John Fordham, The Guardian
A Wing and a Prayer (33 Records 33JAZZ134)
Singer Tina May’s understated chamber-group settings and soft ballads have not exactly grabbed the jazz public by the lapels. But while A Wing and a Prayer is a contemplative album, it’s full of subtle activity. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, a duet with Stan Sulzmann, is a standout track, with May’s sliding pitching and airy sound dancing around his Cool School-inflected phrasing. Nikki Iles’s piano is full of rich implications, subtle turns and mellow harmonies, and it’s beautifully recorded: the deep resonances seem to come up through the floor. Iles slyly boogies alongside May on Who Can I Turn To?, while, on Black Narcissus, the pair are tied so close together that they sound like one instrument. But for fans of the orthodox romantic ballad, meticulously but freshly performed, it’s a state-of-the-art exercise.
Dave Gelly. The Observer, September 3rd 2006
Tina May and Nikki Iles have a rapport that takes a partnership between singer and pianist to a stage far beyond mere voice plus accompaniment. A distinctive atmosphere surrounds everything they do together, a kind of wistfulness, even at the most lively moments. They are joined here by saxophonist/flautist Stan Sulzmann, whose gentle but inquisitive playing provides the perfect complement. The absence of a conventional rhythm section throws the exquisite balance and needle-sharp timing of all three into sharp focus. The whole thing is a treat, but the title song, by Tina May and Kenny Wheeler, is quite outstanding.
Kenny Mathieson. Scotsman, 11th August 2006
THERE is a lot of very routine jazz singing out there these days, but this definitely does not fall into that category. Lesser artists such as Stacey Kent and Clare Teal may have grabbed the headlines, but Tina May remains the most expressive and technically gifted jazz singer on the UK scene. This beautifully performed outing with pianist Nikki Iles and saxophonist Stan Sulzmann features a mix of standards with a couple of more modern jazz compositions by Kenny Barron and Kenny Wheeler.
Tina May’s Music and Mischief
Alan Crumpton, Bury Free Press
Almost is if to prove that they were capable of playing ‘real’ jazz, pianist Mike Hatchard and, arguably, Britain’s most popular bassman Herbie Flowers, got the proceedings off to a rousing start with their version of the old standard I’ll Remember April. Enter Miss Tina May, who opened on a somewhat sombre note with a reprise of Come Sunday.
But the humour was not long in coming as she recalled that someone had mixed up the letters in the word sacred when she appeared at Durham Cathedral – it appeared as a ‘scared’ concert. The humour was bubbling along throughout the show with Herbie Flowers the Mischief Maker in chief as he regaled the appreciative audience with tales of his life in rock and pop. Tina May is currently among the ‘hot property’ list of British jazz singers and she’s extremely versatile. She has a highly attractive voice and she certainly knows how to use it to full effect, so we had a sacred song followed by Take The A Train through to Honeysuckle Rose, Tea For Two and, inevitably, Come Fly With Me. Between the three of them the show was littered with some quite madcap humour with Mike Hatchard winning great applause as he imitated a karaoke singer having a go at My Way and singing two bars behind the music. Of, course, musicians have to be extremely clever to play the fool like this. And, almost as if to prove that they do have a serious side, they combined superbly for their wistful version of When the World Was Young, a quite beautiful song.
Dave Gelly. The Observer, Sunday August 15, 2004
Tina May, Nikki Iles, Tony Coe – More Than You Know
Voice, piano and tenor saxophone or clarinet; with an odd setup like that, you just don’t know what to expect. In the case of these three, however, the chances are that it will turn out to be an interesting, quirky and, above all, enjoyable hour’s music. And it is. In the first place, they have performed together so much that they must enjoy each other’s company. That enjoyment includes a shared sense of what is possible with this tiny format and complete trust in one another’s musical instincts. Tina May has a fine, expressive voice, with immaculate pitch, clear diction and no annoying mannerisms. Nikki Iles plays the piano with a crystalline touch and a technique that enables her to cover for the missing double bass when necessary. Coe is one of today’s best clarinettists, in any idiom, with an inquisitive, slightly irascible saxophone style that is quite inimitable. The result is like overhearing an intelligent, often witty three-way conversation.
Bruce Crowther. Jazz Journal International
More Than You Know
Although a working trio for some time now, this is the first time I have heard the group and what an absolute delight it is. May is one of the brightest jazz singing stars to emerge in recent years; Iles is justifiably one of the busiest pianists on the UK jazz scene; and Coe is simply Coe, which is about as good as it gets.
The three are top-class performers, of course, but all-star packages are by no means a guarantee of success. This time, though, it works out exactly as fans of each of the three participants might hope. As a fan of all three, I am three times lucky to have heard this delightful set. May sings with a blend of sensuality and Iles supports and solos with verve; and Coe whether on clarinet or saxophone brings to the proceedings that vibrant profundity that marks everything that he does. The interpretations have depth and character, each musician bringing to the feast their special performing skills allied to musical integrity that results in a CD that is intellectually and emotionally demanding and satisfying in equal measure.
