I’d like to introduce you to Anthony Strong, a 30-year-old English jazz singer, pianist and songwriter who has just released his second album, On a Clear Day, with iconic French record label Naïve. The big band sound of the album has swagger and Anthony’s confident vocals shine through on his unique reinterpretation of well-known classics such as Higher Ground, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Unforgettable, as well as the title track. It will have you tapping your feet, clicking your fingers and smiling from ear to ear with its irresistible charm of jazz classics with a very modern twist.
Anthony and I went to the same music school in London where I remember him as Head Boy and part of a cool duo with a gorgeous jazz singer. It has been exciting to follow his musical accomplishments this last decade and I wish him every success for what I’m sure is bound to be a successful future. I managed to have a chat with him whilst he was over in Paris playing four shows at the famous Parisian jazz venue, Duc des Lombards. Over to Anthony.
I’ve always had a great response to my shows in Paris, and the French in general seem to have a real zest for jazz music, so a Parisian based label was definitely intriguing… Naïve also offered me a great deal with enough budget to do what we wanted to do – so that played a factor too.
Can you remember the moment you decided to switch from classical music to jazz?
Well I never really settled on classical music, it was always just ‘something I did’. I do remember having my first jazz piano lessons at around 16, being so excited by every single lesson and thinking to myself: “I’ve found my calling – this is awesome!!”
How do the Paris and London jazz music scenes compare?
I love them both but they can be quite different scenes. I’m massively generalising, but London tends to be hipper and more contemporary, whilst Paris has a wide variety of swing and traditional music. Of course you can find everything in both cities, but that’s my impression. My home is London, but I love singers and the American songbook, so I’m torn! London for the week, Paris for le weekend!
The biggest “pinch me” moment of your career so far?
I did a gig with Kurt Elling, Clare Teal, The Guy Barker Big Band and The BBC Concert Orchestra live on BBC Radio 2 a few months ago… That in itself was incredible but afterwards we all hung out and I have a picture of Kurt Elling, myself, Gregory Porter and Guy Barker. I can die happy now.
I don’t really have a favourite but in Paris, The Duc Des Lombards has a very special place in my heart. Unterfarht in Munich is an awesome club, as is Ronnie Scott’s in London and Moods in Zurich… Blue Note in Milan is also a very cool place. They all have their quirks.
Are there any performance nerves at all? If so, how do you overcome them?
No not really. Only if I’m unprepared do I get nervous – and usually I’m very well prepared… I guess there would be some breathing exercises I’d do if I was nervous and maybe some mental preparation, but thankfully that rarely happens!
Your career means you travel extensively throughout the year: how do you cope with this hectic lifestyle?
I embrace it! I love travelling and meeting new people, so “going to work” is like a little adventure every week. And I get to hang out and play music with some awesome guys! The travelling can be tiring but when you think about what’s going to happen once you arrive – it’s all good!
Follow Anothony on www.anthonystrong.co.uk