New York-based singer-songwriter Nicky Schrire has created a small oasis of intimacy with To The Spring, a six-song, digital-only EP to be released March 11th, 2014. The half-hour EP is the follow-up to Space and Time, Schrire's full-length release from last fall. That album, her second, saw Schrire juxtapose her own wistful, winsome originals with classics by Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, the Beatles and Massive Attack. To The Spring sees Schrire focus on her original songs, with rising-star pianist Fabian Almazan and bassist Desmond White alongside. An All About Jazz review of Space and Time speaks to virtues that are equally as present on To The Spring, with the critic saying of Schrire's voice: "Think of Ivory soap: clean and unscented by anything artificial. It's genuine. The same can be said of her composing: She is not looking to show off with technical fireworks; she's showing grace, class and a certain élan."
Schrire produced and arranged To The Spring, along with composing all the music and lyrics. She wrote the six songs fairly quickly over the space of seven or so weeks, and then helmed a single after-hours recording session for them with Almazan and White. The entire process emphasized immediacy and spontaneity, as Schrire recalls: "We recorded all the songs in that one Sunday evening. The limited canvas we had in terms of time could've been restricting, but it was actually inspiring - we had to be incredibly focused, and we really had to react to each other with clarity of intention and execution. The experience reiterated that making a record isn't life or death - it's creating music, it's play. That sense of play was vital to making the songs come to life in the studio."
Trained as a jazz singer by some of the best (including Peter Eldridge and Theo Bleckmann), Schrire actually grew up playing saxophone in big bands. But her albums as a vocalist - including her debut, Freedom Flight, which All About Jazz called one of the best albums of 2012 - have seen her combining the virtues of both the jazz and singer-songwriter genres. "What I love most about jazz isn't a swinging groove or a bebop head - it's the improvisatory nature of the music and the taking of chances, particularly when you're collaborating and connecting with other musicians."
Schrire worked with Fabian Almazan on her previous release, Space and Time, which saw her alternating songs in duet with three different pianists (with Gerald Clayton and Gil Goldstein also on the record).
"I love the way Fabian interprets my songs," she says. "His musical influences really vary from mine.
He not only pushes me harmonically and rhythmically; he's naturally on guard for clichés and helps the music veer away from any sentimentality." As for Desmond White on bass, Schrire adds: "He has just released his own album that mixes jazz with singer-songwriter music so I knew we shared genre-blending tendencies. Des also realizes that less is more, which is a mantra I've taken to heart. And as a soloist, he has a great feel for melody, something that's always important to me."
The subjects of the songs on To The Spring range from missing someone on the road (inspired by a movie about Jeff Buckley) and the connection Schrire has with her father (and a William Carlos Williams poem) to the natural rhythm of life with four seasons in New York (as opposed to basically just summer and winter in the singer's native South Africa) and aspects of love (both romantic and humanistic). The songs fly by, yet the half-hour of music has resonance, too. "With just six songs, it's more like a novella than the novel of a full album - an EP might be ideal for these attention-challenged times," Schrire says with a smile. "A recording is always just a snapshot in time, but with it being my first release of all original songs, To The Spring also feels like the bravest thing I've done."
Nicky Schrire was born in London to South African parents and then raised in South Africa after age 5. She grew up with music-loving parents, with her father playing James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young records at home and rocking out to Blood, Sweat & Tears in the car. Her mother favored classical music from Mozart sonatas to Rachmaninoff concertos, and she bought her daughter VHS tapes of such musicals as The Sound of Music, Hello, Dolly! and My Fair Lady, which Schrire watched endlessly as a little girl. She started playing classical piano at age 8 and then tenor saxophone at 11. Hearing Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Verve Songbooks was a galvanizing experience as a preteen - and she listened to the album so much that she can sing even the instrumental fills and interludes to this day. At the University of Cape Town, instrumental studies were her initial emphasis, as she played tenor, baritone and soprano saxophones and clarinet in big bands - an experience that developed her arranger's ear. Eventually, though, Schrire focused on her love of singing, and she moved to New York to earn her Masters Degree at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Peter Eldridge, Theo Bleckmann and Dave Liebman.
Schrire has sang at venues from New York's 92nd Street Y, Kitano and 55 Bar to Scullers Jazz Club in Boston and the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, as well as clubs and concert halls in London, Dublin, Lithuania, Poland and her native South Africa. She has released two full-length albums, Freedom Flight (2012) and Space and Time (2013), as well as the upcoming EP, To The Spring. All About Jazz said of this singer: "In the crowded world of jazz vocals, it helps to have a distinctive voice or a distinctive repertoire. Schrire scores on both counts."
To The Spring
2. "Your Love"
3. "To The Spring"
4. "Fall Apart"
6. "Give It Away"
All songs written and arranged by Nicky Schrire / Produced by Nicky Schrire / Recorded by Kahil Nayton at the Bunker Studio, Brooklyn / Mixed by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit, NY / Mastered by Nathan James at Vault Mastering, A