Simone says

Austrian singer Simone Kopmajer adds her own spin to a lot of old jazz favorites.

Simone Kopmajer 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Simone Kopmajer 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The next installment of this year’s Hot Jazz series features Austrian vocalist Simone Kopmajer who goes by the professional moniker of Simone. The 30-year-old singer says she has always been drawn to the sounds and energies of yesteryear.
“Of course, I grew up with pop music and all the stuff I heard in the 1990s, but it was when I heard the old musical numbers and jazz standards that I felt something connected inside me. I knew that was what I wanted to do – to sing that music.”
There will be plenty of that music in Simone’s program for her seven concerts here, which start tomorrow night at Mercaz Habama in Ganei Tikva and continues in other venues throughout the country (see details below).
Simone will be accompanied by an instrument trio of pianist John Di Martino, bass player Herfreid Knapp and drummer Reinhardt Winkler, who have all accrued plenty of performing and recording time with the vocalist.
That, says Simone, helps the work flow in the right direction. “I have played a lot with Herfreid and Reinhardt, and Johan has played on all my albums,” she explains.
Simone has been very active in the recording studio, putting out seven CDs since 2003. She obviously has a lot to say and has starting adding her own material to the older songs.
One of them, “Didn’t You Say?” appears on Simone’s latest release and will feature in her concerts here. The singer says that initially she was a bit reluctant to try to write her own material. “I thought there are so many good songs out there which I perform, so why should I write my own?”
But “Didn’t You Say?” was not the product of a premeditated compositional venture. While traveling between gig venues on a tour of the United States, she heard a country style song by Alison Krauss and was inspired to write some of her own lyrics.
“This song came to me,” says Simone. “I love the jazz standards, but there is something special about performing something you have created yourself. You can really express who you are through that.”
Mind you, that doesn’t mean she just churns out the standards that were performed so well and for so long by the iconic figures of vocal jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.
“When I sing those songs, it is Simone bringing my own ideas and feelings to the material. I try to make the songs my own.”
Jazz was not Simone’s first musical avenue of expression. “I studied classical piano,” she says. “My father is a classical pianist, and I studied at the university in Graz [Austria].”
Simone’s parents would have been happier had she stayed within the classical fold. “They wanted me to stick to that,” she recalls. “They thought it was a better way to make a living. They wanted me to have a real job as a music teacher.”
Even so, her father unwittingly helped bring Simone into the jazz fold, and she sang with his big band at the age of 12.
The decision to devote all her energies to jazz was eventually made in the States.
“I studied with [octogenarian jazz singer] Sheila Jordan, and I asked her if she thought I could make a living in jazz, and she say I should definitely got for it.”
Simone spent some time with Jordan but says she got out there to where the real deal was happening as much as she could.
“I didn’t want to go to school anymore, I wanted to go to concerts and jam, sessions to hear people playing.”
Spending time with Jordan also gave Simone a direct link to the founding fathers of modern jazz.
“Sheila sat in with Charlie Parker, and she has pictures of him all over her house. It’s almost as if I knew Parker. That gives me a good connection with where it all comes from.”
That mixture of young and old, original and contemporary will, no doubt, come across loud and clear at the Austrian singer’s concerts here.
December 10 at 9 p.m. at Mercaz Habama in Ganei Tikva; December 12 at 9 p.m. at The Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem; December 13 at 10 p.m. at Zappa Club in Herzliya; December 14 at 9 p.m. at Einan Hall, Azrieli Center in Modi’in; December 15 at 9 p.m and December 16 at 9:30 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Museum; and December 17 at 9 p.m. at the Abba Hushi House in Haifa.