In the Spotlight: Ingrid James

It is impressive to be told you have note perfect delivery and a sweet-but-hip style in Australia’s jazz scene, how old were you when you first started singing professionally? I started singing professionally for Channel 9 every week from when I was 19 years’ old. I was doing backing vocals for a children’s program.

You’re the band leader for the Ingrid James Trio and Quartet. How did you meet your band members? John Reeves (pianist), Andrew Shaw (bass) and I have been working together for over 10 years. I have also worked with Sacha Kloostra (drums) for many years as well. We all hail from Brisbane. I met Paul Armstrong (trumpet) – who is originally from the United States – about six years ago. He asked me to be a foundational member / collaborator in a recording called The Global Collective. We recorded an album called Pangaea which was released nationally through Newmarket Music.

How would you describe the type of musical feel and sound that you have? It varies from project to project, but generally I like melodic, hip and cool arrangements of jazz. I also enjoy Latin standards as well as re-arranging classic contemporary songs from Beatles to Rolling Stones! I sing everything from the Great American Songbook to bebop and beyond.

Who are your musical influences?My jazz influences for both vocal and instrumental jazz come from the 1930s and 1940s (Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day). For my bebop / hardbop / cool jazz influence, that would have to be Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis. My post-bop / modern and Latin influences come from Chick Corea, Flora Purim, Djavan, Milton Nascimento, Elis Regina and Jobim.

What is one thing about you that not many people know that would surprise them? I studied film and television with AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School, Sydney) and eventually became a TV news director for the ABC network.

What is special about jazz for you? It’s unpredictability, spontaneity. The fact that you can express yourself as an individual rather than be a clone of someone else. I also love the fact that jazz is a process that allows one to cross boundaries and incorporate the music of other cultures and influences. It’s also wonderful to play with musicians of all generations and to share and learn from each other.

Jazz is having a revival and growth in popularity at the moment – why do you think this is? Some vocal pop artists have popularised the jazz repertoire but have not necessarily sung or approached the songs in the way a jazz artist would sing them with jazz nuance, rhythm, swing, and feel. There is a difference between performing with these nuances and not. But some songs from the Great American Songbook have been reinvigorated, making it easier for audiences to identify with songs with which they are familiar.

There is a fire at your house and you only have time to grab one thing – what do you grab? My laptop with music files and microphone! After my husband, children and dog!

What things do you like to get up to outside of music? Organising workshops for singers, producing The Jazz Singers’ Jam Night (a monthly event), the Brisbane Vocal Jazz Festival, finishing off my Masters of Music Studies… hang on, you said ‘outside’ of music; walking the dog, baking, tennis, movies, spending time with the family and going to the beach.

Biggest goal for the next five years? To keep doing what I love – singing, teaching, to record an album with Wild Silk Strings Project, collaborate more with wonderful musicians, write more songs, get better at playing piano, and facilitate more workshops with singers.

Ingrid James performs Swinging Sundays weekly at the Doo-Bop Jazz Bar. Doors open at 1pm and tickets are from $10. The Ingrid James Quartet is presenting Swinging Sundays on 6 August with special guest Paul Armstrong. Tickets available online: