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Stacey Kent reflects on tension, collaboration, and the art of interpretation on The Third Story

Stacey Kent
courtesy of the artist

Stacey Kent says she tends to be attracted to the “feeling of unrest,” and she thinks that her fans like to feel it too. Over the course of a 30-year jazz vocal career that has produced more than 20 albums (including the Grammy-nominated Breakfast On The Morning Tram), Kent has mined that feeling again and again in different ways.

Maybe she understands how to express the complicated emotions around identity, romance, displacement and longing because she has lived them so fully herself. Raised in South Orange, N.J., Stacey moved to England for graduate school. Almost immediately she met saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, and the two set out together to build a life both personal and professional.

Stacey Kent, Jim Tomlinson, Kazuo Ishiguro
courtesy of the artists

As Kent describes it, meeting Tomlinson was a major inflection point in her life. It’s clear that the relationship between the two is at the center of the story. Eventually, they befriended the Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, which has led to an ongoing creative partnership between Tomlinson and Ishiguro, who composes original songs for Kent's repertoire.

In this conversation, recorded on location at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, we talk about why she’s a fatalist; her escape from New Jersey, and from the bounds of category; crossing borders (in many senses); what it means to "interpret" a lyric; and her latest release, Songs From Other Places.

Leo Sidran is a Latin Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, composer and creative coach. Since 2014 he has hosted an influential podcast called The Third Story, featuring interviews with musicians, producers, songwriters and creators of all kinds.