SAXOPHONIST YolanDa Brown has claimed international gongs, topped the charts with her musical improvisation, and toured with Billy Ocean, but her day job takes a back seat to life in the fast lane.
“My ambition is to be a Formula One racing driver, but right now I’ve got my eye on the school bus in front of me,” giggles YolanDa, speaking on her hands-free mobile as she weaves at a snail’s pace through the busy London streets to put the finishing touches to her new album Love, Politics, War.
“Driving is my great passion, something I dreamed about as a kid,” she said.
“I met Ron Dennis, the old boss of McClaren when I shot a music video in a Formula Three car and it all went from there.
“We got chatting, and next thing I’m racing around Brand’s Hatch. I love driving.
“You must always follow your dream.”
Yolanda is in full flow and excited about the prospect of headlining next weekend’s Ribble Valley Jazz Festival with her band, The YolanDa Brown Quartet.
“I love the festival season and this sounds such a lovely one,” she said. “I’ve heard so much from friends and other artists about the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival, so I’m looking forward to hitting them with the reggae-jazz vibe!”
Brown is a huge talent, and one you suspect is on the cusp of stardom.
“I didn’t know that music was going to be a career,” she said. “To process my feelings, instead of writing in a diary, I would play my saxophone at home.
“One summer’s day I had the windows open and I was playing and I heard applause.
“It was a neighbour and he asked if I could play it again. It was then I remembered music was about sharing.”
When YolanDa, who has two Master’s degrees and speaks fluent Spanish, has a spare minute, she writes children’s stories, while her three-year-old daughter accompanies her on tour.
“She loves to hear me play, nods her head to the music, and her little voice is on the album,” added YolanDa.
“I’ve always said that the saxophone is my voice, though.
“Playing the sax is very emotional for me and is a way of communicating.
“I was lucky, I’d played the piano, drums and violin since I was six.
“As a teenager, I was really interested in playing a wind instrument and experiencing music with a more physical interaction.
“The fact that the source of the sound was my breath made me feel more connected to the music and gave it even more personal feel.”
YolanDa has toured with the Temptations, Courtney Pine, joined Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and met the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Away from the hustle and bustle of tours and recording commitments, another of Brown’s passions is encouraging young people to follow their dreams.
She is a musical ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and Yahama Class Band, an initiative encouraging children in underprivileged areas to embrace music.
“I go into schools and do workshops with young musicians and shed light on what a career in music can entail,” said YolanDa.
“It means so much to be able to share what music means to me with them.
“But it worries me a bit that young people seem to be seeing the fame, but they don’t understand the joy of just making music.”
YolanDa Brown Quartet, Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, Saturday, April 29. Details from 01200 421599 or www.rvjazzandblues.co.uk