Today marks a year since British jazz vocalist Tina May sadly passed away. On hearing of her death, I wanted to write a blog post of thanks about her – but it somehow didn’t feel the right time.
Last week, however, I was performing at the Wine Rooms, on the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells and she popped into my thoughts again. A year on feels the time to say a few important words which want to be spoken. Tina often springs to mind when I sing September in the rain. And the location of the Pantiles also has its relevance. She won’t have known it, but Tina May was a significant reason I carried on in my pursuit of jazz…
I’ll take romance was released in 2003, so it must have been around then that I heard Tina sing with her band for the first time. Working as a student in my summer holidays, I’d love coming back to work on the Pantiles to save up for the next year’s studies. Jazz on the Pantiles is a longstanding Tunbridge Wells institution and, back when it was a free and a seated event where people could actively listen, I would take the opportunity to join the audience and be inspired when not working a bar shift.
Well, I’d never seen or heard a jazz singer like Tina. I sat in awe throughout and jumped up to buy a CD (remember those?) in the interval. I remember Tina’s warmth and gentle charm as she handed me I’ll take romance and, as I gushed at her that I hadn’t heard a soprano voice sing jazz before, she replied with such lovely encouragement – that she was also classically trained and that I could still find my way into jazz as a soprano. Well, that CD is now sadly tucked away somewhere “safe”, but the message she wrote on inlay has remained with me ever since:
“Dear Jenny, Keep on singing! love Tina”.Tina May
Well Tina, I have. September in the rain is regularly featured in my set, dedicated to you (and also recorded on Café Society’s EP Café Espresso) . I have so much gratitude for the time you took to encourage a young woman finding her voice, during your break. 20 years on, here’s a little bit more of your legacy – along with all the fabulous music you made. I hope your family and colleagues somehow get to read this. Rest well.
Love Jenny x