Tribute to legendary ladies of jazz world

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A music festival is paying tribute to the greats of the jazz world.

American singer Susan Valliant Speer is performing The Legendary Ladies of Jazz at Guyzance Hall on Saturday, the first time jazz has featured in the annual Northumberland Music Festival.

She will be performing the music of six of the greatest jazz divas of the 20th century from Bessie Smith to Ella Fitzgerald.

The show features some of the singers’ best known and most popular songs with many of their original arrangements specially recreated for Susan.

Legendary Ladies tells the story of each woman’s life and times through their music, interwoven with Susan’s entertaining chat about where their music came from.

Linked by narrative monologue, and with appropriate props and costumes, other legends featured will be Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Sophie Tucker and Billie Holiday.

Susan said: “This is a new way of presenting jazz music that all audiences appreciate. Legendary Ladies is an original concept, and both jazz followers and sceptics tell us this an experience not to be forgotten. I want to open up the experience of jazz to everyone.”

Susan grew up in Los Angeles and took piano lessons from the great Paul Smith, who was Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist and arranger for 25 years.

One of her greatest honours came when she was invited to sing in the White House for President Bill Clinton.

She settled in the UK in 2000 and lives in Northampton, where she is a regular contributor to local radio as a jazz critic and performer.

Tickets for Saturday’s show cost £59, including a welcome drink and three-course meal. Drinks are at 6.15pm with the show itself starting at 7.45pm.

The festival, which takes place in Doxford Hall, Guyzance Hall and Eshott Hall, takes place over three weekends until November 24.

Programme details are available at www.nmfestival.com. Tickets can be booked on the website or through Northumberland Music Festival, The Cheviot Centre, Padgepool Place, Wooler, email info@nmfestival.co.uk or 01668 283100. HospiceCare North Northumberland will receive a proportion of all tickets sold.

The winner of a Gazette competition to win a pair of festival tickets is Mrs M Davidson, of Glendale Road, Wooler.