Georgia Mancio interview, Sandy Brown Jazz (2021)
Georgia Mancio – May 2021
Georgia Mancio is one of the UK’s most popular jazz vocalists – witness the number of interviews and reviews there have been over the past month for Quiet Is The Star, her latest release with pianist Alan Broadbent, and for the book that has been published of their music. Here is just one of those interviews with fellow vocalist Lara Eidi that tells us more about the album.
Georgia’s parents are Italian. They met and married in the UK and Georgia was born in England, so she is presumably Anglo-Italian – “though I just prefer to say European these days!”, she says. Her father was a technical translator but also an artist and photographer, and her mother a Italian language and literature teacher. In one interview with Jazzwax Georgia said: “I was brought up bilingual, surrounded by artwork by my dad and by others and by great food, books and music. My parents gave my older sister and me a very creative outlook and appreciation for all the arts.”
Georgia studied classical flute for a while although she really wanted to sing, but her grandparents, both classical pianists, suggested she should take time for her voice to mature before rushing into training. Taking their advice, she didn’t start singing until she was nineteen and singing seriously when she was twenty three. By then she had become hooked on recordings by great vocalists such as Sinatra, Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, etc. She learned their songs by heart and took note particularly of the way they expressed their music.
Eventually, Georgia left home and went travelling. On her return, as she told Jazzwax, “I wound up studying film-making while waitressing part-time at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London. Ronnie’s was the best schooling. In my five years there, I heard the finest international and local musicians. I also learned that art was a living, breathing, sweating, messy, ugly, beautiful thing, not just the stuff of records, movies and dreams. Over the years, I learned to sing on the job, with answers to my questions provided by listening to inspiring musicians.”
Georgia released her debut album, Peaceful Place, in 2003 with an impressive line-up of musicians – Gareth Lockrane (flutes), Tim Lapthorn (piano), Andrew Cleyndert (double bass), Ernie Cranenburgh (guitar), Allison Neale (alto sax), Chris Wells (percussion) and the late Dave Colton (guitar). The album was a success and has been followed by seven others; Quiet Is The Star is the latest and her second with Alan Broadbent who worked with her on the 2017 album Songbook.
Here’s a video of Georgia and Alan recording That Time Of Year from Quiet Is The Star – an excellent example of Georgia’s clarity, timing and care for the lyrics
From 2010-2014 Georgia produced her ‘ReVoice! Festival‘ in association with the Pizza Express Jazz Club. Across 5 multi-venue editions she presented over 160 artists including: Rebecca Parris, Tuck & Patti, Raul Midon, Gregory Porter (his first UK booking), Beady Belle, Carleen Anderson, Carmen Souza, Karin Krog and Diana Torto/Kenny Wheeler/John Taylor and performed 44 sets herself. The event was captured in an album, but this promotional video gives a taste of what ReVoice! was all about:
Since 2017 she has gone on to produce 3 editions of her new series, ‘Hang‘, showcasing her ever-evolving creativity as a curator and collaborative kudos and versatility with artists including Ian Shaw, Liane Carroll, Nigel Price, Nikki Iles, Alina Bzhezhinska, Gareth Lockrane, Trish Clowes and Tom Cawley. Here is an introduction to the last Hang! in 2019 before Coronavirus disrupted everything.
As lock-down eases and gigs begin to resume, it will be great to have the chance to hear Georgia sing live again. In the meanwhile, the Quiet Is The Star album is a joy.
If My Heart Should Love Again is one of my favourite tracks from the album. We can listen to it and see the lyrics in this video:
As a lyricist, the words she writes and sings are clearly important to Georgia and she and Alan Broadbent clearly have a close rapport in bringing together words and music, despite Alan being based in America. He has said, “Every once in a while, melodic inspirations would pop into my head uninvited, expressing my inner feelings with just notes and chords but without words. That is, until they met Georgia Mancio. She has the same love for song as I do and knows the language they need to speak to the heart. She also found, word for word, note for note, solutions to my sometimes enigmatic titles and gave life to the sentiment they implied.”
Their book The Songs of Alan Broadbent and Georgia Mancio book is available in both digital and physical formats (wire-bound to stay open!) from Georgia’s website – click here. The 94-page volume is presented with the elegance and expanse of an art book: with clear lead sheets (in standard female keys), Simon Manfield’s evocative artwork (pen and ink illustrations and watercolour landscapes) from both albums, Songbook and Quiet Is The Star, photos and song by song descriptions.
I caught up with Georgia for a virtual tea break:
Hi Georgia, it’s really good to be able to check in with you for a tea break – tea or coffee?
Hi Ian, when it comes to coffee I’m a fussy Italian but I’m happy with strong English Breakfast tea!
I’ll make a note of that next time and let you order the coffee! I have mentioned your new album Quiet Is The Star and also the book a few times on my website and from what I can see you are getting a good response. How is it going?
