Released through Anzic Records, Vocalist and composer Nicky Schrire leads Canadian Quartet on ‘Nowhere Girl’, first album in ten years. Born in London and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. She moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music and, after nearly five years in the city, returned to Cape Town via London. She relocated to Toronto, Canada in 2020, armed with experience and the desire to forge meaningful musical relationships with like-minded musicians. Nowhere Girl is the result of that wish.
Nowhere Girl: Music & Lyrics by Nicky Schrire, Nicky Schrire – Voice, Tara Davidson – Alto Saxophone, Chris Donnelly – Piano, Dan Fortin – Bass, Ernesto Cervini – Drums. Produced by Oded Lev-Ari Anzic Records, 9 June 2023, Filmed by Mitch Fillion at Canterbury Music Company, October 2021. Edited by Nicky Schrire.
While Schrire has grappled with identity at times, she does see the upside to having moved around so much, explaining, “The album is called Nowhere Girl because I have lived in so many diﬀerent places. It is something for which I’m immensely grateful, but it increases a sense of belonging anywhere…and therefore nowhere.”
Schrire’s appreciation for the international nature of the jazz community means she understands how identity weaves itself into music-a vocal inflection, a specific harmonic progression, certain melodic intervals. “I identify as British and South African, while my love for both jazz and the singer-songwriter genres is a huge part of my musical aesthetic. It’s been challenging to figure out exactly what my sound is, given my heritage is a mixed bag,” Schrire contemplates. Her multi-nationality is reflected in her style of jazz singing, which is clearly shaped by contemporary jazz vocalists from all sides of the pond-Norma Winstone, Gretchen Parlato, Maria Pia De Vito.
Ten years after her previous release, Schrire teams up with pianist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin, and drummer Ernesto Cervini (collectively known as the JUNO-nominated trio Myriad3). Guest musicians include saxophonist Tara Davidson, JUNO Award-winning vocalist Laila Biali, and Mozambican guitarist Julio Sigauque. The album is produced by Grammy-nominated producer Oded Lev-Ari (Anat Cohen Tentet), mixed by Brian Montgomery (Maria Schneider), and mastered by Jeﬀ “Fedge” Elliott (The Weather Station). Nowhere Girl is a stellar example of “less is more”, with Schrire’s crystalline voice and signature unaﬀected delivery at the fore of deftly crafted songs brought to life by a gathering of Canada’s finest jazz musicians.
This album also serves as something of a travelogue, with songs about the places that have shaped Schrire and her music. Her British heritage is audible in the folk influences of “A Morning” and “Father”. Her South African upbringing is present in “Closer To The Source” (music by the late South African pianist Bheki Mseleku and lyrics by Schrire) and “My Love” (featuring Mozambican guitarist Julio Sigauque). The five years she lived in New York are summarised by “This Train”, and the one month she spent in Paris (successfully sampling croissants instead of attending French language classes) is captured by “In Paris”. There is, fittingly, also a tip of the hat to Canada with Anna McGarrigle’s “Heart Like A Wheel”, which sees Schrire duet with Canadian vocalist and friend, Laila Biali.
With her previous albums, Schrire garnered comparisons to songwriters and lyricists like Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Taking this high praise to heart and, in her words, “trying not to buckle under the pressure”, she oﬀers up nine original songs that skillfully balance a reverence for songwriting and storytelling with the spontaneity of improvisation. Schrire elaborates, “I find that a lot of original music composed by jazz vocalists is either light on well-crafted lyrics and thoughtfully constructed melodies, or scant on jazz in the form of improvisation and a spirit of collaboration” She cites songwriters Randy Newman, James Taylor and Shawn Colvin as firm favourites. In fact, she describes the lone duo tune on the record, “Keep It Simple”, as “the musical lovechild of Randy Newman and Mary Poppins’ the Sherman Brothers.”
Nowhere Girl arrives a decade after Schrire’s last album. “I’ve had ample time to write, reflect, edit, and strive to capture these songs as lean but vibrant vessels,” she says. The result is a collection of 11 songs, expertly crafted and then beautifully performed by a like-minded collective. While she may have wandered in her travels, Nowhere Girl puts Nicky Schrire firmly on course as a songwriter and vocalist with a singular voice.
Nicky acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Photo by Matt Griffiths
Last modified: June 16, 2023