Jazz singer with an openness to many ways of making music and a gift for imparting a beguiling freshness to classic material
The buoyancy and warmth of the British jazz singer Tina May, who has died of a brain tumour aged 60, were lifelong virtues that made a difficult art sound natural, drew every listener into an intimate space that seemed to be receiving her full attention, and allowed her to impart a beguiling freshness to lyrics that she might have sung hundreds of times before.
Like many of the best vocal artists of the genre, May understood and liked the company of jazz’s instrumentalists, and closely studied their phrasing and timing – but she used these informal lessons in her own ways, interpreting lyrics in both English and fluent French. She avoided the temptation to mimic iconic American models except in an effortless alertness to swing, and shaped her own palette of blues inflections, beboppish rhythmic twists, wordless improv and inventive new lyrics to old songs. She was a shrewd handler of classic materials.
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