Consider, as an arbitrary chosen example, ‘More than You Know’ which is given a darly brooding reading that transforms it into something that is almost an art song, in the best sense of that frequently misused term. Good sound, minimal notes, which includes mention of the fact that the label is 14 years old and this, as its number indicates , its 100th release. Congratulations all round. If you haven’t already worked it out for yourself, this CD is very warmly recommended.
Dave Gelly. The Observer.
CD of The Week – I’ll Take Romance.
It is difficult to know where to start in praising this piece of work. In essence It is simply a conventional vocal-plus-saxophone set, but everything about it is so well conceived and executed that the result is quite outstanding. Tina May has always been a resourceful singer, finding unlikely songs and polishing them to a brilliant shine, as she does here with ‘Trust In Me’, from The Jungle Book. She also has excellent pitch and diction – both well in evidence throughout – that imparts a smile to her voice. What makes this her best album so far is the presence of Scott Hamilton in the dual role of tenor saxophonist and co-producer.As probably the finest living exponent of the subtle art of obbligato playing, he adds a whole new dimension to her performance. Niki Ilies and Robin Aspland alternate at the piano, the difference in their styles adding subtle variety, and the rhythm section is completed by the perfect bass and drums team of Alect Dankworth and Tristan Mailliot.
Les Tomkins. The Jazz Rag
I’ll Take Romance
Just as I was about to go out and buy this CD, it arrived for review. It’s nice when that happens, and even nicer when my intention proves to have been a wise one. The verb “to noodle,” meaning playing obbligatos behind singers, was coined to me in an interview with a prime exponent of the art, Zoot Sims. Recently I enjoyed some super noodling by tenorman Scott Hamilton with Tony Bennett and K.D Lang, now here he was providing the same substantial service for our very own Tina May.
I’ve said it before: Tina’s jazz singing continues to reach new levels of style and taste. As if responding to early criticisms made, she has smoothed out any excessive Americanisms and sharpened up her diction beautifully. With these factors allied to her innate command of phrasing and timing, and an irresistible vocal sound, every performance of hers is an object lesson. Team her up with one of America’s most eminently listenable instrumental voices and you’ve got a must-have CD. The title track, of eleven recorded last April, says it all. Tina sings the song in its written waltz time, then goes into a swinging 4/4 treatment with valid scat. The Hamilton noodling leads to a customarily eloquent solo. Robin Aspland, who splits superlative piano support with Tina’s frequent colleague Nikki lies, is heard. Then there are tasters of two players whose uplifting qualities I can personally verify, drummer Tristan Mailliot and bassist Alec Dankworth. Tina returns to 3/4 to wrap it up nicely.
After two sterling standards inspire lilting statements, Tina moves into a good medium groove for ‘Come Fly With Me’, backed by just bass up to the bridge. Scott’s super solo is the epitome of swing, as are some scat/tenor fours. Ms May’s known affinity with France surfaces when she sings a chorus of ‘September In The Rain’ in French, giving it as much enterprising phraseology as she then does in English. The track previously sampled on radio was an exquisite reading of lesser known Duke Ellington compositions, ‘Tonight I Shall Sleep’. I find myself decidedly moved by the sheer magic of Scott’s and Tina’s interpretations here. Three other tracks warrant particular praise. ‘Trust In Me’, apparently sung by a snake in a Disney film, has suitable sinuosity in Tina’s haunting chanting with the drums and its tango-type rhythm. ‘Nobody Else But Me’ has a great groove it could be cited as a model jazz performance. Equally exemplary is Tina’s marvellously measured handling of a fine Paul Simon song, ‘I Do It For Your Love’. The contributions of Nikki lies and Scott Hamilton also are just lovely. Yes, that’s the way to do it.
Rob Adams. The Herald, June 7th 2003
TINA MAY QUARTET LIVE, THE REP DUNDEE
Ensuring that the show goes on may be simple professional etiquette, but there was more than professionalism involved in Tina May’s quietly triumphant coda to Dundee Jazz Festival’s main stage concert programme on Saturday. The attendance was disappointing – as has been the case with what might be termed the festival’s jazz core concerts, general[y – and the atmosphere in the auditorium, as May and her group took the stage, felt like a summer chill was settling in for the evening.
May, however, soon warmed the place up. A natural communicator, she drew the 80 or so souls present into her performance as if welcoming friends round for a session with her record collection. Songs were introduced with personal recollections, her cameo appearance in a TV docusoap singing “Come Fly With Me” was amusingly portrayed as a cross between a burden and an everyday bagatelle, and her knowledge of her material shared with chatty authority. It helps, too, that she’s a smashin’ singer with crystal clear diction – in French as well as English – and a very personal timbre across her vocal range.
But she’s not just a singer. she’s a musician, integrating and sharing solo space with a decidedly on-form David Mulligan (piano). Brian Shiels (hass) and John Rae (drums). Above all. though, what she brings to songs is believability. And when the songs include “Trust In Me” from the Jungle Book, a gorgeous reading of Paul Simon’s “I Do It For Your Love”, and Jimmy Rowles’s mad “Ballad of Thelonious Monk” in which a cowboy and his horse give up country music for bebop, that’s the mark of a special artist, indeed.
