SIGNS IS RELEASED BY FAST AWAKE RECORDS ON CD AND DIGITAL FORMATs
Incorporating influences as diverse as progressive rock and musical theatre, the result is Kaz’s bravest and most arresting work to date; an album that is far reaching yet coherent and a sound that is entirely unique yet absorbing and accessible.
Unlike the haunting intimacy of third album, Dandelions, Signs gives freer reign to the rest of Kaz’s band. Will Bartlett’s organ pulses through the mix, Martin Kolarides’s reverb-soaked guitar swims and wails through mesmerising atmospherics and the irresistibly groovy rhythm section of Riaan Vosloo on bass and Tim Giles on drums holds everything together with a light but confident touch.
It’s a mini-concept album of love, loss and hope and a big nod to London, her home city. “These are all songs based on experiences I’ve had whilst living in London. It can be hard-work, but I really love it here and wouldn’t be anywhere else at the moment.”
Tracks from Signs have been played on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio London, other regional BBC Radio Stations, as well as Marlow FM, Shoreditch Radio, Radio Wey and 6 Towns Radio, amongst others.
“She’s a unique sounding singer, she doesn’t sound like anyone else, her songs don’t sound like anyone else” Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio 2
“What was that phrase? “We make our own way”. That’s the way which seems to suit Kaz Simmons, and is bringing her increasing recognition as a highly individual and persuasive songwriter” Sebastian Scotney, The Telegraph
“The range of colours and moods that the London-based vocalist and guitarist serves up here is quite astonishing” Peter Quinn, Jazzwise
“”Staying In” is laugh-out-loud funny, “Last” is happy-sad, “Your Love” is heartbreaking. Whichever combination Simmons creates, the results are a delight.” Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz
“It is a patient and intelligent piece of work that is at one turn tender and generous, and at another piquant and penetrating.” Gareth Hayes, R2 Magazine
“Kaz, who produced the album, is a singer-songwriter of considerable talent.” Miles Hedley, The Greenwich Visitor
“Maybe Simmons has been drinking deeply of Canterbury prog-jazz, but Signs’ confessional lyrics and ambitious arrangements make for pure progressive joy, and that voice! It’s as delicate and beautiful as an orchid.” Rachel Mann, Prog Magazine
“Kaz Simmons is a truly unique, quirky and infectious artist. Her originality is refreshing and with a charming attitude that’ll have listeners relating (“I’m equally as happy staying in, with a bottle of wine”), it’s difficult to see her heading in any other direction than up.” Female First
“Absolutely beautiful voice” Chris Nash, 6 Town’s Radio
“All in all ‘Signs’ is a delicate and tranquil album, full of character and charm just like Kaz Simmons herself.” Music Vein
“The result is a constantly shifting musical landscape that evokes the sweeping pomp of symphonic prog rock one minute, a 1960s Marianne-Faithfull-Fitzrovia vibe the next.” The Art of the Torch Singer
Kaz Simmons was in celebratory mood at the launch of her fantastic new album ‘Signs’. She kicked-off with – of course – ‘Last’ in an arresting blend of jazz-folk fusion. The wordiness of the piece no matter at all; the rhythm of the language and its seemingly onomatopoeic quality music in itself. Kaz dazzled, her silvery shift a musical metaphor: deceptively simple but highly effective. She announced her intention to perform the whole album because “it’s like a little story…” and ‘I Know You’ was indeed story-like. The chanteuse has moved on from the wispiness of her previous release (‘Dandelions’). Kaz’s full use of dynamic contrast was refreshing, as when things slowed to a speech-sung reflectiveness.
The quirky songs were all colourful stories themselves, folksy ditties with a jaunty edge, suffused in an autumnal keyboard palette by Will Bartlett. The first of two about internet dating – ‘London Loves’ – was gentle, intoxicating but indeed “ready to explode”. Clever changes of mood and texture were exceptionally well executed with a gorgeously unravelling ending, collecting and spilling tension alongside great harmonisation from Brigitte Beraha. Its follow-up benefited from a looser and freer style and a grinding beat quite danceable, its gentle fade overtaken by audience whistles.
