Obituary: Jeanie Lambe, Scottish jazz singer who found global fame

Jeanie Lambe, jazz singer. Born: Glasgow, Scotland, December 23, 1940; died Perth, Australia, May 29, 2020

Jeanie Lambe
Jeanie Lambe

Internationally acclaimed singer Jeanie Lambe entered showbusiness as a precociously talented 11-year-old in her parents’ vaudeville act.

The act was a success on Scotland’s Moss Empire theatre circuit, and at 17 she joined the Clyde Valley Stompers at the height of their popularity.

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Her talents were recognised by Kenny Ball and at the age of 19 she was invited to London to join his famous jazz band.

Soon after, she recorded an album with George Chisholm and his Gentlemen of Swing, and her reputation grew.

After attending a “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concert where she saw Ella Fitzgerald perform with Oscar Peterson’s Trio, her musical direction changed.

She was particularly struck with the more open, looser feel of the rhythm section in comparison to the feel in traditional jazz bands.

She began performing with more modern groups and married tenor saxophone great Danny Moss, whom she met while they were both performing at a BBC recording session.

Triumphant seasons at Ronnie Scott’s club in London followed, and she appeared on the front cover of The Melody Maker heralded as “the Bardot of British jazz”.

Through the 1960s and beyond she appeared weekly on TV series At The Eleventh Hour, That Was the Week That Was, Jukebox Jury, Between the Lines, Les Dawson’s show Sez Les, Top Score and The Buddy Bregman Show.

She also appeared in films and recorded prolifically for BBC radio and left a legacy of fine albums – among them Jeanie Lambe and the Danny Moss Quartet (1980), The Midnight Sun (1985) and The Blue Noise Session (1999) for German label Nagel Heyer. She stayed loyal to her roots, sometimes returning to Scotland to perform at the annual Edinburgh Festival.

Her sound and phrasing brought great admiration from the best in the business including Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, Ben Webster and Budd Johnson, all of whom were fans and colleagues.

She brought great emotional depth and expression to her performances, whether singing dramatic ballads in a full orchestral setting or swinging hard with jazz groups on the festival circuit.

Her live performances were dynamic, wonderfully crafted and captivated her audiences. In the recording studio she was a consummate professional.

Her public persona was vivacious and generous, but away from the bright lights she was very private and preferred a quiet life with her family.

From the 1970s until 2007 she toured and recorded internationally and played at most of the world’s great jazz festivals, including Montreux, Nice, Berlin, Vienna and Chicago. In one year, 1985, she performed on five continents, with one of the highlights a season at New York’s celebrated Rainbow Room with the American band of Bobby Rosengarden.

She appeared at the Festival of Perth in Western Australia in 1984 and migrated to the city in 1989.

Danny Moss Jnr said of his parents’ move: “The decision to uproot the family and migrate to Perth was a surprise given their high-profile careers, but they fell in love with Western Australia.

“She loved it so much she persuaded my father to migrate, which they did in 1989.

“The move to Perth enabled them to enjoy a wonderful lifestyle by the Indian Ocean, where they enjoyed playing golf and swimming in their pool.

“Their absence from the scene actually increased demand for their performances overseas when they toured annually, starring in major festivals in Europe and America.”

Jeanie Lambe suffered ill health following a stroke in July 2014 and died on 29 May Poignantly, her husband, Danny Moss MBE, died on the same date in 2008.

She is survived by two sons, Danny Moss Jr and Robert Moss, and three grandchildren.

CONTRIBUTED

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