prompted ACE funded tours all over the UK and constant radio airplay ever since.
During lockdown from March 2020, Wendy and guitarist/bassist husband Pat Sprakes entertained with a daily dose of Latin American music on Facebook which they entitled Latin Lockdowns. After 86 such performances they decided it was time to move on to other musical endeavours, but were amazed and pleased to receive daily messages from people who described the videos in such terms as “a ray of sunshine” in their lockdown situations.
Wendy’s musical career began at age 10, when she started taking piano lessons. She won a scholarship to have all her lessons paid for by Derbyshire Music, and continued to take her ABRSM piano grades.
Switching to jazz in her late teens, Wendy continued her playing career as a dance class pianist, accompanist to singers and as a keyboardist in club bands.
After being persuaded to sing by a great friend and guitarist, Bill McCreath, Wendy learned to reach people who are perhaps turned off by instrumental jazz, as she learnt to communicate with the audience through the songs. Wendy’s voice has been likened to Blossom Dearie with hints of Diana Krall.
Current projects include Piano Divas, a tribute to the female pianist singers of jazz; hammond organ jazz outfit Organik Fource featuring Pat Sprakes on guitar and guest saxophonist; Organik Trio Goes To The Movies and The Organik Cookbook celebrating the early soul-jazz albums of George Benson.
Wendy is married to jazz guitarist and bass player Pat Sprakes. They met by chance on a gig and have been making music together ever since.
- Libertango (Piano Solo) – Astor Piazzola
- Out of Africa – music by John Barry (piano solo)
- Oblivion (Astor Piazzolla) by Nadja Kossinskaja, guitar (with sheet music)
- Milonga del Angel by Astor Piazzolla (arr. piano solo)
- Oblivion (A. Piazzolla) Two pianos – pianists Argerich and Hubert
- Bill Evans, american jazz pianist and composer (1929-1980)