Victoria singer Susannah Adams was bitten by jazz bug


What: Susannah Adams, release of her debut CD, As the Morning Light
Where: Hermann’s Jazz Club, 753 View St.
When: Saturday, May 26, 8 p.m.(Doors/dinner at 6 p.m.)
Admission: $20 at the door.

Susannah Adams had no real passion for music during her youth in England. She listened to a bit of Brit pop, like everyone else, but knew nothing about jazz.

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If anything, she expected to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor.

“I didn’t grow up in a very musical household at all,” Adams says.

Then, in her early 20s, Adams received a couple of CDs as a gift from a friend. One taste of Billie Holiday and Miles Davis, and everything changed.

“Just something struck really deeply,” she says. “I felt it welling inside of me and I needed to sing.

“I was very nervous about it, because singing can be such a vulnerable thing to do. It’s not very supported in our culture. In other cultures, people sit around and sing and make music so freely, but not so much for us.”

Fortunately, her sister took the initiative and found a singing teacher who recognized that Adams had a gift worth sharing.

“It was a lot of talking and then just a little bit of singing and getting over the fear of it, to be honest,” she recalls.

“Then, my teacher just started booking me some gigs and I jumped in head-first. I started working weekly at a few hotels and restaurants.

“I needed a bit of hand-holding, I did. My teacher booked me the gigs and I was like: ‘And you’re coming with me, aren’t you? And sitting right there?

“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to do it and I had a little notebook with all my lyrics in it that I held in my hand. I just trusted in it. I just trusted my teacher that this was the thing to be doing.”

The work waned when Adams moved cities a couple of times in Britain, met her husband, moved back to his home in Victoria and had a child.

“Things ebb and flow,” she says.

Then, eight years ago, she felt ready to tap into her passion once more.

“Luckily in Victoria everyone knows everyone,” she says. “Friends of friends were having regular Saturday jazz jams, so I went along with my baby.

“I didn’t know what I was going to, but I could hear the music down the street, so I cautiously knocked on the door and opened up to this wonderful jazz session, and they welcomed me with open arms.

“It was a beautiful introduction to the music scene here.”

Her career progressed rapidly after that. She has worked with top flight musicians in town, played the Victoria International JazzFest, won scholarships to jazz workshops in the United States, and, with Daniel Lapp, opened for the Paperboys at the Hornby Island Music Festival last summer — playing her first original composition.

In between, Adams has found time to raise two children, help her husband run an urban farm and teach music classes for young families.

“It’s a full and vibrant life,” she says, laughing.

She’ll add to that vibrancy Saturday with the release of her debut album, As the Morning Light — a live session recorded in three days at Joby Baker’s studio in Victoria. The album includes Adams’ own songs as well as jazz standards, and features performances by Miles Black (piano), Oliver Gannon (guitar), Miguelito Valdes (trumpet), Joey Smith (bass) and Kelby MacNayr (drums).

“It’s a dream,” Adams says of the album. “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s only now that I’ve been ready to stand firmly and say: ‘Look, this is me. This is what I’ve done.’

“I’ve been a little apprehensive about doing the permanence of a recording, but I feel I’ve a done a lot of growing in my musicality and I feel good about it.”

Future tour dates will include Pat’s House of Jazz in Crofton, Frankie’s Jazz Club in Vancouver, the Islands Folk Festival in Duncan and the Hornby Festival.

“Right now, with the music, I’ve never felt such a strong vocation to really put my entirety into this work,” Adams says.

“It seems to be the one outlet that is really calling and really making an impact.”

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