Yolanda Brown on her new album, singing live for the first time and returning to the place her career began (From Haringey Independent)
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Yolanda Brown on her new album, singing live for the first time and returning to the place her career began
Yolanda Brown on her new album April Showers, May Flowers and returning to the place her career began
Yolanda Brown answers the phone with an infectious laugh. She’s got a lot to be happy about. A string of awards on the mantlepeice (including two MOBOs, and the accolade of being the first to win two consecutive Best Jazz awards), the self-taught saxophonist is now celebrating the release of her debut album, April Showers, May Flowers.
“The title really came from the idea that everybody has to work through something that was not in the plan,” explains the 29-year-old Tottenham musician. “I know I have.
“From the millionaire to the school child, everybody has to work through a scenario or a problem in their life, but if they persevere, stick with it, believe they can do it, then the May flowers do come.”
Hard work and perseverence has been a coda in Yolanda’s career, which comes full circle when she returns triumphant to the Millfield Theatre this week. Aged 14, Yolanda played her beloved saxophone, taken up the year before, in the theatre lobby to arriving audiences. On Friday it’s the main stage for the former Bancroft’s School pupil.
“I’m excited to be returning in my own right,” she giggles, currently rehearsing with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra ahead of two dates with them at Hammersmith Apollo. “It really is a homecoming. That’s where I was introduced to music.”
After starting on piano at six years of age, Yolanda tried the recorder, oboe, drums and violin before finding the instrument that would make her name.
“I’m not sure why the saxophone of all instruments appealed to me the most,” she explains, “but I just felt at home with it. I love the music it made.”
It’s been with the independent artist ever since; there in St Petersburg when she played to the President of Russia, and there when she was invited to take tea with the Queen.
Putting it down, as she will be on Friday when she performs the two songs from the new album on which she sings for the first time, understandably takes some getting used to.
“When I put down the saxophone on its stand,” Yolanda remembers of her first experience singing live in December last year, “I was like, ’Oh! There’s nothing between me and the audience anymore’, so it was very different.”
The separation even provides the inspiration for a song on her debut – Without You. “It’s a bit about a long-distance relationship but also about my saxophone as well!” Yolanda admits. “When we made the decision to experiment with vocals it was without my saxophone. It was there next to me but I’m not using it, so it’s that emotion of being without it – a love song to my sax!”
It’s been a fruitful romance, but there’s another passion in Yolanda’s life – management science.
After gaining a first in her degree, then two masters degrees in the subject, Yolanda last year put her PhD temporarily on hold.
“It’s worlds apart. But I’ve always had the saxophone with me. It’s always been under the bed or by my side. I only decided music was really taking over after I’d won the second MOBO!”
Although her doctorate will have to wait, it didn’t stop her recieving an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of East London. Will she be using the title?
“You never know,” she laughs, “it’s still very new to me, ’Dr Brown’. “It’s one of the things I get nervous about. What if you’re needed in a medical situation? I’m not that type of doctor! But I’ll play you a song and you’ll feel much better!”
Yolanda Brown is at Millfield Arts Centre, Silver Street, Edmonton on Friday, February 24, at 8pm. Details: 020 8807 6680