I’ve been very moved by the response actually. Both projects came out of such an intense time for everyone – to channel the loss we have all felt this last year into something positive and creative has been a life saver and to have people respond to the purity of our intent has meant such a lot.
I can understand that. I know the concept behind the album has been to explore the ties we weave in life, what led you to that idea?
Honestly, we recorded the songs we were both most drawn to without thought of an album arc at the time. Only in putting it together some months later was it clear that the concept was already there. That makes it feel very authentic to me, especially as the subjects and subject matter of all the songs are so personal. I don’t think we were reaching for anything: the writing, song selection and album production truly reflect where we were at.
Listening to the lyrics, I think the songs will resonate personally with a lot of people. I was wondering, do you have a favourite track from the album? I guess it could be that you have a favourite in terms of your lyrics and another for Alan ’s music?
My two favourites are the title track and All My Life. Quiet Is The Star may well be my favourite of all our songs because of its (apparent) simplicity, which I think is actually pretty hard to do! All My Life was written maybe three weeks before we recorded it and as soon as I heard it, I cried. I could feel all the emotion and depth Alan had poured into it: it was a really profound experience. And it’s about my sister so was always going to be magical.
All My Life is a really lovely song – I can understand why you cried!
People must have asked you how you manage to collaborate so effectively with Alan, with you being based here in the UK and Alan in America? How does that work?
Well obviously it’s not the most convenient in terms of playing and sometimes I wish we could just go through songs together. But I guess what the geographical set up has done, is inadvertently focus the songwriting. It allows each of us the space to work on our part so that we create a stronger statement when we join them together. And because we are used to working remotely, we have not only been less affected by this last year, it’s actually been a really productive time.
It is a shame we cannot meet up for this conversation due to the Covid restrictions otherwise I’d offer you a biscuit or something. What would you have chosen? I have got into Borders Lemon Drizzles since Adrian Cox introduced me to them when he dropped in.
Well that’s a tricky one because my biscuit choices have been somewhat complicated of late. I worked through most of the Mulino Bianco repertoire on my recent trip to Italy so today, I’ll go for the very sugary Savoiardi.
I’m learning as much about biscuits during these tea breaks as I am about people’s music! We call Savoiardi ‘Lady’s Fingers’ and I really like them in tirimasu. I like it too that they are apparently ‘boudoir biscuits’!! It seems that they originated in the late 15th century at the court of the Duchy of Savoy and were created to mark the occasion of a visit by the King of France. It was later that they were called Savoiardi and became recognized as an “official” court biscuit. I must admit that I have never come across them in a boudoir but I can see that they would go perfectly with tea taken ‘properly’ in a teapot and china cups!
It has been tough during lock-down, but have you been able to listen to anyone else you would recommend that we look out for in the future?
I discovered two wonderful New York based vocalists Samara Joy and Lucy Yeghiazaryan: both so rooted in classic jazz tradition but also very fresh at the same time.
There are some more recent videos by Lucy on YouTube, but although the sound quality is not so good, I discovered this video of her with the Maniacs from three years ago singing Honeysuckle Rose at Smalls in New York City, it swings nicely – click here. But to bring us more up to date, a video uploaded this year has her singing Robbin’s Nest with the wonderful pianist Emmet Cohen who I discovered recently:
What are you planning for the time when the government ‘road map ’ opens up for live gigs again? Will you be able to tour with the album?
We haven’t made any plans yet: it still feels pretty precarious organising something of that magnitude right now. Obviously I’d love to get back to Ronnie’s, where we launched our previous album Songbook in 2017 and hopefully some European dates too. Right now though, any chance to play live feels like it will be a celebration, so let’s hope we can all do so safely soon.
Dave Colton Photograph courtesy of Brian O’Connor images of jazz.
If you could could tour and include any past musician to join you, who would it be?
Our community just lost a very special musician, the guitarist Dave Colton, who was a friend and colleague for 20 years so I would just love to play with him again. And I often ran through my and Alan’s songs with him and am so pleased he got to hear the new album and see the book and give me his seal of approval.
What would you want to talk to him about during the tea break?
Ah well that was the beauty of working with Dave because not only was he a deeply soulful musician, but you really could chat to him about anything: from the mundane to the profound! These last few years we ranted about Brexit a lot together (as staunch Remainers) and he always had good practical advice as well as a kind, empathetic ear. I will really miss him.
Let’s raise a cup of tea to Dave then, Georgia, and to all those other people we have missed but will meet again. Thanks for dropping in, Georgia. Many of us are looking forward to hearing you again when gigs restart. In the meanwhile, why don’t you choose something for us to play out with?
How about Samara Joy with Pasquale Grasso, ‘Stardust’?
Nice choice – and how about choosing a couple of lines or so from your lyrics for us to think about?
These are some of the lyrics from Quiet Is The Star:
As I close my eyes, I see the sky, I watch the birds go by.
They seem to tell us, we too can find: which way to follow, which ties to bind.
Perfect! – and that also gives us the chance to listen to that beautiful title track: