Noemi Nuti

“I like song; everything is within a song framework. I love a song, that’s where my passion is. So how do you write songs that can implement great melodies, great harmonies, great words, and great rhythm and groove, and keep all those elements in? So you look at all of your Gods and they all have something that is absolutely spot with regard to the music, and you kind of try to do your own thing and put them together in one big pot and hope to contribute.” – Noemi Nuti

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Noemi Nuti is a talented young singer/songwriter who since discovering her appetite for the art form is diligently carving out a niche for herself in the genres of Jazz and Latin music. Michael J Edwards sat down with the eloquently spoken Ms Nuti prior to her performance as part of a double bill with her good friend Marta Capponi at The Spice of Life, London – a new residency entitled ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ – to ascertain where she’s coming from? Where she’s at? And where she is heading?

Michael J Edwards: Greetings Noem Nuti, it’s a pleasure to meet with you here at The Spice of Life. Can you give us a quick resume with regards to your background? I believe you were born in New York now living in London…?

Noemi Nuti: I was born in the States, in Brooklyn New York City, and I lived there for eight years until my family, who are all Italian, moved back to Italy. I stayed there until I was eighteen years old and then I moved here to study music in London.

Michael J Edwards: Where in Italy?

Noemi Nuti: I lived north of Rome, just outside in the small town called Bracciano. It’s about an hour’s drive outside Rome. It’s beautiful, it’s like a postcard. It’s got a lake and a mediaeval castle, and a lot of people get married there.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: How much of an influence did your parents have on your musical development?

Noemi Nuti: Well, nobody in my family is musical, but there was music always playing in my house. I remember waking up to classical music with my mother playing music early on. And then my interest in pop music and Jazz music comes mainly from my dad. Every week he would buy two new CDs. I remember listening to loads of music and all sorts of stuff. My dad would play a lot of new CDs and new releases…So I have lots of memories sitting for hours listening to music, I can’t remember what music I was listening to, because I was too young, but I have very vivid memories of playing and sitting in front of the speakers.

Michael J Edwards: Why and how did you start playing the harp at the tender age of eight?

Noemi Nuti: I have no idea! Apparently my mother said that she used to take my brother and my sister to music lessons in New York. Obviously I was too young; I’ve got another brother and an older sister, and at the age of eight we all had to start an instrument. So obviously because I left when I was eight years old, I had to decide on what instrument I wanted to play when I was still in the States. So I said to my mother, “I want to play the harp.” And she was like, “What – You want to play the harp?” And I was like, “Yeah I do!” Then she said, “Do you know what a harp is?” And I said, “Yeah, actually I do know what it is!” So she said, “Okay!”

So, when we moved, she then found me a harp and a harp teacher in this tiny town north of Rome when we had just moved back. So I actually started playing when I was in Italy. With regards to why I started playing the harp, apparently there was this big magazine at this musical school that had a big harp on the front cover. So it probably comes from that, but we don’t know, she never specifically played harp music to me.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: Do you still play the harp and have you learned any other musical instruments?

Noemi Nuti: I do sometimes still play the harp; I wouldn’t say I have the technique anymore, just because I haven’t played it regularly for a long time. It’s one of those instruments that needs constant practice and tuning. Every now and again for fun I do. I’ve got a South American harp, so hopefully I’ll pick that up and try to do some bossanova and stuff like that.

Michael J Edwards: You said South American harp, is there a difference?

Noemi Nuti: It’s a Paraguayan harp; it’s a small lever harp; it can also be viewed like a guitar, because obviously South America very much comes from Spain, i.e. flamenco and all of that kind of music. So the harp that is in Paraguay is very light and sort of sounds like a guitar. It’s a very beautiful instrument as well. But it’s very portable and it’s got that kind of guitar quality to it.

Michael J Edwards: Your musical education accelerated once you moved to the UK at the age of eighteen to study under Harriet Ewing (Nee Adie) at Brunel University. How impactful was her tutorial on you?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Noemi Nuti: Harriet was very influential, she really taught me to be disciplined and really practice, and be diligent and strong, and listen to music. She grounded me musically, my reading, musicianship and things like that. So she was very, very influential.

Michael J Edwards: I believe it was at age twenty-one that you had your epiphany moment, with regard to discovering Jazz music and vocal improvisation?

Noemi Nuti: At the age of twenty-one I was very lucky to sign up to one of these vocal courses abroad. I went to Italy for a holiday really and I was singing a bit of Jazz just for fun. And then obviously I bumped into Pete Churchill and many other people. Tina May was out there at the time and so was Nikki Iles – it was a really great group of people.

Michael J Edwards: Can you give us a little information on their background?

Noemi Nuti: Well, Pete Churchill is a well-known compositional teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, and he’s worked with plenty of very well-known people, including Mark Murphy. He also runs a really great project that I was very lucky enough to be a part of, ‘The London Vocal Project’. So he deals with singers a lot, but he is a great kind of groove accompanist, and knows loads about songs. And then Tina May is again another great sounding singer. She does great beautiful French Chanson (French song book) actually, she’s really, really amazing and very passionate. And Nikki Iles of course, is just a wonderful piano player, part of the UK Jazz scene.