‘Signs’ could be a contemporary Richard Carpenter number transformed by Kaz’s speechy middle-eight, quite uncontrived before returning full circle. For ‘If Time Stopped’ Kaz took the stage alone, and it would be wonderful to hear her with just piano or singing a classic like ‘Autumn Leaves’. Backing vocals blended into another soaring vocalise and by this time everyone was lost in the music – including Ms Simmons who held the audience in the palm of her fret-fingered hand. Her soulful rendition of ‘You Belong to Me’ filled the stage to the extent that you forgot she remained solo.
Kaz promised an upbeat second set and she delivered. Quite what’s going to elevate her to the next level I cannot tell but that is exciting. I loved the razzly ‘Dandelions’ in all its Annie-Hall-ish la-di-da-ness. Kaz enthused over Jeff Buckley’s cover of ‘If You Knew’ and maybe this is key: more Nina, less Jeff. Familiar cocktail ivories filled-out its refrain and I enjoyed its dippingly flat Bluesy vocal. Kaz’s joy in performance was infectious not least on the delightful ‘Pachamama’. And her absolutely sparkling rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘He’s Got a Way’ remains as one highlight of many from a memorable and enchanting evening.
Kaz’s top-drawer band were: Will Bartlett – organ and piano / Brigitte Beraha – backing vocals / Tim Giles – drums / Martin Kolarides – electric guitar / Tom Mason – bass - Martin Slidel, What’s On London
It seems that, at some point in between recording her third album Dandelions and this latest album, Signs, Kaz Simmons has fallen down a stylistic well and grabbed on to a whole host of things on the way down, from early Floyd to Kate Bush. The range of colours and moods that the London-based vocalist and guitarist serves up here is quite astonishing. We get surprising transitions and sudden harmonic shifts (‘Last’), gorgeous, stacked up vocals harmonies (‘I Know You’), cavernous reverbs and overdrive guitar (‘Your Love’), retro Wurly (‘For the love of the Big L’) and trippy interludes that build into all-encompassing walls of sound (‘London Loves’). The addition of electric guitarist Martin Kolarides creates completely new layers of textural interest, supplying everything from catchy hooks to blissed-out psychedelia. And in the gorgeous title track, Simmons has created a song that I’ll never tire of hearing. – Peter Quinn, Jazzwise
Fans of folk and jazz have been following Kaz Simmons’ rise for a while now, but dare we call her prog? You betcha! Jazzers will still welcome her flawless capacity to conjure a mood in a note, but Signs sounds like early Floyd, had Syd Barrett been a girl. In particular, openers Last and I Know You have the surreal Englishness of the late lamented Madcap. Simmons’ impossibly vulnerable voice is emphasised by Martin Kolarides’ intelligent lead and effortlessly hooks into prog’s tradition of whimsy. This is pushed to almost absurd levels on Staying In, where Simmons gives her all-male backing band licence to recite hillariously bad chat-up lines from dating websites. Meanwhile London Loves begins as a seemingly simple love song before getting ambitious, exploding into multitracked vocals and diminshed progressions and its ‘movements’ have the flavour of early Genesis. Even the cover of pop standard You Belong to Me has an insouciant charm. Maybe Simmons has been drinking deeply of Canterbury prog-jazz, but Signs‘ confessional lyrics and ambitious arrangements make for pure progressive joy, and that voice! It’s as delicate and beautiful as an orchid”. Rachel Mann, Prog Magazine.
Delivering her earliest recordings within a deliberate jazz genre, Kaz Simmons released her semi-autobiographical, folk-influenced and third album, Dandelions, over two years ago, so it is with appetite duly whetted that I listen to her latest record, pointedly entitled, Signs.
The album retains the quirkinessof Dandelions and yet has a broader sweep that sits across conflicting boundaries. No surprise, then, that she confesses to being steered by both psychedelic rock and musical theatre. There is a thread between all the songs and the concept of a central theme is, perhaps, to be found in her love-hate relationship with London.
Her voice remains fragile and endearing, whilst the dramatic music behind the scenes veers between uplifting attendance (‘Your Love’), boisterous cacophony (‘London Loves;) and acoustic perfection (‘You Belong to Me’). It is a patient and intelligent piece of work that is at one turn tender and generous, and at another piquant and penetrating. – Gareth Hayes, R2 Magazine
Self-indulgent concept albums in the 1970s paved the way for the punk revolution – and left a gaping hole for prog-lovers like me.
