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Kris Gayle

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Biography of Kris Gayle

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Jazz vocalist Kris Gayle was once described by Humphrey Lyttelton on his Best of Jazz BBC radio show as ‘Cornwall’s best kept secret’;it is certainly a fact that most of her singing career has involved appearances in the South Western region. In a more recent Best of Jazz show, one of his last, he reviewed her new album '8.0am'. Playing 'It Never Entered My Mind', Humph commented 'A favourite songs by a favourite singer - Kris has a voice which stays in the mind'.

Kris first visited West Cornwall from London as a teenager, fell in love with the region and decided to stay. After winning a talent contest at a Penzance holiday camp, her first gig was as a singing waitress. She then served a serious musical apprenticeship with Matrix, an innovative West Country jazz-rock group, and quickly established herself as the region’s leading female vocalist.

Kris’s real breakthrough came when she formed her own band Gayle Force, a jazz/soul fusion group. This group became very popular in the South West region and released two well-received albums, ‘Gayle Force’ and ‘Which Way Is Up?’. During this period Kris made many local and national TV appearances, both with her own band and as a soloist . Concurrently she worked for 4 years as a studio session singer at Sawmills studio, which was run by Tony Cox and Lesley Duncan, and whose recording engineer was Gerry Boyes, more recently of Ry Cooder/Buena Vista Social Club fame. During this time she also toured the region with tenor saxophonist Danny Moss and made guest appearances with Georgie Fame and Salena Jones, and a TV show with Keith Smith’s Hefty Jazz, amongst others.

Just as Kris’s popularity in the region was it its height, she decided to take a break from the touring treadmill to pursue one of her other talents, cookery, and set up a very successful restaurant in West Cornwall. During this period she made virtually no public appearances apart from one gig in Sydney Australia, but kept her voice in trim by doing occasional studio session work. Eventually she sold the business and returned full-time to singing.

In September 2003 Kris marked her comeback with an appearance at the opening concert of the annual St Ives Music and Arts Festival. The gig was intended as a one-off, and Kris was fortunate to secure as her accompanist the services of Viv Rodd, a very experienced pianist who is one of the most respected jazz instrumentalists in the South West, and who has played with many American and British jazz greats. The gig was such a success that Kris and Viv decided to play together on a permanent basis. The partnership has since gone from strength to strength and is the most popular locally-based jazz act in the region, regularly selling out the St Ives Jazz Club, which normally plays host to London stars. Kris has also branched out in other directions, with appearances at the Williamsburg Music Centre, NYC, which is Brooklyn’s only black-owned jazz club, and where her accompanists included bassist Bob Cunningham (ex Dizzy Gillespie) and guitarist Gerry Eastman (ex Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson). She also sang with legendary New Orleans drummer Barry Martyn, and will join him again on his February/March 2008 European tour.

Away from her regular jazz work, in 2006 Kris formed an occasional duo with vocalist/guitarist John Knight, who was the linchpin of Matrix, Kris’s first group. This duo, called ‘knight&gayle’, performs stylish contemporary popular material, ranging from Randy Crawford and Bill Withers to Sting and Van Morrison. In addition, Kris works as a tutor on the Truro Jazz Degree Course, and also gives private vocal tuition. (Phone Kris Gayle management on ‘contacts’ page for details of private tuition.) Kris and Viv’s first album “Dedicated to You” (2004), a live duo recording, was a huge success and their new album ‘8am’ goes in a completely different direction with lush arrangements and guest appearances by some of the West Country’s finest jazz musicians. Still something of a West Country secret – but for how much longer?

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