Contact Details for Gill Ward at foot of the pageGill Ward - Jazz Diva 2002 finalist - read Gill's own account

Some background...

Gill Ward's singing career was inspired, she says, by the example of her paternal grand-mother who worked in musical theatre under the name of Alice Palmer. However, it was through the classical repertoire that Gill was to achieve her earliest exposure on the English stage, singing in the late 8O's as a member of the chorus in Carmen, La Traviata and Nabbucco, before gaining a solo part in the Carl Weber opera Der Freishutz. Appearances with the Floral Opera Company included London's famed Royal Opera House as well as other theatres in the surrounding Home Counties.
Gill fretted at the rigid limitations of classical opera, and before long was drawn to the new experimental 'jazz operas' being perfomed across London in the early 90's under the direction of the extraordinary composer Avant-garde composer Jana DugalJana Dugal. She was able to secure parts in Dugal's 'Voice Circus', 'Big Top', 'Encore' and 'The Way To Go' - becoming comfortable with free improvisation along the way. "It was a very liberating experience" Gill recalls "but freedom has its own set of rules too, and I was able to put the experience gained to good use in my mainstream jazz and blues work".
In addition to her gigs in London, Gill is a familiar figure on the local music scene in Essex and Southend, where she became a regular at the Palace Theatre 'Jazz In The Foyer' sessions throughout the 90's, going on to present her own monthly Jazz Singers' Night at the Grand Hotel, Leigh-on-Sea. She drew the inspiration for this 'open house' presentation following her having been asked to host a similar event at the Tango Bar in Ronnie Scott's London club.


It was partly as a result of Gill's search for songs with a lyric that had depth and truth, and partly an urge to create new songs, that led her towards a collaboration with pianist and composer Simon Balkham. Simon Balkham, award winning songwriterThey have received international recognition for their work and Gill's version of Simon's 'Seven Shades Of Blue' won an award in Hollywood USA in the Unisong Composers Contest. Selected from over 47,000 entries worldwide, Gill's recording was one of half a dozen songs penned by Simon which appeared on her debut album,1998's 'State Of Mind'. Gill says "I sensed straight away that Simon's lyrical approach was central to his vision of the song. "He takes infinite care with the words: not just the meaning, but the sound of them - and how they fit within the rhythm.Best of all for me, he writes from a female perspective and I have found this to be so rare".

and Compositions...

On the subject of lyrics, Gill is typically forthright.Slush is out."Love's not like that" she says "it's tough more often than not, and my audiences know it". Asked about her influences, Gill is more forthcoming. "Wherever I go, I am asked from which singers I draw my inspiration, and I have to say that, in truth, although I must have absorbed something from everyone I've ever heard, I can't recall setting out to consciously imitate anyone". The content of the latest album certainly bears out Gill's open approach to song sources. Written especially for the 'Piece Of Mind' CD, Gill and Simon completed a tango called 'Poisoned Kiss' which is given two different treatments by the USA and the UK teams respectively, plus a suitably cynical bluesy piece called 'Fairy Tale Romance' penned by Simon with Gill in mind no doubt. Also in the mixed bag of delights is a Balkham classic called 'Quicksand' plus three of Gill's own compositions, a rude piece from Brian Shaw and the seldom-performed tragi-comic Meredith/Passman song 'Miss Harper goes Bizarre' which Gill invests with great poignancy.

New York, New York...

Over in New York, in late 2002 Gill had already started recording some of the remaining album tracks at the Blue Parrot Studios, utilising the talents of musicians Gill, utilising the talents of musicians...from the late Chet Baker's Band, plus Phil Bowler from Doctor John's Blues Band. Phil is the musical director at radio station WPKN where he presents his program 'Jazz Adventures In America', having Gill as a regular guest.
Gill visits New York frequently for her live gigs, so it seemed natural and musically right for her to record with some of the players with whom she had developed a rapport.
Operatic technique, free-wheeling jazz, avant-garde improvisation and a big personality - how would America take Gill's approach to their music? The answer was soon to be provided by New York's hip club audiences. Gill has visited many times and has been well received at both large and small venues across the city. Cleopatra's Needle on Broadway, Mona Lisa's on Madison Ave., Small's, 101's, 88's, Rosie's and a number of clubs in Greenwich Village and Bleeker Street. All have responded warmly to Gill's mix of material, her self-deprecating charm and her warm but worldly way with a lyric.

East End, West End...

Gill Ward in the UK is frequently to be heard in live spots at the Tatty Bogle club (off Regent Street] in London's West End, not to mention her occasional appearances at The Vortex!. The week leading up to Christmas 2002 found her playing one of the capital's most prestigous venues - The Pizza On The Park, Mayfair. In addition to the talents of an exceptional rhythm section comprising Simon Brown (piano), Bernie Hodgkins (bass) and Roger O'Dell(drums), Gill enlisted the talents of Colin Watling on saxes and was able to persuade her songwriting partner, the talented but reclusive Simon Balkham, to join her on stage for live renditions of the co-written originals featured on Gill's studio recordings. Special guest appearance by Brian Shaw, a fine singer in the Tony Bennett tradition, rounded out a most satisfying bill of musical fare.
Gill does not neglect the jazz clubs of Essex, who still find her a welcome visitor - The Hermit Club in Brentwood just one of many eager to savour the home-grown but USA proven talent.
In April 2002, Gill was given the opportunity to join in a live one-on-one with jazz singer Jo Hendricks at the Wolsey Studio in ...the intimate space of The Wolsey Studio, IpswichIpswich, as part of the PULSE festival, and was quick to accept. "I've admired Jo's vocal stylings since I first heard her and love the contrast between us - especially in the intimate space of the Wolsey Studio, with the clearly audible audience breathing with us, following every nuance, every twist and turn of melody or rhythm".
Gill topped off winter 2002/3 recording with Grammy nominated producer Dave Cooke, who had assembled some of the country's finest jazz players - Jim Mullen, James Pearson, Alec Dankworth, Sebastian de Krom, and legendary trumpeter Digby Fairweather - to provide a lush musical landscape in which her increasingly sophisticated vocals could flourish. And flourish they did, with a stunning collection of treatments of songs mostly original or unfamiliar. Such an album repays repeated listening, and those that have bought the CD are proving a knowledgable and enthusiastic live audience whenever Gill takes the stage. A target release date of May 2003 has been fulfilled and you can read what the critics had to say on the reviews page of this website.
[Read a review of this album]

"Piece Of Mind"

Gill Ward - vocals
Ross Lawson - saxophones
James Pearson/Dave Cooke - piano
Alec Dankworth - bass
Sebastian de Krom - drums
Digby Fairweather - trumpet
Jim Mullen - guitar
and in the USA...
Matthew Criscoulo - saxophone
Joe McWilliams - piano
Phil Bowler - bass
Artt Frank - drums

Borrowed Time, Life's A Bitch, Quicksand, Miss Harper Goes Bizarre, Poisoned Kiss (USA), Just Doodling, Dream Of A Man, Tomato Ketchup, Poisoned Kiss (UK), Fairytale Romance.

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Borrowed Time
Miss Harper Goes Bizarre
Poisoned Kiss
Fairytale Romance Quicksand


Gill Ward's web links:

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More Pictures in the Gallery

Gill Ward - jazz singer

Groovin' with Jeff Clyne at Brentwood Hermit Club

At the 2002 Jazz Diva Finals, Isle Of Wight

New York's famed Blue Note jazz club

Phil Bowler - bass and DJ

Artistes' menu - Pizza On The Park, Mayfair

Booking Information - click to send e-mail to Gill

Piece Of Mind