| ||In 2001, 2 time SAMA Award winner Tutu Puoane finished her vocal studies at the music college of the university of cape town (UCT), she turned down a big contract with a major South African record company and decided instead to grab with both hands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity : she accepted a most generous offer of Dutch pianist Jack van Poll - who was living and teaching in cape town at the time - to go and study in Europe in order to develop to the fullest her unique talents as a jazz vocalist and performer. This brave decision shows already some special aspects of Puoaneʼs character : strength, determination and an ability to dream beyond the obvious. Today, miss Puoane has grown into a skilled and experienced singer and performer, having gained respect in Europe from musicians and audiences alike. She released two albums with her European band : ʻsongʼ (2007) and ʻquiet nowʼ (2009, which won a SAMA in 2010), both of which received critical acclaim. One of Europeʼs best big bands, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, invited her to work with them, resulting in an album called ʻMama Africaʼ celebrating the late and great Miriam Makeba, which scooped the South African Music Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album of 2011. Amongst tutuʼs fans are international music celebrities like harmonica-legend Toots Thielemans and queen of jazz voice, miss Dianne Reeves. Yet, to the South African audience she still remains a well-kept secret, only known in small jazz surroundings. The fact that she is arguably one of the best young voices and personalities South Africa has ever produced, should easily change that for the better.
Tutu Puoane was born may 31st, 1979 in Mamelodi township, Pretoria. She started playing music professionally in 1997 in down town Johannesburg. Tutu studied jazz vocals at the university of cape town with Jelena Reveshin and Virginia Davids and at the royal conservatory of The Hague (Netherlands) with Rachel Gould. She played concerts all over the world in countries like Italy, US (New York and New Orleans), Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Luxemburg and Switzerland.
Tutu has performed extensively in South Africa with many great South African musicians. In 2001, she performed at the north sea jazz festival cape town, leading an Afro-latino band, Tucan Tucan. Miiss Puoane toured new york in 2000 as the vocalist with the South African national youth big band. She received several awards from major South African jazz competitions. In 2000 she was won the ʻold mutual jazz encountersʼ for cape region and in 2001 she received a merit award for young promising talent at the Daimler Chrysler South African jazz competition. In 2004 she was the recipient of the standard bank young artist of the year award for music.
In September of 2002, Tutu moved to Europe, spending a year and a half in The Netherlands to study and then relocating in 2004 to her current home in Antwerp, Belgium, where sheʼs working steadily on her career. She released her successful debut album ʻsongʼ in 2007 and the follow-up came with ʻquiet nowʼ in 2009, which won the SAMA Award for the 2010 Best Traditional Jazz Album. Miss Puoane leads her own quartet and is a guest vocalist for the great Brussels Jazz Orchestra, with which she recently released an album in honor of Miriam Makeba, called ʻMama Africaʼ, which also won a SAMA in May 2011 in the same category as 'quiet now'
Tutu has shared the stage with the very best South African and International jazz musicians. Beginning April 2008 she blew away a full house at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, leaving her fellow South Africans in awe of her voice, charisma and unique mix of jazz, soul and African music. On January 2nd 2010 she organized a show at Cape Townʼs international convention centre called ʻone night only with Tutu Puoaneʼ. The warm response of the audience is leading her most probably to making this show into a yearly event.
picture © Hugo Van Beveren
| ||What they said about 'Mama Africa'
2010 has been an exciting year for Tutu Puoane. Her sophomore album 'Quiet Now' won the prestigious SAMA Award and one of her biggest dreams came true. She released an album, her third, with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra; Mama Africa! Mama Africa pays tribute to South Africa's biggest musical icon, the late great Miriam Makeba. This album will be released in South Africa in October.
Mama Africa is een degelijke, goed gemusiceerde, jazzplaat waarin Zuid-Afrikaanse liederen een geheel nieuwe uitgangspositie krijgen. Door de stem van Puoane vergeet je soms even dat je naar pure jazz aan het luisteren bent. Door haar blijft het de muziek van Zuid-Afrika die we hier horen en krijgt Makeba vanuit het hiernamaals weer een stem.
(www.noborderz.nl, March 2010)
De cd Mama Africa klinkt vol en kleurrijk, in de traditie van het Brussels Jazz Orchestra. De band speelt met veel gevoel voor detail een gevarieerde selectie van songs. De wisselwerking tussen stem en orkest, met puntige solo's, vurige passages en krachtig ensemblewerk, klinkt overtuigend.