Michael J Edwards: So all these influences are coming into you and you’re taking what you need as if it were a buffet?

Noemi Nuti: I’m taking everything I like yeah! It’s a very rich buffet (Chuckles). I was able to scat and had lessons with Anita Wardell, who was my Guru for Jazz improvisation. I really wanted to go to college and further my knowledge, so I thought she would really guide me in a great way.

Michael J Edwards: In 2008/9 you got involved with some serious players in the Jazz fraternity, most notably Orphy Robinson, Soweto Kinch and Zoe Rahman when you partook In courses they ran under the ‘Jazz Alive’ banner organised by Chris Powell. That must have really shaken up the neuro connectors in your brain, like stepping onto a Jazz music super highway?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Noemi Nuti: What I remember is that they were very accommodating with any kind of discovery or any new thing that I wanted to bring to the table. It was a lot of grounding again because it was an education project, but it was also very creative, so I was able to write songs with many other people, to deal with arrangements in arranging songs and tunes. We wrote a lot, I remember writing a lot with them. So they really give space to your own creativity and they let you do what you can hear in your head, which was a great opportunity.

Michael J Edwards: Can you expand on the time spent at Trinity College of Music studying improvisation and composition in 2009, and subsequently performing alongside the wonderful Norma Winstone at the London Jazz Festival in 2010?

Noemi Nuti: Basically my time at Trinity College was a great time; a great formative period, I had amazing teachers! I was exposed to lots of different types of music, but still within the realm of Jazz. It’s really discovering and furthering your knowledge within the Jazz realm. So I was really able to do that, which was fantastic. And I had an amazing teacher, my vocal teacher was incredible! I loved her to bits. Ni Lyn her name is. And so I’ve learned a lot about the voice and there was a lot of space for singers to really become like an instrument, but also still staying true to the fact that we sing songs and we sing them with lyrics and with words, and so keeping that constant connection between sound and lyrics was fantastic.

Michael J Edwards: At this juncture I’d like to mention Filomena Campus who recently performed her album launch at the Pizza Express Jazz Bar, who is also a first-class vocal improviser?

Noemi Nuti: Well, she is a fantastic improviser! The way I see the way she improvises, is that she uses lots of different types of sounds and colours and textures, which are the same constenants and vowels that you’d find in words. So it’s basically composing on the spot and trying to create that soundscape that maybe a poet or a songwriter would take a month to write. So I think that’s what’s so fantastic about her and what’s so great about scat-singing! It’s really live poetry, its live sounds and textures. It is fantastic, it really is completely fresh.

Michael J Edwards: I believe a certain Mr Andrew McCormack has also been instrumental in your career progression?

Noemi Nuti: Andrew was very good at getting me to write and compose. I had loads of ideas, but I found it very difficult to string them along, and develop them and use one idea, and then really get a lot of material out of one idea that you have. So he was very good, because he’s written loads for L.S.O and other types of really great ensembles; so it’s accessing the brain of somebody who is very experienced. I think I needed that kind of experience, so I would bring ideas or eight bars or a melody. I brought poems to him, and we would really work on them and try to make them fit and make the melody fit the words and what I was trying to express. So he was great and very grounding for that kind of thing.

Michael J Edwards: It seems like you met the right people at the right time during this formative period of your career?

Noemi Nuti: Absolutely!

Michael J Edwards: You’ve subsequently performed as a lead singer for Barak Schmool’s band ‘Rhythms of the City’ receiving favourable feedback from recent tours in Brazil in 2012 and 2013 with Monobloco and Sargento Piamento. That must have been exhilarating?

Noemi Nuti: It was incredible! I have to say that the experience of going out to Brazil, because I’m Italian and I have that similar vibe. And it’s very kind of relaxed. I remember landing in Rio and thinking this feels incredibly surreal. It looks like Italy; it’s like Rome in the fifties – the buildings look similar. When I landed I think I underestimated it, and then I fell in love with it. You just kind of go into this bubble and it’s very community like and all-embracing, they’re very open. In some ways, Rio is an isolated place: you have the ocean on the East side and the whole country of Brazil to the North, West and South which makes it the ideal place for a strong cultural identity to form. In other ways they have many outside but far away influences (Africa and Europe). As a result, they are very welcoming and love people who want to participate to their culture. So I had a real sense of community and it just takes it to another place, you just fall in love with it. It’s that kind of atmosphere. The music is incredible and a proper community effort; it’s very rhythmical and it’s very bouncy and it’s very happy.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: So you embraced it fully?

Noemi Nuti: Yes, slowly but surely. When I had to leave I was like, “Oh my God I have to leave now… Why?”

