At The Ealing Jazz Festival
I was born in London to a Filipino mother and a Barbadian father. And I grew up in Barbados listening to my mother’s collection of cassette tapes by the Carpenters as well as my father’s mix of Motown, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov LP’s.
As a kid, I’d never heard of jazz until I moved to London as a teenager.
When I turned 16, I attended Richmond Upon Thames College in Twickenham where I met Jo Caleb, Femi Temowo, Michael Olatuja and Jonathan Idiagbonya. They would rehearse jazz tunes in the music department and I would stay and listen to them play for hours.
A few years later I began working in music getting Jo Caleb gigs at various venues in town like the 606 Club and the Jazz Cafe. I became quite good at booking gigs and eventually set up a music agency called Jazz Talent.
The agency became so popular that I began booking events across Europe. One day, I was hired to provide music for a Russian oligarch’s wedding anniversary in Moscow.
Having secured all the musicians, we were just waiting for one person’s visa to be cleared for the trip.
That’s when the unexpected happened…
The Russian embassy denied a visa to one of my singers and I was stuck with less than 48 hours to departure time without a singer for the gig! I began to panic as I exhausted my list of contacts and came up empty. That’s when Jo said “You’re gonna have to go there yourself and sing”. “You must be joking!” I said, “I’m not a singer”. But I knew he was right. My agency’s reputation was on the line. And besides, I knew a lot of jazz songs – I’d been listening to them for years now. What’s the worst that could happen?
So with that, I packed my bag and hopped on the next flight for Moscow and prayed that no-one at the event would call me out as a ‘fake’. Thankfully no one did. And it went down better than expected!
I enjoyed singing so much that when I arrived back in London, I would sit in on Jo’s gigs and sing a tune or two.
But my music education began in earnest, when I began running the Jazz Talent Jam – a monthly jam session for advanced jazz players. We had a packed house each month and the house band was always top notch. People like Guy Barker, Gary Husband, Robert Mitchell, Mike Mondesir, Jim Mullen, Anita Wardell, and so many more amazing British jazz musicians joined the house band each month to create an evening London had never seen before – a jam session featuring literally the best British musicians on the scene. That’s when I began singing in earnest.
Now, music has taken me across Europe and the UK singing at festivals and clubs. My debut album topped the iTunes Jazz Chart when it was released. And I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people.
And I’d love to meet you too! Come down to one of my shows and say ‘Hi!’.
© Copyright 2023 • ELISA CALEB