Born: March 27, 1968 Primary Instrument: Vocal
An American language student visits Europe to study French, Italian and German for a Masters degree in comparative literature. Her life takes an unexpected twist that sees Stacey Kent become one of the world's foremost jazz singers.
Stacey, a recent addition to the Blue Note roster of recording artists, now boasts six best-selling albums, a string of awards, including the 2001 British Jazz Award and 2002 BBC Jazz Award for 'Best Vocalist,' the 2004 Backstage Bistro Award and the 2006 Album of the Year for 'The Lyric' as well as a fan base that enables her to sell out concert halls around the world.
The twist of fate that took her life in this new direction was a chance meeting in Oxford with saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson. Like Stacey, Jim was embarked on an academic path, but their meeting sparked in each other the desire to pursue their love of music together.
After a year's study at the Guildhall School of Music, Stacey set about honing her skills on the London jazz scene in the company of, now husband, Jim Tomlinson.
A demo tape, sent simultaneously to Polygram, Candid Records and broadcaster, Humphrey Lyttelton, secured her a role in Ian McKellen's film version of Richard III, a recording contract and national airplay and endorsement from Britain's most respected jazz broadcaster.
Since the release of Stacey's first album, Close Your Eyes (1997), she has achieved, without compromise, both critical and popular success, with her fresh and heart-felt interpretations of the finest love songs of the twentieth century.
Her most recent album, The Boy Next Door, a celebration of many of her heroes, was launched with an extensive, worldwide concert tour, lasting two years. Among the many highlights were shows at New York's Carnegie Hall, a month-long sell-out run at The Algonquin Hotel, a sell-out performance at Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Concert Hall and in France, where The Boy Next Door earned Stacey the 'Gold Disc' for sales of 100,000. The album also remained in USA's Billboard Charts for 35 weeks.
Stacey's admirers are not limited to the loyal fans that buy her albums and pack out her concerts. A track from her third album, Let Yourself Go, was selected by Kazuo Ishiguro on his recent appearance on Desert Island Discs, and Best-selling crime writer, John Harvey, has Stacey sing, if only fictionally, in his latest novel, Still Water.
Clint Eastwood invited Stacey to sing at his 70th birthday party, Michael Parkinson, invited Stacey to sing on his television show, as did Sir David Frost, who asked her to join him one Sunday morning in January 2003, to sing a song and review the morning papers on Breakast with Frost.
Most tellingly perhaps, Stacey is appreciated by the writers of the songs she sings.
Three-time Oscar-winning songwriter, Jay Livingston, wrote of her, Stacey Kent is a revelation. There is nobody singing today who can compare with her. She has the style of the greats, like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. And she sings the words like Nat Cole - clean, clear and almost conversational with perfect phrasing. And that's as good as it gets.
If there is one theme that runs through Stacey's music, it is that of romance. Stacey is herself an avowed romantic, and the songs she sings are timeless stories that touch young and old alike, fulfilling a desire for sophisticated love songs that is not catered to by today's pop music industry. She receives fan email from people of all ages and nationalities and, in an age where music is more likely to divide than unite the generations, it is quite common for three generations of the same family to attend her concerts.
Her most recent studio recording underlines this romanticism. Jim Tomlinson, 'The Lyric ... featuring Stacey Kent' (Token 0501) is the most complete collaboration between Stacey and husband, Jim. On this album, Jim’s saxophone and Stacey’s voice achieve a level of empathy only hinted at on earlier recordings. As the New York Times’, Stephen Holden put it, “Sometimes the chemistry between musicians and the chemistry of love get all tangled up in wonderful ways. When watching the jazz singer Stacey Kent make music with her husband, the tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, it is easy to imagine yourself eavesdropping on intimate pillow talk by besotted partners in a luxury suite atop some faraway pop-jazz Olympus.”
It is not easy to account for Stacey's success and she herself remains characteristically coy. What is sure is that Stacey has a voice that grabs you. It demands to be listened to and yet never draws attention to itself. Instead, her natural and unaffected delivery allows the craft of the songwriters, whose work she performs, to shine through. She has an appeal that transcends category.
When CBS Sunday Morning gave Stacey national exposure in the USA, it was followed by a surge in demand that placed her album, The Tender Trap, at No. 1 at Amazon.com and No. 2 in the Billboard Charts. The following year, after a feature on National Public Radio in the USA, all four of her albums simultaneously made the top 10 charts at Amazon.com, again, including the No.1 slot. Her appearance on The Parkinson Show in the UK had a similar effect and an appearance on Swedish television propelled her album, Dreamsville, into the Scandinavian Pop Charts.
Stacey's next album, out on Blue Note, is due for release in September 2007.