BY: IAN RITCHIE / ELIZABETH PETTIT
Seeing Cousin Alice perform is like being in the film Casa Blanca and being transported into a more entertaining era. Looking back, you remember her shows in the sepia tones creating an atmosphere of a sensual nightclub wherever she performs. A pioneer of the ukulele, in her case, a birds eye maple banjolele made in 1927 in the USA, and given to her by Winkie Thin, a Scotsman and a fine accordion player who she ran across while playing the streets for change and passers by “busking” the Costa Brava, the summer of 2000. She also plays a vintage pre-twenties alto saxophone. Her sound arrived as gifts, like a homemade alla puttanesca sauce, with all kinds of sweet tastes spices and flavors, and with an aroma and recipe that’s all it’s own. Her musical experience is genuine. It has been cultivated from moments across the world, inspired from the Caribbean islands, brought up with the blues gracefully poised and proud. Cousin Alice’s purest versatile instrument is her mellowed smokey voice, that can form tenderly into the blues or be delivered with rythmic riffs of calypso reggae. It complements her blues, her jazz, her swing. Louis Armstrong introduced the concept of the individual soloist, the concept of swing in 4/4 time with accents on the 2&4, as such, that required a higher level of musicianship, because it was up front, not lost in the jumble of sounds from the others in the band. Alice orchestrates that weave. She has been wowing audiences in Europe, Australia, Canada, USA and the Caribbean as well as more recently, Mexico for 15 years. Cousin Alice projects a playful wanderlust and charm. Her voice combines the husky tones of an Eartha Kitt or Tom Waits, at times, lighter and poppier. In contrast, as a song writer, her somber tone and lyrics, are reminiscent of a female Leonard Cohen. Her wit and easy musicality have continued to draw high caliber musicians such as Martin Wheatley ( The Bryan Ferry Orchestra ), Danny Keane ( Charlie Winston ) and Ian Ritchie ( Roger Waters ) Gabriel Hernandez ( Buena Vista Social Club) as band members and collaborators. Having met Ian at a jam session he introduced her to the Jazz seen in London. . and the Cabaret n’ Burlesque circuit was where Cousin Alice was honed …as the Musical interlude between the Sword Swallowers and the Nipple Tassle Twirling. Born in Southern England, with family roots in Wales, New Zealand and Barbados. Alice spoke Cantonese as a child, while with her family in Singapore, a language with 6 tonalities of linguistic intonation, an introduction to musicality all its own. As a youth, she frequented the marae in Maori culture rich in soulful tradition and lore that has given her a unique depth. This stunning performer is currently based in London and regularly plays the classier jazz and cabaret venues such as Boisdale’s of Belgravia, The Groucho Club, The Savoy and Volupte among many others. Her recordings can be streamed and downloaded from iTunes, Amazon and Spotify etc. Her song ‘Kukerichoo’ was covered by the acclaimed, Barberettes, Korean girl group who performed her song at the Super Bowl. Travelling the world with her gypsy fever runnin’ hot; banjolele and saxophone in hand, you might catch a set in Holders of Barbados, The Paris Cat in Melbourne, The Westport Festival in Ireland or even Birdland of New York. If she is appearing near you, I would recommend stopping whatever you are doing and hotlegging it to the club, theatre or festival. Prepare for a night of good times, swing, nostalgia and wit, not necessarily in that order. “It don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t got that swing” n’ Believe me … she’s got it.