(De Standaard, Belgium, 10 March 2010)
Zeven verschillende arrangeurs (bijna allemaal BJO-muzikanten) namen deze liederen onder handen en schreven er doorwrochte en indrukwekkende arrangementen voor. De uitvoering is prachtig, zoals we dat van het BJO gewoon zijn: rijke kleurschakeringen tot in de kleinste details, indrukwekkende tuti en fijne soli. Voor Puoane meteen een hele opgave om overeind te blijven, maar haar stem doorstaat de test met glans.
(De Morgen, Belgium, 22 February 2010)
Het Belgische orkest, onder leiding van dirigent-saxofonist-fluitist Frank Vaganee, volgt Tutu als een imposante bruidssleep in een selectie prachtig gearrangeerde Zuid-Afrikaanse songs. Gehuld in een swingende jazzoutfit zijn die songs soms opzwepend, nemen de gedaante aan van een romantische ballad, of grijpen terug op de traditionele Xhosa-muziek. (Telegraaf, the Netherlands, ****)
| ||What they said about 'Quiet Now'
SAMA Award wining album 'Quiet Now' is Tutu Puoane's sophomore offering. It was recorded in one of the best studios in Europe, Fattoria Musica in Osnabrük, Germany in April of 2009 by one of the best sound engineers from Holland, Chris Weeda. This time around Tutu features an all Belgian trio consisting of her partner in music and life, Ewout Pierreux on piano, Nicolas Thys on bass and Lieven Venken on drums. Both Thys and Venken have lived for several years in New York City and they bring that energetic vibe and groove to the music.
A STUNNING example of the art of jazz song, rendered in a South African accent, and very exquisite too. ‘Pure’ is the only word for Puoane’s voice, which is warm and expressive, and imbued with a great depth of feeling. (Al Brownlee, *****)
The winning CD is Titled Quiet Now, after the song composed by van Poll, which she sings with heartfelt sincerity. He has helped her all the way though her career, and I know how grateful she is to him. van Poll is very liberal with his time, and often money, in helping young talent. Her voice is as pure as a stream after the rain. Her phrasing is subtle and her repertoire moves from McCoy Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart To Sing” to Joni Mitchell’s “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” to originals, some with subtle, yet deep African roots. The backing trio of Pierreux, bassist Nicolas Thys and drummer Lieven Venken are sympathetic in their accompaniment and inventive in their solo spots. Each track has a freshness in the way Puoane tells her message of love and peace. Quiet Now is a worthy winner (SAMA award 2010) and will set the standard for next year. (Don Albert, trad jazz jury member SAMA awards)
It’s hard, beyond the spine-chilling creativity of Hlopha Bophelo, to select standout tracks. On different tracks, we hear Puoane’s intense swing sensibility; her almost Ray Charles-ish gift for blending gospel feel and jazz imagination; her soft, carefully thought way through a ballad and her joyous ascent of faster tempos. While Puoane’s Belgian base and European sidemen may bar her from SAMA nominations, it will take a quite remarkable release between now and year-end to displace this as unquestionably the South African jazz album of the year. (Gwen Ansell, 1/1/0/09)
'Daar waar die link [naar Zuid-Afrika] het duidelijkst is, klinkt ze op haar best. Luister vooral naar 'Hlompha Bophelo' en 'Mpho', telkens prachtig ondersteund door het trio van pianist Ewout Pierreux. Vooral de ingetogen hymne 'Mpho', met onder meer een beeldige bassolo, heeft alles om een klassieker te worden.' (cd of the week)
The name of the CD is Quiet Now. Puoane has a distinct, pure voice and her phrasing is subtle against the superlative backing from pianist Ewout Pierreux, bassist Nicolas Thys and drummer Lieven Venken. Not only are they good musicians but they accompany with warm feeling, coating the vocals, or upping the ante when called upon. Solo-wise, each steps up to the plate and hits home runs. Quiet Now is a CD to listen to and savour. The main message is love and peace, but not delivered in a saccharine way. Hold hands with your partner and listen. The variety of the music and its freshness makes this 11-track CD a little gem. (Don Albert, South Africa)
| ||What they said about “Song”
Tutu released her debut album Song in May of 2007, with a small Ducth label, Saphrane. She recorded Song with her trusted working trio of three years, consisting of the talented Belgian pianist Ewout Pierreux , who is fastly becoming a household name in the Belgian Jazz scene and is also one of Toots Thielemans favorite accompanists, the young Dutch drummer Jasper Van Hulten, who is the regular drummer for the Dutch trumpet player, Eric Vloeimans, and also from the Netherlands, the bassist Guus Bakker. The album also features the great Belgian trumpeter Bert Joris, Dutch saxophonist Mete Erker and Belgian guitarist Geert Hellings.
