China Moses was determined not to follow in her jazz singer mother’s footsteps – that is, until her secret love of Dinah Washington overcame her doubts.
China Moses may have begun her career as a fifteen-year-old soul and R’n’B singer and moved on to present the hip-hop show Shake Ton Booty on French television, but the songs she’ll be singing at the Jazz & Blues Festival are some of her earliest musical memories. Indeed, jazz is in her blood.
As the daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater, arguably the leading jazz singer of her generation, Moses grew up on the road, watching her mum “go through good times and bad times, playing in classy clubs, humungous venues and shitty dives and seeing how it was to be a musician.”
Armed with such an education and insight, she didn’t know if she wanted to follow her mother into the music business.“I didn’t think I had enough talent, to be honest,” she says. “But my mum pushed me into my first record deal. She said, ‘It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, it’s what you do with the talent you have that counts.’” Born in Los Angeles, Moses moved to Paris and signed with Virgin, releasing her first single, Time, in 1996.
It was while working as a backing singer with French songstress Camille in Paris’s Café de la Danse that the move that Moses swore she’d never make, into her mother’s jazz footsteps, happened.
Invited to sit in by Camille, pianist and producer Raphael Lemonnier heard Moses singing. He immediately asked her to join his theatre show Dancing and invited her on a drive through the Camargue. Rummaging through the CDs in Lemonnier’s car, Moses found one by Dinah Washington, the jazz singer whose sassy, sometimes risqué interpretations had been Moses’ secret passion since she was a seven-year-old sneaking listens of her grandmother’s Washington albums.
“I didn’t realise Dinah was being risqué when I was seven,” she says. “I just thought she sounded like she was having fun and that’s what appealed.”
She and Lemonnier set about devising a tribute, This One’s for Dinah, which has turned Moses into one of jazz’s hottest vocal properties. She is currently preparing for a gig at Birdland, New York, the club that has been a second home to just about every major jazz musician of the past 60 years.
“The history’s daunting, but you can’t worry about that,” she says. “For me, jazz is about being who you are. Singers today are too caught up in trying to be the next Ella or whoever. I’m not trying to be Dinah, but I am trying to follow her example: choosing good songs, singing them in – I hope – a distinctive voice, showing emotion and having fun.”
The Hub, 31 July, 8.30pm, £15, Tel: 0131 467 5200