Vocalist Jeannette Lambert began singing jazz at age nine and was already performing professionally at coffeehouses at age twelve. Born in Leiden, Holland, to a Dutch mother and an Indo (Indonesian-German) father, she grew up in Sudbury, Ontario in Canada where her father was teaching at the local university. The landscape of Northern Ontario and life along a lake influenced her to begin writing poetry. Later, when her mother went to study visual art at York University, she moved to downtown Toronto where she attended high school and university. Her mother, visual artist Agatha Schwager, was instrumental in inspiring her in how to use her creativity and intuition, while her father, sociologist Walter Schwager, is an avid jazz fan who always has music playing nearby. Her older brother, jazz guitarist Reg Schwager, inspired her to learn a large repertoire of jazz standards which they performed together as kids and continue to perform now. She met jazz drummer/composer Michel Lambert in 1985 and they started their vocal/drum duo Black Fungus, touring and recording together. They married in 1990 and together they have lived in Amsterdam, New York, the south of France and Paris. They have two sons and have lived in Montreal, Quebec, for the past two decades.
Jeannette has worked with many internationally acclaimed musicians and has performed in France, Holland, Indonesia, Germany, England, the U.S. and Canada. In her travels to Indonesia she has performed in Toraja in Sulawesi, Jakarta, Java, and Ubud and Seminyak, Bali. Her seventh cd as a leader, Sand Underfoot, was made with Barre Phillips, Michel Lambert and special guest Paul Bley. Like her previous recording, Lone Jack Pine, it features improvised music that using her poetry as a starting point for musical exploration. She appears on Michel Lambert’s recording Unclouded Day, available on the Swedish label, Ayler Records singing poems by the great Victorian writers, the Brontë sisters . Her album Born to Be Blue is a collection of her favourite cinematic jazz standards. She is featured on Philip May’s cd Sudbury along with other jazz performers from Northern Ontario. She appears in two new cds coming in the near future, Michel’s Alom Mola and Reg’s Songbook cd. Her newest recording was recorded in Barcelona and Rome and is slated for release in 2017.
She co-founded the music label Jazz From Rant with Michel Lambert and Reg Schwager in 1991, releasing homemade cassettes of their original music before moving on to cd production. Their label has been successful in documenting a wide variety of music and unusual collaborations and their catalogue includes more than 50 recordings. Jeannette’s discography includes “Sand Underfoot”, “Unclouded Day”, “Lone Jack Pine”, “Ask Her”, “Ballads”, “Ballads II”, “Songs for the Last Set”; “Forget Me Not”. She began combining her love of poetry and improvising in 1986 for the vocal/drum duo Black Fungus “Endless Walk” and also for the group Lonely Universe, “A La Plage”. She also released “Jeannettically Modified Christmas Songs”, which features jazz versions of Christmas carols. Her popular jazz versions of classic children’s songs are documented on the recordings “Bebop for Babies” and “Bebop for Babies 2”.
She was awarded funding from the CALQ to compose her song cycle, Bali Songs, inspired by her travels, her family history, and her discoveries as an active dreamer. She performed several of these compositions at her concerts and will record them in the future. As well she composes lyrics in both English and French for a variety of performers including Hong Kong artist Tinka. She has recorded music for a variety of toys and games with her youngest son, coaches her eldest son in jazz singing, and has produced an online video course on How To Sing Jazz for a music school in China.
Musicians she’s worked and recorded with include: Michel Lambert, Reg Schwager, Barre Phillips, Paul Bley, Raoul Bjorkenheim, Mat Maneri, Herbie Spanier, Bobby Few, Jean-Jacques Avenel, Art Johnson and many more.
In the past, back when she was a punk and went out to punk, reggae and industrial music concerts often, she performed sound poetry and led a series of bands of free jazz with 4 guitars (Plectrum Spectrum) and 3 voices (Contradiction). She studied with vocalist Jay Clayton, the legendary Cecil Taylor and many others at the Banff Jazz Workshop.
She is a multi-media artist, having majored in film production at York University. Much of the music she has recorded around her poetry has been included in her web art and digital films and she is considered a pioneer in internet cinema. Her internet films and web art have been screened in museums and festivals worldwide. She also a part-time photographer, documenting her daily life as art and selling her photos through various channels online. As well, in the late 1990s she founded the Jazz Grrls online community for women in jazz to tackle gender bias in the industry. A few years ago she conducted several interviews with her favourite female improvisors and innovators which can now be viewed on her Youtube channel of these interviews . They discuss topics such as balancing life and art, and the role of mysticism in improvised music.
She has kept a dream journal for several decades considers active dreamwork a vital part of her creative process. Earlier this year she presented her music and gave a workshop entitled Singing Your Dreams at the International Association for the Study of Dreams conference in the Netherlands. You can read more about how she uses dreaming in her creative process on this blog.
© Jazz from Rant, 2016