‘Her voice has all the real drama of the truly great Jazz Singers’
…… Jeremy Michael Miller
I started singing around Aberdeen on the club scene aged 17, but when I first heard jazz in my early twenties, it was like coming home. I heard a recording of Sarah Vaughan singing ‘If I Loved you’ in a way I had never heard anyone sing before. From then onwards I sought out all the recordings of Jazz singers I could find and each new discovery was like a whole new world. The singers who influenced me most in the early years were Anita O’Day, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, and Marion Montgomery. At the time I was studying a degree in Fine Art at Leeds Polytechnic and I felt jazz improvisation was very close in spirit to the abstract paintings I was creating. I was interested in spaces between objects, using colour as accents, taking a line for a walk … all of these correlate to Jazz improvisation I love to listen to.
After studying vocal technique with Donna Orlando at the Arts Connexion in Edinburgh, I went on to undertake several Jazz workshops with Fionna Duncan, Rob Hall and Ged Brockie. Through one of these, I met Mark Murphy who has been my main influence to this day. It was through his encouragement that I took the plunge and found the courage to get out and realise my lifelong dream of becoming a jazz singer. After recording a demo CD with pianist Paul Harrison I was offered my first gig at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen. Before that gig took place, I was offered a gig at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival. From then on, I have been touring the circuit of Jazz Clubs and venues across Scotland and have steadily gained a wide following. I have been lucky enough to sing with some of the best players around and am privileged to be studying piano with acclaimed musician and teacher John Bone, whose life is steeped in music. For the past six years I have collaborated with pianist Alan King, bass player Ray Leonard (who also writes arrangements for me) and more recently with guitarist Colin Black and drummer Jim Gardiner. In the past few years I have been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where our show 'Mary May sings Billie Holiday' sold out and got us some wonderful reviews. Last year I recorded a CD, ‘This is What You Are’, with my Quintet (and the addition of trombonist Eddie McGovern, alto sax player Craig Dawson and Trumpet player Alan Haggart) which got some great reviews too and we had some fantastic gigs promoting it, not least at the official launch in November with the wonderful Freddie King as guest.
This year I will return to the Edinburgh Fringe with a new show at the Jazz Bar ‘Billie is Blue' which will feature the beautiful ballads (and a few blues) Billie recorded with a focus on the very moving 'Lady in Satin' album, which is my personal favorite.
I would like to thank my late friend and fellow singer Alan Mackay for reminding me that,first and foremost, we are all just fans of this music. Also thanks to my friend Mick Simpson and the late Rob Morsberger for all those hours we spent listening to recordings.
‘Stunning voice’ …. Jazz Aberdeen
‘A natural improviser …. one of the best jazz singers in Scotland’ … Aberdeen Performing Arts
'A very good singer' ...Mark Murphy
‘Brilliant Phrasing’ …Sophie Bancroft
‘One to watch’ …Jim Brooks
‘Faultless set’ … Southside Advertiser
' I was impressed ... a real Jazz Singer' ... Nancy Kelly
'Her voice is in a class of it's own' ... Garioch Jazz Festival