Michael J Edwards: Please tell us about your work as a member of The London Vocal Project (LVP) and their subsequent album launch and collaboration with the late British Jazz trumpet legend Kenny Wheeler?

Noemi Nuti: I was so lucky to be able to play with him. It was the album launch for his Mirrors Suite in 2013. So The London Vocal Project, obviously through Pete Churchill who had a very strong connection to Kenny Wheeler, revived some old material that Kenny had written. He scored it for four-part harmony or six-part harmony. So the London Vocal Project is a really great choir that is able to sing very sophisticated melodies and very sophisticated arrangements, and close harmonies. I learnt so much about blending with other singers, having that sort of vocal tone that doesn’t stick out but is still present. Knowing that the sound is good, even though you can’t fully hear yourself like when you’re in a solo situation, so you have to trust the fact that it sounds good, because it sounds uniform with a lot of other singers – That was a great experience from a practical, vocal point of view, and obviously the music has got everything – rhythm, harmony, melody. It’s epic and it’s intimate.

Michael J Edwards: So he (Kenny Wheeler) wrote with all this in his mind, to factor in all those different elements?

Noemi Nuti: Absolutely! And the choir is there sometimes just to give texture, sometimes to bring drama; it’s a very, very amazing piece he wrote.

Michael J Edwards: Apart from writing/conducting. did he play trumpet at all on the project?

Noemi Nuti: Yes, he did, he played quite a lot on the actual album launch, and he was already frail at the time. But it was great we had Nikki Iles on piano and Nic France on drums. Yes, it was a great experience.

Michael J Edwards: Who inspires you vocally and instrumentally, lyrically and in the realms of improvisation?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Noemi Nuti: Okay. In the realms of improv. I was listening again recently to Sheila Jordan, an amazing singer! Obviously Anita Wardell is a great inspiration, and Bobby McFerrin. I mean how can you forget Bobby McFerrin? I’d say vocally singers like Djavan and Joni Mitchell are really great. Djavan is a Brazilian kind of pop/Jazz type singer; he’s quite old now. And Joyce Moreno is another amazing singer that I really and truly love, and one of my biggest inspirations. She is a Brazilian singer-songwriter, plays wonderful guitar, extremely beautiful and melodic and very feminine type music – so I really love her. And, lyrically I find Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell very inspiring; the way they write songs and how they put words together.

I like song; so everything is within a song framework. I love a song, that’s where my passion is. So how do you write songs that can implement great melodies, great harmonies, great words, and great rhythm and groove, and keep all those elements in? So you look at all of your Gods and they all have something that is absolutely spot on of all their music, and you kinda try to do your own thing and put them together in one big pot and hope to contribute (laughs).

Michael J Edwards: You seem to have crammed so much into your career thus far, what plans do you have towards developing your Latin influenced music and the exploration of lyrics and song structures that I believe fascinate and intrigue you?

Noemi Nuti: Well, we’ve got this release of my debut album coming out on March 9th. It’s called ‘Nice to Meet You’. That’s coming out on the Ubuntu music label.

That’s a new label which teams my MD, Quentin Collins and my manager Martin Hummel. All three of us we’re starting this label. The idea is to bring accessible Jazz to the world and basically we’re all about having strong melodies and strong songs, without losing the Jazz element or the improvisation element. So the idea is to bring my music and my record out and tour throughout the year. I’ve got a nice little tour happening in February/March time, 2015, and then we’ve got other dates throughout the year. Basically the next record we’re already starting to write and looking into the types of collaborations that we would like to do. Going down an even more Brazilian/Latin route; maybe doing some stuff to click and to track, so that we can then do remixes and really bring Jazz to wider audiences in a very kind of melodic and easy way to listen to.

Michael J Edwards: Does that mean we’re going to see you touring UK and Europe wide as well?

Noemi Nuti: Yes we’ve got some possible things abroad but nothing has been confirmed. For now the tour is in the UK.

Michael J Edwards: We’re looking forward to seeing you perform here tonight at the Spice of Life. Is it a recent residency and are you enjoying the experience?

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Noemi Nuti: Yes, it’s the third one. I’m enjoying the experience very much, because I get to play regularly (laughs) with great musicians, so that’s fantastic. And I get to pursue and develop my love of Brazilian music; so each time I have to bring a new song or a new repertoire and I play with new musicians. So musically it is very fresh! And the experience of understanding how to get people into the club and how to have fun, and bring people down and get involved is also like a big learning curve. The experience is great; it’s the third one, so hopefully many more in the New Year.

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Photo: Courtesy of David S. James

Michael J Edwards: Noemi, uk vibe are looking forward to catching up with you again in the near future as your career blossoms. Thank you very much for your time?

Noemi Nuti: Beautiful. Thank you!

Michael J Edwards

Essential Gig:
Vortex on 6th February 2015

Essential Website:
http://noeminuti.com/

Essential Album: ‘Nice To Meet You’ (2015 Ubuntu Management Group)

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