I love singers and I love jazz. This album indulges some of my favourites that have influenced, inspired and introduced me to a kaleidoscope of styles, tones and ranges that all encompass the genre of jazz. I have been enticed by many standout interpretations, which include Janet Lawson improvisation on Dindi; Stardust as beautiful and pure as only Doris Day can; Cry Me A River in the uniquely theatrical style that is Barbra Streisand and originals such as Jackie & Roy with their kitsch Runaround; La Cantatrice classically sung by Diahann Carroll and Jean Carn’s vocal acrobatics on Closer Than Close. These are my chosen songs and singers:

1. Stormy

I recall a specific Bognor Regis Soul Weekender with its in-house radio station. Too young myself I had to settle for a 90-minute cassette tape of songs brought back for me containing Call Me by Nancy Wilson and Stormy by a singer I would later know as Flora Purim. I had no idea who she was, I just loved the sound she created. The innovative fusion of Brazilian rhythms and melodies combined with seventies grooves in Airto and Flora’s music has completely shaped my taste in jazz. I met Flora Purim at Ronnie Scott’s in 2010, the last time she was there, and stood star-struck waiting for her to sign a CD for me. There was a lump in my throat as she sang Vera Cruz that night.

2. A Slow Hot Wind

Sarah Vaughan: voice of an angel, the finest voice ever in jazz and a voice that dramatically changed over the course of her career. She disliked being pigeon-holed into one genre but I’m glad she chose jazz. From Shulie-a-Bop to Interlude to The Mystery of Man, she is my ‘queen of jazz’ forever. When Mancini decided to do a songbook with a singer there were only two people on the female list and he knew that if Sarah Vaughan sang his songbook she would make his songs live on.

3. Meditation

I fell in love with Brazilian music after discovering Flora Purim and my first job was selling original Brazilian albums and reissuing compilations called Rare Brasil with a Russian conductor called Gennady Zalcovitch (Soldier Story - Glenda Jackson/Nureyev). I would spend my days listening to these amazing voices before I had to go on and sell them to dealers and to shops such as Mike Chadwick’s Decoy Records, Soul Jazz and Mr Bongo. I chose this Jobim song because I like the sentiment in the lyrics. During the recording there was a lot on the news and still is about the soldiers in Afghanistan amongst other places the world over and I tried to imagine what it must be like to say goodbye to your loved one and have to wait, hoping that they would return: “Though you’re far away, I have only to close my eyes and you are back to stay…” Timeless, and Duncan’s solo encapsulates the pensive mood.

4. Sugar

DJ Giles Peterson was so influential on my formative years with his Jazz Juice albums and I remember hearing this vocal version of Sugar by Roland Kirk and always loved the feel of it more than the Stanley Turrentine original. Ours has more of a funk feel, and features a solo by Arthur Lea.

5. Little B's Poem

Before Flora, the main vocal influence in my life was Jean Carn. Every Friday, Hastings Pier would host a disco where two soul-boy DJs (Bob James and another DJ whose name I can’t recall) spun their vinyl. They would play soul, funk, disco and hip hop and when I heard Was that All It Was I thought I’d died and gone to soul heaven. It was only later that I heard Little B’s Poem, a collaboration with husband Doug Carne, whom I was overjoyed to see perform together at Ronnie Scott’s in 2012. Jean said in the show that Bobby Hutcherson wrote it for his little Bobby and then Jean wrote the vocals for their daughter and when we started this album I was pregnant with my first. What better song to devote to your children?

6. Love Dance

The first LP I bought was by George Benson. In the 80s when he was recording more of a soul repertoire I would love hearing the occasional jazz standard; his vocals were always full of great embellishments (listen to his version of You Don’t Know What Love Is). The song is a Brazilian/US writer collaboration between Ivan Lins and Paul Williams who wrote the English words. I remember going along to a Mark Murphy workshop organised by UK singer Gill Manly. We had to bring a song along and I chose this one. It was so nerve-racking to sing and be assessed by someone like Mark Murphy, one of the greatest living jazz singers. I remember him with his flask and wearing his woolly scarf telling me to not open my mouth so wide!

7. Get Thee Behind Me Satan

A biblical quote; the reply of Jesus when tempted by the Devil but of all the Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks albums the Irving Berlin album is my favourite. The 1958 recording won a Grammy for Cheek to Cheek. Irving Berlin wrote this in 1935 for Top Hat starring Fred and Ginger but it ended up in Follow the Fleet sung by Harriet Hilliard who sings as she gazes at her reflection before being swept off her feet by a sailor! I had already recorded Russian Lullaby (Urban Dwellers – Shop Worn Angel) and this song is rarely sung, and has always been cherished by me so this is to Irving and Ella.

8. All I Can Do

My love of vocal harmony started with my parents’ Mamas and the Papas and The Carpenters albums. This song is from the first Carpenters’ album - I think Karen and Richard must have had jazz hearts. A song in 5/4 is pretty unheard of for a pop song or maybe Richard loved Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. Karen Carpenter: another low voice with a melancholic edge. Listen to her singing Eve and Someday for how to evoke heart-breaking sadness within a song.

9. Hushabye Mountain

Dick Van Dyke sang this in Albert Broccoli’s 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It is always good to research who else has recorded songs before you and I am in fine company: Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Julian Lloyd Webber and the infamous Chipmunks! I was introduced to the vocals of Bobby Gentry fairly recently (thanks Val Jennings), someone I had completely missed. There is something haunting about her low voice, which appeals to me. I also chose this song because of my love of musicals. From the age of five I wanted to be a musicals’ star. I grew up (and still love) watching the films of Judy Garland, Doris Day, Deanna Durbin, Ginger Rogers, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and wanted to be just like them. Now I have satisfied that desire with my Celebration of Doris Day show that I perform once a year at Ronnie Scott’s to celebrate her birthday. Anyway, our version lost the lullaby on the way to visiting Pat Metheny!

10. In a Sentimental Mood

Nancy Wilson has another one of those unmistakable voices and has made many a fine album. The standout for me is Lush Life from 1967 with her version of Midnight Sun but it is her renditions of Call Me and Sunshine that I love the most!


Jazz fm's Bob Sinfield interviews Sarah Weller on her forthcoming show that celebrate the life of Doris Day on the eve of er 91st birthday.