” That great rarity, a singer who enhances a song…”
“..superb tonal range, elastic phrasing, faultless diction and barrelfuls of individual style.”
“Considered as one of the finest jazz vocalist’s the UK has ever produced.”
All Music Guide
“Handles the classics as the gems they still are”
“Tina May is to jazz what Madonna is to pop”
South London Press
Melanie Sunbeam Smith. Jazz Exchange (USA, September 2002)
‘Tina May Live in Paris’
Patrick Villanueva, piano, Pierre Maingourd, bass, Daniel Garcia Bruno, drums, Pascal Gaubert, saxophones, Tina May, vocal. ‘Tina May is one little hot number. In fact, this entire CD swings, embraces the listener with enthusiasm and humour. Terrific performance by the musicians! You can tell these people connect and give it their all in this live performance in Paris. Highly recommended. Rated *****
Scott Yanow. L.A. JAZZ SCENE ‘Jazz Around Town,’ February 2002
IAJE 2002 Long Beach Convention Center Theater
Tina May, who may very well be Great Britain’s finest jazz singer today, sang a duo set in which she was accompanied by pianist Nikki Iles. May has a beautiful voice, a classy style and is not shy to take chances. “Come Rain Or Come Shine” started and ended out-of-tempo, swinging hard in between. The singer scatted quite well on “You Must Believe In Spring,” took “Autumn Leaves” in French, and sang Jimmie Rowles’ difficult “The Peacocks” flawlessly, nailing every note, including in the impossible bridge. Hopefully Tina May will return to the United States and Los Angeles in the near future.
Brian Morton. JAZZ REVIEW, February 2001
‘Live in Paris’ (33 Jazz 055)
Tina spent student days in Paris and has worked with Pascal Gaubert and Patrick Villanueva before. The strength of the bond is evident almost 20 years on, a relaxed, responsive group sound that adds unexpected drama to her deceptively bold pitching. Tina May is a singer who always attempts more than her light delivery suggests. Her interpretation of ‘You Go To My Head’ is remarkable, a raw, samba-laden swinger punctuated with whole-tone shifts and some deft changes of time… an object lesson in tough-minded vocal jazz.
Pierre de Chocqueuse. JAZZMAN, February 2001
‘Jazz Piquant’-‘N’oublie jamais’/’Live in Paris’
Leger comme un champagne dont les bulles remontent a l’air libre, le ‘Jazz Piquant’ de Tina May est celui de la ville-lumiere, le Paris de Django aujourd’hui disparu. Reprenant ‘Clopin-clopant, Nuages, Que rest-t-il de nos amours, Sous le ciel de Paris, Tina May les chante sans accent, d’une voix espiegle, un peu canaille, sans trop se prendre au serieux… les saxophones et la clarinette de Tony Coe l’accompagnent l’humour et la tendresse etant ici de mise.’ ‘Avec Pascal Gaubert aux saxophones, Patrick Villanueva au piano, Pierre Maingourd a la basse et Daniel Garcia Bruno a la batterie, c’est un quartette bien parisien qui entoure la chanteuse au club Lionel Hampton lors d’un concert de Decembre 1999.
Pete Martin. JAZZ UK, January/February 2001
‘Live in Paris’ (33Jazz055)
The CD really does capture the vitality and exuberance of a ‘live’ Tina May performance. All in all, yet another success in the highly impressive series of CD’s which Tina has made on the ’33’ label.
David Nathan. ALL MUSIC GUIDE, December 4 2000
The play list (Live in Paris) is typically varied and adventurous and reveals once more that May is willing and able to take on any vocal challenge. But it’s ‘Take the ‘A’ Train’ that showcases May’s awesome ability to turn a song recorded many, many times into something so fresh it feels like it is the debut recording.
Pat Quinn. EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS, November 6 2000
Deliciously sensuous. She makes love to the songs, stepping up close to them, embracing them, nuzzling them, drawing out every nuance from the lyrics.
Richard Cook. JAZZ REVIEW, October 2000
Tina May is arguably our most undervalued and unsung singer. She also has the happy quality of not sounding much like any of the famous role models in the style.
David Nathan. ALL MUSIC GUIDE, June 2000
On the jazz scene for more than 15 years, Tina May is one of the UK’s premiere jazz vocal virtuosos. May continues to do her own thing in jazz.
Gordon Young. JERSEY EVENING POST, May 22 2000
Tina May, a regular and well-loved visitor to Jersey, is a singer whose voice contains aspects of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Cleo Laine, but the overall effect is pure Tina May. Her vocal range covers the strong and punchy low notes of Lady Day and high scat riffs of Cleo Laine, but her ability to change rhythm, tone and style many times during a number creates her own very special brand of modern jazz.
THE OBSERVER, January 23 2000
Tina May Trio ‘One Fine Day’ (33JAZZ050)
Original without being willfully eccentric and charming without coyness. Tina May is one of the best jazz vocalists anywhere today. This set features her with pianist Nikki Iles and saxophonist Alan Barnes in songs by composers ranging from John Ireland to Jules Styne.’