The days of concerts at the Ortszentrum in Dottendorf being an ‘insider tip’ seem to be well and truly over. A packed house yesterday evening for Alma Naidu on Jazznacht was proof of that. Or perhaps there are a lot of Süddeutsche Zeitung readers in Bonn who will have seen Alma rated as “One of the most promising singers on the German scene”. That’s a lot to live up to for someone with just one album release to her name but on this evening’s evidence Alma Naidu is very possibly at the start of what a book writer might describe as “An awfully big adventure”
To get you up to scratch, Alma Naidu is based in Munich and the magazine Jazzthing has joined the SZ in lavishing praise on her “delicate, wonderfully clear voice with absolutely perfect intonation”. After studying jazz singing at the University of Music and Theatre in Munich from 2016, she spent a year at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she studied with the renowned singer and ECM artist Norma Winstone. In 2021, Naidu netted a bagful of awards with the BMW Welt Young Artist Jazz Award, the Kurt Maas Jazz Award as well as the Bavarian Prize for Emerging Artists (Bayerischer Kunstförderpreis). Not surprisingly her self-titled debut album ‘Alma’ in 2022 got a lot of attention, and, more importantly, a lot of praise.
For someone with all of this already going on the lady seems so young when she steps out onto the stage with a trio shortly after 8 p.m. in Dottendorf. The show tonight might be seen as a warm-up for the forthcoming (October) tour of Japan. If that’s the case I’m not complaining. Alma says how good it is to be back playing with her colleagues again, and there is a lightness about the evening’s performance and there are happy ‘in the zone’ smiles throughout from the band and the singer herself. You can’t help but relax and smile as they do.
‘Something ’bout the Rain’ is a lightly uptempo piece to get the proceedings started and quickly makes clear that this is going to be an evening of quality. Excellent as they were throughout, this particular trio backing Alma were really at their best when it came to light, delicately weighted background sounds – and the very best of an excellent evening came during such songs. Billy Joel’s ‘As It Goes’ was a fine example and also showcased Naidu’s piano playing (making me think of Tori Amos in fact).
That ‘playfulness’ mentioned earlier in this review was very much in evidence in the vocal/guitar duel during ‘Why Do I Feel So Blue?’ Lukas Häfner managed very ably to follow the perfectly delivered notes from Alma’s voice with equally perfectly delivered notes from his guitar and was a joy to hear. A shout out here too for Susi Lotter (bass) and Valentin Renner (drums) for their perfectly restrained playing on the evening. A ‘Class A’ rhythm section for sure!
Every song was finished to immediate loud applause this evening except one. You know how it is I’m sure. You hear something that sounds so special that when it’s over there are a few seconds of absolute silence before loud applause breaks out. The fact that this happened during one of Almar Naidu’s own compositions suggests to me that she may be on the verge of a big future indeed.Her composition ‘How Come?’ poses the question “What’s Always Been Isn’t Always Right” and is, as Alma explained, inspired by so many wrongs that seem embedded in what are sold as social norms. It will hopefully be on Alma’s coming second disc which, on tonight’s performance, will likely establish her on the International Jazzscene. I fear we may not have the chance to hear this very talented voice in 200-seater venues like tonight’s much longer. Maybe our loss, but the music world’s gain.