Sounds of Billie Holiday at Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Sounds of Billie Holiday at Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne
With just a week to go before this year’s Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival, JOHN ANSON talks to Val Wiseman who will evoke the spirit of the legendary Billie Holiday in Colne
IN her show Lady Sings the Blues, Val Wiseman admits that she has set herself a tough challenge.
For in it, she celebrates the work of one of the most influential and distinctive singers of all time.
“There will only ever be one Billie Holiday,” said Val. “She had a unique voice but more than that she had a unique way of approaching a song. She was a composer’s nightmare as she would deconstruct a song, strip it right back and then put so much of herself into it that she made it a totally different song.”
Holiday’s tragic personal life, from her early days caught up in child abuse, then prostitution, followed by chronic heroin addiction and her early death at just 44, make the Holiday legacy even more poignant.
“She had the most dreadul private life,” said Val, “and that emotion and turmoil is reflected in so many of her songs.”
Backed by a band of leading jazz players, Val is quick to point out that Lady SIngs the Blues is not a tribute show.
“It is a celebration of Billie Holiday’s songbook,” said Val. “I don’t set out to be an imitator. In the show I do chat to the audience telling them a little more about her life and it’s a celebration of her music.
“I have studied her phrasing and style but it is still very much me singing.”
Val is delighted that the show is coming to such a prestigious festival like Colne.
“Jazz and blues festivals are tending to diversify more and more,” she said. “I think this is great because there is a great deal of cross over between these two types of music anyway. Plus it brings different styles of mmusic to audiences who perpahs have never really heard it live before.
“I often get comments after a show along the lines of ‘I don’t like jazz but I really loved what you did tonight’. People are quick to put labels on types of music without really understanding them. Billie Holiday was very much a blues singer as well as a jazz singer.
“With the show I am very fortunate to have so many good musicians around me. It is very much a team and we all work together.
“It is so easy to be over analytical about things but our main aim is to go out there and entertain and celebrate a remarkable woman. She set the benchmark for all of us to follow.”
- The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival is in Colne over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Headline acts include Booker T, Joan Armatrading, Courtney Pine and The Blues Band. Lady Sings the Blues is on the International stage at Colne Muni at 3.30pm on Sunday, August 26. For full details and tickets contact the festival box office on 01282 661234 or visit www.bluesfestival.co.uk