Music, The Fondue Set blends standards, styles and techniques in its jazz recipe by Brenda Ward
The Fondue Set is no as cheesy as it sounds. It’s the name of an Auckland-based jazz trio that has just put out a similarly whimsically named CD, Stick a Fork In It.
Vocalist for the trio is Caitlin Smith, voice teacher and vocal coach to the stars – Courtney Love for the Big Day Out and made-for-TV teen stars True Bliss.
Jazz is quite simply a fantastic mode of expression for a singer, says Smith, with an eloquent wave of her arm.
“As a singer, I have to use every single technique that I’ve ever used in my career singing jazz. I do all sorts of stuff. My influences are pure funk. I’m off on all sorts of tangents; I have so many inputs, inspirations.”
Maybe that comes from growing up with an opera-singer mother, who may no have totally approved when her daughter joined a punk band called The Sound of Mucus.
After starting a degree in music, Smith found the studies too marrow. Instead she discovered activism and joined Greenpeace in Canada working in the environmental and social-justice areas. Eventually she completed a masters degree in politics then worked for and managed a handful of social-justice campaigns. Recently she has turned to voice teaching, specialising in voice pathology for singers with vocal problems, all the while doing solo singing, session work and even the odd art installation performance.
The Fondue Set was formed through friends-of-friends: “I was doing a gig at (Auckland jazz venue) Manifesto. A friend said her neighbour played guitar, I should hook up with him… He had another friend and they’d gigged together for about six years. Steve (Gerrish) on gut-string and slide guitar and Graeme (Webb) on fretless bass and guitar have huge backgrounds of musical history. They’re seriously into guitars.”
Since ‘hooking up’ more than two years ago, the threesome have become part of the city’s jazz scene, with residencies at The Gables in Ponsonby and Iguacu in Parnell.
For the CD, Smith says the group had a huge body of material to pick from – from the more conventional jazz standards to virtually and piece of music that has a melody line, which can be deconstructed and them reassembled.
“You can strip anything back to the bare bones and then rearrange it for jazz.”
That’s just what The Fondue Set did to Van Morrison’s Crazy Love on the CD. You’ll also find back-catalogue jazz and standards, all recorded live at performances on a friend’s DAT machine and then mastered by Phil Yule.
The trio has done all the marketing of the CD themselves and sells them through gigs, by e-mail and through selected record stores.
Next stops for Smith, she hopes, are a Fondue Set studio recording, a national tour, and then travel overseas. “But of course, I’ve said that every year for years!” she laughs.