Jazz do it

Jazz do it
Singaporean singer-songwriter Nathan Hartono.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

She was singing before he was even born.

Despite the obvious age gap, local jazz singer Nathan Hartono admitted he "grew up listening to" Dutch jazz diva Laura Fygi "through (his) parents".

The 24-year-old told M: "When she was doing most of her stuff, I didn't exist yet. But I feel like with (her), she kind of has that voice that transcends generations.

"I had listened to her... old soundtracks and stuff (and) when she did the Bewitched rendition. She has one of those voices that you recognise if you grew up in the 90s."

The chance to work with such a legend doesn't come around every day. And when Hartono got the call to open for Fygi's 25th Anniversary Concert in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur next month, he jumped on board.

Even though he had already performed sold-out shows of his own at the age of 15, Hartono believes to not "ever think I'm too big for anything".

He said the event organiser is someone he worked with around six or seven years ago and he believes his name came up as he's one of the few "younger local guys" in such a niche genre and also acts as a "contrast" to Fygi.

Hartono said he's planning his set around original songs as well as standards, to also appeal to 60-year-old Fygi's older audience.

He said: "I've performed for a large enough variety of audiences over the last few years to know that at the end of the day, it's your responsibility to connect to an audience no matter what the age, race, event or time. I think it's going to work out."

He added jokingly: "I just won't pull anything out from too left-field, like screamo or whatever."

Hartono grew up listening to jazz artists, though he admits Fygi isn't exactly his favourite.

He said he tends to "gravitate" toward Ella Fitzgerald, Norah Jones and Billie Holiday.

Not that he doesn't appreciate Singapore's own female artists Michaela Therese, Rani Singam, Alemay Fernandez or Joanna Dong.

When asked if any of our singers have the potential to be a jazz queen, Hartono said: "Singapore's music scene is very much dominated by 'jazzheads'. Ask any musician who their favourite female jazz vocalists are and you'll probably get a list of names not too different from the one above!"


This article was first published on August 12, 2015.
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