Five years ago Danish jazzsinger Caroline Henderson set a landmark in interpreting jazz standards with her album "Don't Explain". Now, in 2008, her album "No. 8" she moves on to combine jazz and pop and this time also presents herself with sex appeal as additional eye candy on the frontcover.
Henderson's individual mixture of repertoire and her way of diving deep into the material of each song adds a special taste to the music: Caroline Henderson is one of those female singers we don't want to miss in the European jazz scene...
Carina Prange talked to Caroline Henderson for Jazzdimensions
Carina: Except for "Everywhere" where you wrote the lyrics together with Mikkel Hess the repertoire on "No. 8" consists of great and well-known classics. Does it give a sort of freedom for you as the singer to interpret a personal selection of "classical songs"? Is it easier to "let go"?
Caroline: As a jazz-singer I think it is important to be able to re-create.... to put your personality and your own experience into already written words. There's a reason why the songs are classics, and I don't think it's necessary to "create the world" over and over... these songs are simply great, suit my taste and I think I can do something new with them. Give them a new dimension.
Carina: What do you look for in a song to make it part of your own repertoire? Is it a matter of feeling, of the lyrics (the message), or is it also about its history, maybe about who sang it before you?
Caroline: If you noticethe songs I have in my repertoire come from different sources and times. They have to talk to methe words, the music.... and I have to feel something. It doesn't matter where they come fromif it's rock, jazz and what have you! I don't think about who sang them before... that could make me afraid. They just have to tell me something. Some are old favorites, others were presented to me. I think I have a good intuition for which songs will work.
Carina: Your bassist Anders Christensen also produced your album. Does he regularly work as a producer? Why did he fit so well in this position?
Caroline: This is actually Anders' first album as a producerbut he is such a gifted musician with an instant idea of what to do with a song.... and he has such a good taste! We agreed on the overall atmosphere of the album and the concept. He is very busy and much in demand as a musician, both in the jazz world and in the rock world... He is a wonderful emotional player, and I think he has brought some of his emotional ideas into the albumsome of his darker sides, too.
Carina: Some of the horn arrangements were done by star arranger Butch Lacy. How did you get to know to each other?
Caroline: I have worked with Butch Lacy as an arranger before. On "Made In Europe" he did arrangements for at symphony orchestra with me in front. He writes so beautiful, but never chooses the easy way out. We are lucky that this great arranger (and pianist) now lives in Denmark. He has lots of experience and has arranged and played with for example Sarah Vaughan. That's something of a quality featuredon't you think? And he has a lot of experience.
Carina: Do you think that horn arrangements are necessary to give perfection to the songs?
Caroline: We have added exactly what we thought was necessary to color the song and have not used the horn to solo. Ohyes there's one horn solo, it's a written-out version of Lester Young's tenor-solo on "When You're Smiling" that he did with Billie Holiday! But the song as a whole is far from Billie and her version.
Carina: The song "Everywhere" I mentioned before was composed by Anders Christensen for the Danish Movie "Gå med fred Jamil". Out of the movie-contextdoes the song work in the same way?
Caroline: We picked the song because it's so goodand like many other great songs made for movies, it works alone. The original version is with Arabic instruments.ke a laser and it makes me feel privileged to be involved.
Carina: "It Ain't Necessarily So" from the musical "Porgy and Bess" is part of the album as well. What do you feel when you sing this song?
Caroline: What to say... I just think that the song suits me! And no, I didn't know that Andy Bey did an album with that name. We had planned to include the song before Andy's album was releasedand I must admit, that I haven't heard it yet. I have heard Andy Bey on several occasions and love him and what he doesbut I don't think you can compare us as artists... We are very different and I don't want to be compared.
Carina: Andy Bey is also one of the artists you admirewhat did you learn about performance, singing technique and so on by listening to him and watching him on stage?
Caroline: I can't say that I directly learned a lot from him... Maybe his dedication. He is such an emotional singer, and I admire his "nakedness"
Carina: What has changed musically from the album "Don't Explain" to the album "No. 8"? If one compares the CD-covers, "Don't Explain" gives us a thoughtful impression in black and white whereas "No. 8" comes colorful and sexy…
Caroline: Well it's a difficult question... don't you think "Don't Explain" was sexy? Well, maybe not! "No 8" has reached a wider audience. It has sold to Gold in Denmark, and that's almost like a sensation for a jazzy album... And it was not on the jazz charts! But I don't think it's because of the cover. I like both coversthey reflects different sides of my personality. And I think it's important to break down the barriers between the different kinds of music. I like colors... but I also like black and white. Life have many sides - also my music.
Carina: On March 29, you had a concert at the "New Morning" in Paris. To perform at such a famous venue, does that feel special? Do you raise your expectations and also your demands to yourself as an artist?
Caroline: If you start to think about all the famous names that have been on a stage before you, you might limit yourself! I don't want to think of that. The people who have bought the tickets to see me and my band should get the best every time. I don't care who has been there before... but of course I was proud singing at that historic place! But I don't want to be respectful, just give my best.
Carina: By the way, was it a good concert? What about the listeners in France, are they a very open-minded audience?
Caroline: We felt we where very well received. The house was sold out and the atmosphere was great!
Carina: You had a leading role in the Spanish movie "Tuya Siempre". Was it hard for you to learn the language?
Caroline: Yes! (laughs) The only Spanish I know now is the lines I learned for the film!
Carina: To be a movie starwould that be one of your possible goals in life as well?
Caroline: It's not a goal... But it was a beautiful experience! And if somebody comes up with the right script, I will be ready again.
Carina: You officiate as an UNICEF ambassadorshould a musician, an artist generally also adopt a social responsibility? Do you sometimes discuss that with other musicians?
Caroline: If I can use my name in connection with a good cause I will do it. I think it's important that artists don't isolate themselves on an island without connection to the real world with all it's problems.
Carina: You are born in Sweden and lived in Stockholm for about twenty years. Presently you live in Copenhagen, Denmark. Did you experience a difference in mentality and cultural focus between both countries?
Caroline: One of my own songs (and the title of my one of my former albums) is called "Made In Europe". And having lived both in Sweden, the US and even in France has given me a cosmopolitan outlook - I think. I hope it shows in my behavior.
Carina: What makes Copenhagen the best place to live for you?
Caroline: That's where my close family and best friends live, my husband, my kidsand it is a wonderful "small" big city. It's a safe and a good place to bring up kids! But I could also live in other places...
Carina: You hosted a series of jazz programs on Danish television. Are there currently some new plans?
Caroline: I did some shows with focus on the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, interviewing some people in connection with that at the different venues where the festival takes place. The Festival is all over town from the streets to small bars to big concert halls.
I will be hosting a new series this fall where the idea is to combine old and wonderful things from the TV-archives (like live concerts with Miles, Basie, Coltraneand what have you) and have people commenting on them. All the programs are already in the can. It will be good!
Carina: A look back: You had your breakthrough in 1989 with the pop group "RayDeeOhh"… Is that correct? What sort of music did the band play?
Caroline: Party-pop. And it's still being played!
Carina: Did it feel natural to you to follow a solo career after the group disbanded?
Caroline: Yes. I then had to follow my own nose... and that will continue like that. I'm my own!
Carina: Do you have a sort of philosophy for life?
Caroline: Live and let live!
CD: Caroline Henderson - "No. 8" (Stunt Records STUCD08042)
Caroline Henderson im Internet: www.carolinehenderson.com
Stunt Records im Internet: www.sundance.dk