Though she lives and works in the U.K. she is a South African who is reaching for her own place in the wide world of international jazz. Passionate about music from her formative years, Alison grew up singing and performing in her native Johannesburg, South Africa. From appearing in musicals (and several on-screen appearances) in South Africa, Alison gained a wealth of experience, which in turn focused her interest in carving a career in the music industry. Keen to explore a variety of genres, Alison went on to perform lead vocals with a professional pop band, performing regularly in Pretoria. Alison later joined Johannesburg based “No Surprise” with whom she recorded original material and performed live in South Africa. However in ’93 a trip to Europe lay just around the corner and was to introduce Alison to her greatest musical passion, jazz.
After a brief spell in the UK Alison moved to Switzerland in 1996, it was there she became hooked on jazz. Inspired by jazz legends (including the late, great, Shirley Horn) and determined to learn as much as possible Alison began a formal education in music at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Zürich. She went on to study further with the renowned Zürich Jazz School and enrolled with the St Gallen Jazz School.
Alison then spent a number of years performing with the acclaimed Swiss jazz trio Inbetween as guest vocalist. She then formed her own successful jazz quartet and built up a loyal following in Switzerland prior to moving to the UK in 2005.
In 2006 Alison released her first cd, a five track EP entitled Introducing Alison Dewar. The cd captured a variety of moods and vocal styles from the joyously upbeat Star Eyes to an intensely reflective interpretation of the beautiful Horace Silver ballad Peace. Upon release the cd garnered critical acclaim and entered the Best Sellers list at Ray’s Jazz in Foyles, London steadily climbing to No.7 in their chart. In Europe Alison’s EP was voted cd of the week on Italian radio, and Softly became track of the week and month respectively on Italian and Greek radio, where the cd reached Top 20. Introducing Alison also received airplay in the US, France, Columbia and South Africa. Not one to rest on her laurels, Alison continues to develop and define her craft, always learning from great teachers and mentors including Al Jarreau, BB King, Bobby McFerrin, Jay Clayton, Sandy Patton, Sheila Jordan, Take 6 and The Jackson 5 Gospel Singers.
Jazzwise Magazine Review
This 5-track sampler from the South African-born singer Alison Dewar (the full debut release is scheduled for early next year) features an elegantly phrased version of ‘Softly as in a Morning Sunrise’, the dreamily impressionistic bossa nova ‘O Barquino’, pleasing interpretations of ‘Too Close for Comfort’ and ‘Peace’, plus what is the undoubted highlight, ‘Star Eyes’.
Whether by luck or design the singer has hooked up with a great team for her debut. The EP is co-produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Derek Nash (unconfirmed reports state that Nash, possibly the hardest working man on the UK scene, hasn’t seen daylight in over a decade), with excellent arrangements courtesy of ex-Incognito and George Benson pianist Graham Harvey. Chamberlain and Skelton are two highly dependable talents to have in the engine room. Dewar’s own talents include her clarity of line and artless approach to the lyric. In what is already an overcrowded field, one can only wish the singer well.
Peter Quinn, Jazzwise Magazine, UK (July 2006)
If there are, broadly speaking, two types of jazz singer (the Ella Fitzgeralds/Stacey Kents, who prioritise the song rather than their emotions concerning it, and the Billie Holidays/Madeleine Peyroux, who basically do the opposite), then South African vocalist Alison Dewar, courtesy of her crystal-clear diction and unfussily straightforward approach to a lyric, is firmly in the former camp.
On this introductory EP, she is backed by a sparky but discreet band led by the impeccable pianist/arranger Graham Harvey, on a intelligently selected programme of standards (neat versions of Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise, Too Close for Comfort and Star Eyes), a pleasingly languorous bossa nova (O Barquino) and (a highlight) an absorbing visit to Horace Silver’s Peace, the long-held notes of which particularly suit her unaffected delivery.
An ear-catching sampler, Introducing will be followed by a debut CD release in early 2007.
Chris Parker, Vortex, London, UK (May 2006)
Vinilemania, Jazz Italia Review
Review by Fabrizio Ciccarelli
In her recording debut EP, Alison Dewar presents five of the most interesting pieces from the international music scene of jazz standard. Accompanied by instrumentalists of unquestionable calibre, she demonstrates vocal skills that are imbued with personality, marked by delicate and fluid phrasing, pleasing to the ear and beautifully pitched. All this as well as immediacy, a rounded brightness and mellow interpretation and style.
Alison manages to mould herself to the music that she performs without ever losing control, alternating continuously and successfully between tradition and innovation. Aided by the convincing arrangements from pianist Graham Harvey, of Incognito and George Benson fame, the melody’s expression is elevated.
The vocalist’s spontaneous execution thus gets the opportunity to shine through, ably supported by the timing of the rhythm section and the enveloping sax of Derek Nash, an artist who is both talented and capable of underscoring improvisation with a balanced sound, suitably devoid of any self-complacency.
For the rest, the interaction of the band brings out an exceptional sensitivity, revealing not only mastery of the instrument but also eclecticism in covering “evergreens” that are formally so different from each other, from the bossa nova of “O Barquinho” through the lyricism of Horace Silver’s unforgettable “Peace”, to “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”, one of the most intense songs from Romberg and Hammerstein and the first track on the CD – in the writer’s opinion the most “composed” and structured in the strictly jazz sense.
So we wait in hope that Alison will continue to nurture her potential and will soon be back with another equally agreeable CD.
CD Wherehouse Review
Just when you thought you were getting more of the same thing in the field of Jazz vocal, in comes Alison Dewar with her beautiful and somewhat bright voice. It’s actually hard to believe this is her debut album with the expatriate South African songbird gliding through a seelction of jazz standards such as “Softly In A Morning Sunrise” with such conviction and intimacy.
Her arranger/pianist (Graham Harvey) laces the cuts with some hard swing and a thin stripe of modern touch. By any standard, a definite world class recording. If you haven’t heard her music, jump at the opportunity. If you have, consider yourself privileged.
Xolani Nxumalo, CD Wherehouse, South Africa (April 2006)
Visit her website at http://www.alisondewar.com