Tutu Puoane stands out courtesy both of her understated but consistently affecting voice (an intimate, pure sound with just the right amount of tremolo) and of her range of material, which unaffectedly embraces everything from the 'hip' jazz of Bob Dorough, through the unashamed emotionalism of the torch song ('He Needs Me') and the pep of the reworked standard (an intriguingly rejigged 'You are My Sunshine'), to the grace of traditional material ('Ke A Go Leboga'). She also pays, on this subtly compelling album, a convincing visit to one of Joni Mitchell's most affecting songs, 'A Case of You', personalizing it by substituting 'Africa' for 'Canada' in its second verse. Versatile without being contrivedly eclectic, and profoundly emotional without resorting to undue dramatics, Tutu Puoane is a singer to watch. – (Chris Parker, october. 2007, www.vortexjazz.co.uk)
Tutu Puoane already enjoys quite a reputation beyond her South African home, especially in Belgium and the Netherlands. Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Joni Mitchell are her idols and to those the 28 year old can best be compared in sound and phrasing. Her alto voice is gentle but definite, not sweetish like with most of the new starlets recently. This debut album raises hope that Tutu’s talent will be elaborated further by and by and with care. A solid basis has been laid, that’s for sure. (www.global-mojo.com)
Sometimes the unexpected happens, you hear a CD and it surprises you calmly yet powerfully. That was the case with jazz vocalist TuTu Puoane's Song. The vocal selections were complete to perfection. I would be hard press to suggest a more perfect CD to jazz listeners. This is Ms. Puoane's first solo album with her own quartet; yet she has received numerous awards from her Country in South Africa and has toured extensively in Europe. The selections feature pianist Ewout Pierreux, drummer Jasper Van Hulten and bassist Guus Bakker.You are greeted by "Just About Everything," which feels like a bright sunny day made complete with the one you love . It's followed by "That's All," a song that strolls gently along with the expression of geniune delight. You can almost feel the connection with the start of a new romance in "For the Time Being". "Rejoice" is a song that defines triumph, joy, and freedom. There is pure elegance in Tutu's rendition of "He Needs Me", followed by the alto saxophonist as he sings the sun up in "You Are My Sunshine." As we listen to "Mango Picker," "Song," In the Case of You," and "Ke A Go Leboga ( I thank you)," we know that Tutu Puoane has put together a beautiful collection of jazz material.- (Beatrice Richardson: www.jazzreview.com)
Everybody who regularly checks out the jazz scene in Belgium and the Netherlands will most probably have heard about the young south african vocalist Tutu Puoane. You might have seen her perform with the famous Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Frits Bayens Big Band or with her own trio, consisting of young and talented musicians Ewout Pierreux (piano, B), Guus Bakker (bass, NL) and Jasper Van Hulten (drums, NL). This is also the basic line-up for her brand new record, extended with some guitar (Geert Hellings, B), tenor saxophone (Mete Erker, NL) and trumpet (Bert Joris, B) for a few tracks. With such class of accompaniment, one expects nothing less but a great record and that’s exactly what’s being delivered. Tutu tackles 11 tunes with great skill and feeling, from the classic You’re My Sunshine to Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You, from the african traditional Ke A Go Leboga to Bert Joris’ For The Time Being and Song by Jeroen Van Vliet. Tutu whispers and talks, she scats like Ella and sings like Nina, bringing to us an impressive debut. I cannot claim to be a seasoned jazz critic, but I do know when music touches me or not. And, in this case, I was moved from the very first time, and I still am after twelve/thirteen listening rounds... beautiful, just beautiful. I think Tutu Puoane is on her way to become a very big star”.- (Dani Heyvaert: june 2007 MazzMuzikas)
South Africa has a plethora of decent young female singers but, very few of them are jazz singers. Examples range from the obviously disqualified — those with uncertain pitch and no swing — to the borderline cases who might be there if they ever showed any interest in improvising, re-imagining a well-worn song and exploring the multiple ways words and notes can be rephrased to make us hear them afresh. The ancestry of this kind of singing goes back to the African heritage in jazz and to traditional extended vocalising that made the human voice an instrument producing imaginatively colored sounds as well as pretty lyrics. And, however pretty their lyrics, that ancestry spices the singing of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and escapes to run free in Betty Carter and Nancy Wilson. Its elder mothers also include Sheila Jordan in the US, and Britain’s Norma Winstone and Maggie Nichols. Jordan taught Yelena Revishin who, during her tenure at the University of Cape Town, passed the torch on to, among others, Tutu Puoane. – (Gwen Ansell: april 2008 BusinessDay)