Zoe Schwarz & Rob Koral Jazz & Blues Biography
A very young Zoe's musical journey started by being brought up at a convent boarding school singing sacred music in church several times a week. A natural singer, Zoe was chosen as a regular soloist, and also often conducted the schola. Zoe broadened her musical intake by defying school rules and listening to John Peel under the bed-cloths late at night on a tiny transistor radio (and loving bands like the Stranglers). Zoe was introduced to Billie Holiday by her uncle Colin in her early teens, this was inadvertently the crucial stepping stone to Zoe's natural home of singing the blues. By the time Zoe left school she had achieved grade 8 piano, clarinet, music theory and singing (not to mention hours knocking around on an acoustic guitar when ever possible and dabbling in early song writing). From here on the journey started ......
Zoe Schwarz: For somebody with such a natural feel for, and ability to convey emotion through singing the blues, had a very unorthodox start to her musical journey. Being brought up in a musical family, and with her mother being a very accomplished musician and pianist, Zoe's first experiences were in the world of classical music.
A graduate in the ‘Performing Arts’ from Trent Park, Middlesex University. She then performed in many guises over the following years, mostly in modern improvisational and classical music, drama and dance; including working with Keith Tippet, Scott Stromen, Harrison Birtwistle and Emma Kirkby. A cash-flow problem meant Zoë then started temping in part time work between singing jobs... a very common trend for budding musicians trying to bridge the financial gap of a fledgling musical career.
Zoe’s other early formative musical experiences included singing in indie pop bands, improvisational theatre work shops and performances; frequenting varied London venues including the likes of The Bass Clef, Ronnie Scotts, and Royal Festival Hall.
Zoë turned up the heat on her musical career in the autumn of 2001. Whilst on a course at Dartington Intl Summer School, Zoe impressed and was subsequently been invited by Keith and Julie Tippet to sing at a concert to sing some Billie Holiday numbers. Totally inspired she returned home in search of like-minded musicians; this is when she was introduced to Rob Koral.... this was the catalyst that Zoe needed, and after several years of working together, Zoe and Rob formed Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion in January 2012.
As well as the well received Blue Commotion albums. Zoe and Rob also recorded a handful of beautiful, intimate recordings such as Celebration (duo), the trio album called Slow Burn (plus the stunning tenor sax of Ian Ellis); a quintet recording using double bass and featuring the amazing pianist Gareth Williams. These not only feature Zoe’s distinct blues phrasing, but unashamedly is a vehicle for the influences that have impacted on Zoe’s entire musical development, including documenting the profound affect of Billie Holiday on her musical personality.
Zoë was classically trained and a graduate in the ‘Performing Arts’ from Trent Park, Middlesex University.Zoë then performed in many guises over the following years, mostly in modern improvisational and classical music; including working with Keith Tippet, Scott Stromen, Harrison Birtwistle and Emma Kirkby.It soon became clear that her forte was far more suited to blues, expressive ballads and jazz.
Although from a self-taught, blues background, Rob made his name on the British jazz scene having performed with the likes of Jim Mullen, Django Bates, Bill Bruford, Tim Garland and many more.
As a duo, Zoe and Rob perform popular songs from the Great American songbook, from vibrant swinging standards, to smouldering Billie Holiday-esque bluesy ballads that have become Zoë’s trade mark.They zip effortlessly through any breakneck Beebop tune, then ease into a laid back funky groove, to a low down ‘n dirty blues... all backed simply by Rob's stylish and unmistakable touch and flow on guitar which provides the perfect vehicle for Zoe's yearning, passionate and commanding vocal style.
Their jazz performances also augments to trio, quartet, quintet etc., the stylish and unmistakable combination of Zoe and Rob cherry pick established jazz musicians to stamp their personality on not only Jazz standards, but blues flavoured tunes delving as far back as Willie Dixon, Billie Holiday and Muddy Waters, but always keeping a jazz sensibility; and then reaching forward with some originals penned by Zoë and Rob... expect subtlety and raunchiness side by side!The music occupies that interesting place where jazz meets blues, or is that where blues meets jazz!
These past dozen years Zoë and Rob’s musical partnership has made a considerable impact on the national jazz and blues scene. With past performances including Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express-Dean Street, The 606, The Lighthouse-Poole, The Stables-Wavendon, and most of the flagship jazz and blues club venues and festivals in the UK.
Their CDs have received rave reviews and ‘air-time’ on the national airwaves, including several appearances on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-up, Jazz Record Requests, BBC Radio 2’s The Russell Davis show, and the Paul Jones Rhythm and Blues show.... Plus a feature broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Great Escapes.
Since 2012 Zoe and Rob have also come right to the fore of the British Blues Scene with their contemporary blues band ‘Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion, picking up a series of awards and nominations, including runner-Up for Zoe in the 2014 British Blues Awards, and further nominations in 2015 including Best Band.Their exciting live set is based around the band's rootsy originals; featuring strong catchy riffs, interesting arrangements and exciting grooves.