Deep, operatic and reminiscent of the early smoky jazz clubs, Mimi Hart launches “My Funny Valentine” with the dark and minor Shakespearean intro not often heard. Relaxing into the relief of a major key, she adds tumbling piano riffs followed by a gypsy-tinged guitar, and a beautiful, fat sax line. Mimi shows her ability to portray mood and state of mind with an educated voice.
Her sensitive piano cover of “Under the Bridge” (credit to the Red Hot Chili Peppers) is stunning, thought-provoking, classic and classical.
The sassy anthem “Cry Me a River” lands on the right amount of bitterness and emotional self-preservation; and she swings on a jaunty version of “Autumn Leaves.”
Whether her voice is derived from her throat or fingertips, there is a depth and freshness accorded to songs you thought you knew.
You have a real storyteller’s way with the lyrics- “My Funny Valentine” on the new “Compilation” CD – do you have a background in theater?
I come from a lineage of family performers. Both of my parents were musically talented and I grew up surrounded by artistic, creative people – all of whom were incredible storytellers. When performing, I try to use those family experiences to convey the message of the song.
Why do you gravitate to this era of songs?
The portrayed glitz and glamour of the jazz era has always had a huge influence on my life. Luckily for me, that style of music also best suits my voice.
Who are your favorite composers/arrangers?
Duke Ellington, Cole Porter.
How do you take care of your voice?
I keep my voice warm by exercising it – singing every day!
Have you toured?
Not yet…although I was lucky enough to perform every evening (as a guest singer) when I was recording in San Francisco.
When did you record and release 2017’s “Compilation”?
Talk about being “discovered” in San Francisco?
On a vacation with my friend (now manager), we randomly met the incredible Mike Lipskin (jazz stride pianist) in Bix [Restaurant]. I had the opportunity to sing while he played and he liked what he heard. He then arranged for us to do a joint recording, in San Francisco, a few months later.
Was it thrilling to collaborate with Mike?
I feel very honored to be able to work with such a jazz legend. He has given me a lot of confidence in my own ability and style. He has also given me the opportunity to work with world-class musicians in a first-class recording studio.
Were you always a singer? When did you decide to do it professionally?
I’ve been singing from the age of 10 and have been lucky enough to make a living from it for most of my working life.
Who is that fab sax player on “Cry Me A River”?
Jeff Sanford, from the band Cartoon Jazz.
Do you have an ensemble?
Back in the U.K. I work with anything from myself as a solo artist, to a duo (with a baby grand piano), to a nine-piece swing band, and anything in between. Band members often differ as I flex between ensembles.
What is the jazz scene like by you?
I live in a very rural county (called Shropshire) in the U.K. Most of my work is for private individuals as there aren’t any jazz clubs here. There are however, some great venues in London.
What types of clubs do you most enjoy singing in?
I love to sing in intimate venues, where the audience can really feel the passion in my performance.
What instruments are your favorites for accompaniment?
I love to be accompanied by a great pianist, but would love to have the opportunity to perform with a string orchestra!
What is the most challenging part of building a career in song?
For me, the hardest bit has been getting known! It’s a little Catch 22 – until people know you …you don’t get the gigs….until you get the gigs ….people don’t know you!
Where would you most like to play that you have not yet?
The Royal Albert Hall – the acoustics in there are incredible!
Do you compose and write lyrics?
I have written and composed in the past, however I’m currently focusing on my trad jazz performances.
Plans for growing your career in 2018?
I hope this is a pivotal year for me. I’m planning on breaking into the jazz scene in U.S. Hopefully my new recordings will help me to do that.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Mimi Hart.
© Debbie Burke 2018