Tessa Souter

Primary Instrument: Vocalist

Born: April 3, 1956    

Tessa Souter

BRIEFLY... Downbeat Critics Poll “Rising Star”, Anglo-Trinidadian vocalist, Tessa Souter is “... a must-see for lovers of world class jazz.” (Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times) From her Flamenco-tinged debut, Listen Love (2004), to her fourth album, Beyond the Blue (Motema, 2012), which features her own lyrics to jazz arrangements of classical gems, and which was picked by the London Times as one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2013, this is “haunting” (Siddhartha Mitter, Boston Globe), “daring, beautiful jazz.” (Bill Leikam, AllAboutJazz)

MORE ... A protege of jazz vocal legend Mark Murphy, Tessa Souter has gained a reputation “ of the most innovative vocal talents on the scene today ... the very heights of honest artistic passion.” (Brent Black, Critical Jazz) On her 2004 debut. Listen Love (Nara), she evoked the sensuality and passion of Andalusian Spain and the Middle East with a mix of Pharoah Sanders, Sting, Pat Martino and original tunes. Her mostly standards follow up, Nights of Key Largo (Venus, 2008), won Japan's prestigious Swing Journal Gold Disc Award. Her Motema debut, Obsession (2009), featured daring takes on pop icons the Beatles and Cream, as well as compositions by Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Milton Nascimento, Dori Caymmi and Kenny Barron. Her fourth album, Beyond the Blue (Venus-Motema), is her most daring yet....
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Gold Disc review, Swing Journal for Nights of Key Largo
...a talented... broadly imaginative singer. NEW YORK TIMES

Souter, whose musical sophistication gives her a significant advantage in the competitive clamor surrounding the current world of ambitious female jazz artists, also has the rare quality of authenticity. Unlike many of her contemporaries she seems more focused on exploring the limitless creativity of the art than simply having another go at the Great American Songbook. LOS ANGELES TIMES

On her amazing album Listen Love, she delivers powerful versions of nonstandards such as Pat Martino’s “Willow” and Pharoah Sanders’ complex “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” in addition to her originals, all delivered in a crystal-clear voice with diamond-cut phrasing and a slight tinge of melancholy. She’s a gem. PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Like Norma Winstone—whose lyrics for Jimmy Rowles' “The Peacocks” she uses here—Souter understands what is needed to deliver a song.... Souter's singing style feels natural and organic — her rich, dark voice combines with her ability to see the shape of a tune and so the words seem to come from her soul. DONALD ELFMAN, ALL ABOUT JAZZ

An Afro-British-Caribbean stylist who proves that the jazz singer’s repertoire is no longer limited to the Great American Songbook. Direct and soulful. Plus she’s the only singer who can make sense of Pharoah Sanders, ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan.’ VILLAGE VOICE

Tessa Souter brings new life to time-honored standards while also mining a creative spark from the unlikeliest quarters—Sting’s “Fragile,” Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” even Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” ...Gentle, spare accompaniment... helps emphasize Souter’s understated, intimate approach. TIME OUT NEW YORK

Unlike many jazz singers, who either emulate the brassy blasts of a trumpet or the gymnastic lines of a saxophone, Souter uses the sustained waves of a violinist. Her voice is sinuous and elastic, stretching and caressing a melody with an actress' sense of the emotional meaning of each lyric. Souter's debut, Listen Love (Nara), is striking for reasons beyond her voice, however. First, the CD is refreshingly free of the Great American Songbook. The closest Souter comes to a standard is her snake-charming rendition of ‘Caravan.’ PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER

Soulful. You’ll be hearing more from this lady. LA WEEKLY

On her new album, 'Listen Love' (Nara Music), she avoids the obvious earmarks of jazz style: There are no horns, little piano, and a lot of guitars and percussion. Still, Ms. Souter is undeniably a jazz singer. When she does 'Caravan,' she stretches notes to suggest pentatonic chanting, accompanied by guitar and bass mimicking Middle Eastern string instruments... Ms. Souter has also supplied lyrics to several instrumentals, including Pat Martino's 'Willow'.... Her rendition of Pharoah Sanders's 'The Creator Has a Master Plan' proves that it's possible to be spiritual and sensual at the same time. THE NEW YORK SUN

Tessa Souter's Listen Love marks the debut of an important new jazz singer. It's hard to believe she only recently became a vocalist, because she sings with the authority and passion that usually comes from long experience. JIM MOTAVELLI, RADIO HOST, WPKN FM

Ms. Souter dazzles and stuns with her vocal expertise on a potpourri of classics and a few that she adds her own lyrics to. All rendered with taste and élan. It’s a jam packed world out in jazz vocal land but Ms. Souter is able to lend an innate musicality and tastefulness to her performances that separates her from the herd. Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks shimmers in her voice, while Pat Martino’s Willow gains added depth with Ms. Souter’s own lyrical bent. Caravan is done with a gorgeously referenced Middle Eastern feel that sounds more right than the original. Pharoah Sander’s The Creator Has A Master Plan is even better as performed by Ms. Souter than Leon Thomas’s version as she makes the music and lyrics come together with added depth to the spiritual aspects of the piece. All in all Ms. Souter imbues her singing with sensitivity and profound insights without beating you over the head. An outstanding new release.” JOHN HAMMEL, WNTI RADIO WEBSITE REVIEW

”Reflective, spare, serious, hypnotic... I've been playing it over and over and keep finding new things … settle back and be bathed in a simply beautiful voice possessed by someone who has learned how to use it.” TALKINGTOBROADWAY.COM


Tessa Souter has all the qualities I value most in a musician: great time, beautiful phrasing, gorgeous sound, a respect for silence, an emotional connection to the moment, and a wonderful ability to tell a story. She is the ”real thing” in every way. LARRY KOONSE

Magnificent! I couldn’t stop playing it over and over. She blew me away! JON LUCIEN

One of the finest of the growing singers in our midst. Tessa is a complete musician whose range of music, expression and dynamic presentation are remarkable and very moving, completely capturing her audience. MARK MURPHY

An important musician. Tessa has naturally what people spend years trying to develop. Her brilliant lyrics and songs make her stand out from the pack so very much. And she creates a mood and an atmosphere when she takes the stage. HOWARD JOHNSON

Tessa is a unique voice in jazz JOE LA BARBERA

At the top of my list of great talent. There aren’t many, but Tessa is a natural born singer. She really moves me. SHEILA JORDAN

  • Beyond The Blue

    Motema Music
  • Tessa Souter: Beyond the Blue

    Motema Music
  • Nights of Key Largo

    Venus Records
  • Obsession

    Motema Music
  • Nights Of Key Largo

    Oveja Negra
  • Listen Love

    Narada Jazz

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Events Calendar

Date Venue Ticket
Jul31 Tessa Souter Quintet
Jazz In The Garden - Newark Museum
Newark, NJ

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