But this largely discredited genre is enjoying something of a renaissance and its latest disciple is south east Londoner Kaz Simmons, whose fourth album Signs is a witty, sardonic, bittersweet hymn to the capital.
Don’t, however, expect a concept album in the mould of the Tales of Topographic Oceans with endless solos on mini-Moogs and guitar riffs stretching away into infinity and beyond.
Kaz cites early Genesis and Pink Floyd influences. But when I heard London Loves – for my money, the absolute stand-out-track on an outstanding album – I instantly thought this is what might have resulted had Ray Davies written a song with Robert Fripp circa 1970: A super-smart but local lyric matched with a fabulously funky groove.
There’s a lot of wit in Kaz’s writing, no more so than in Staying In, a clever meditation on inrernet dating. She also has a great ear for a catchy tue and combines both on For the Love of the Big L : with its chorus: “We’re friendly people here…honestly.”
A terrific video shot in Greenwich to go with the tune is available on www.kazsimmons.com (sic.).
The wonderful I Know You is very prog-nostalgic with its mellotron samples and Kaz’s delicately lovely vocals are heard to their best effect on the haunting Your Love, If Time Stopped and the title track.
Kaz, who produced the album, is a singer-songwriter of considerable talernt. But her work is given an extra dimension by her collaborators – bassist Riaan Vosloo, drummer Tim Giles, guitarrist Martin Kolarides, keyboardist Will Bartlett and engineer Benedic Lamdin. Congratulations to them all. – Miles Hedley, The Greenwich Visitor Newspaper
No offence to BSH readers, but on Wednesday when I listened to this CD, I’d much rather have been at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, Soho, to attend the album launch, in order to hear this pure-toned sweet-voiced lady doing her stuff with this versatile, lively band. And that just about sums up the review!
Lance will demand that I write more. The CD is made up of original songs except for 1 track (You Belong To Me); not a jazz album, rather light rock, but hard to classify. This is really a concept CD in praise of London and London life, with love songs, the busyness and the loneliness of city life, and even a song about internet dating, with amusing quotes from someone’s dating profile. The music seems to move along city streets, buzzing with life, with short instrumental breaks rather than the extended solos that you’d get on a jazz album. Influences mentioned on the CD insert include Pink Floyd, and I detected hints of the Kate Bush style of singing in Kaz Simmons voice. I especially liked the energy of the track For The Love Of The Big L and the lyrics of Signs which was all about what to say to start off a relationship.
Kaz Simmons has quite an impressive musical history, including a music degree from Goldsmiths University, work as a session guitarist, performances at various jazz clubs, and work with Jamie Cullum. Ann Alex, Bebop Spoken Here
This fourth studio album from Kaz Simmons doesn’t stay in the same place and experiments with a variety of styles and subjects.
From the second that album opener ‘Last’ begins, it is easy to hear that this latest record is going to be a quirky listen. While the vocals of Simmons are gentle but haunting, it would be quite easy to compare her with Kate Bush for her distinctive voice.
There is a real mystical feel throughout the album, particularly on tracks such as ‘I know You’, which is soft and almost poetic in the lyrics.
The opening notes of ‘Your Love’ have a similarity to ‘Memory’ from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ‘Cats’. Within these three tracks alone, it is easy to hear all the different range of influences that Simmons has used to create this album.
The gentle pace throughout the album, allows the tracks to merge perfectly together and flow well without upset the rhythm.
Talking about the album and the way it was put together Kaz Simmons said: “I’ve put the songs in a certain story-like order, so it’s a little concept album about love, loss and hope.”
‘London Loves’ perhaps is the weakest song on the album, with the wide range of sounds that at times drown out her delicate vocals. But at the same time it shows the types of risks that she likes to take with her music to prevent her music from becoming too ‘safe’. For that Simmons should be applauded.
Some might find that it is too laid back for them and while it would be nice to see what would happen if Simmons were to take it up a pace, it is not what this album is about. This record is about quiet contemplation and completely soothing.
Overall, it is an album that is best enjoyed late at night to help you wind down after a long day and with life being so stressful at the moment it has come around at the right time. – Emma Clarendon, Artswrap