Ernie Andrews once sang ‘You Can Hide Inside the Music’. This Jimmy Heath piece tells of the comfort the listener feels through the music. Except that, for the singer, there’s nowhere to hide. The singer is in plain sight. The singer is supposed to be the one bringing the comfort and emotion and soulfulness that you need. Singers will carry the blues for you. They will deliver it to you, taking the plunge under the spotlight of exposure. A singer is a different animal. They can’t hide inside the music.
Sarah Thorpe has always taken such risks, daring to play in all contexts, from duet to sextet, gliding through tricky arrangements or leading the way with no safety net at all.
She was born near Paris, of an English mother and French father, growing up in France and regularly visiting Yorkshire. Although she wasn’t steeped in a musical atmosphere, she always felt inclined to develop her artistic abilities. Singing was an early passion and so she sang while she studied philosophy.
She gigged around in Paris, sometimes in London, studying with Daniela Barda, Sara Lazarus, Rachel Gould, Kevin Mahogany and, most importantly, the unique Michele Hendricks. She paid her dues in bars and restaurants, singing for private cocktails, but all the while she was focusing on her own music, composing and listening intently.
That’s how she managed quality encounters on the Paris scene, playing with Jason Marsalis, Kirk Lightsey, Hermon Mehari, Hugo Lippi, Talib Kibwe, Darryl Hall, Ronald Baker, Sean Gourley…
For several years, she has worked with Alain Jean-Marie, the extraordinary pianist from Guadeloupe (who played and recorded with Abbey Lincoln, Chet Baker, Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer…) who is her ideal duet partner.
Her first album was with pianist and arranger Olivier Hutman, who played with a varied cast that includes Roy Hargrove, Clifford Jordan, Charles Aznavour, Clark Terry and Stéphane Grapelli.
Her influences are many, with a soft spot for Carmen Lundy, Carmen McRae, Dianne Reeves, Aretha Franklin, Lizz Wright, Kevin Mahogany, Erykah Badu and the RH Factor. She blends straight-ahead jazz with modern sounds, eschewing the dreary world of over-played standards, exploring the world of composers such as Wayne Shorter, Carmen Lundy and contemporary players like Bobby Watson, Antonio Hart, Marcus Printup, Dezron Douglas…
Avoiding the theatrics of spectacular tricks, her singing is heartfelt, her voice clear and pure. Within the jazz world, she has built her own world, with melody and emotion at the front—and no, she is not hiding inside the music.