Kay Grant is a vocalist and composer whose work is informed by experience in a range of styles including jazz, opera, rock and pop. In performance she uses her far-reaching vocal range along with a wealth of stylistic elements, tones and colours to play with imagination, energy and sensitivity.
Although born in Brooklyn, an early holiday to visit family in London left her determined to call it home, and she’s been a dedicated Londoner for half her life. Grant originally took to the stage at the age of six, singing musical theatre alongside her parents in local productions. She played violin and flute in her school orchestra and big band and sang in choir, winning an award for best musical student at the age of 12. When her interest in voice became more serious she began studying privately. She received a scholarship to sing with the Oratorio Society of New York performing at Carnegie Hall, sang with the Connecticut Opera and played Gretel in Hansel und Gretel.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS (PART 1)
Discovering the avant garde and free improvisation, she became increasingly drawn to contemporary music and composition, and began a series of collaborations with a range of downtown New York figures – including performances of Cobra and free improv group workouts with John Zorn, recordings and live appearances with Elliott Sharp’s Carbon and combinations with instrumentalists such as cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and percussionist Michael Evans.
Grant also became fascinated by the interaction of voice and electronics, working with Matthew Ostrowski on an interpretation of Old English verse The Ruin for voice and tape recorders, productions of his one-act electronic opera The Blinding and performances with live vocals processed through analogue synthesiser. Nicolas Collins’ piece for two voices and interactive electronics gave her the opportunity to sing alongside vocalist Shelley Hirsch. And among her own work to be comissioned was a a collage of found sound for improviser Judy Dunaway and a solo vocal composition for dance performed at the Living Theatre.
SEX AND DRUGS AND ROCK AND ROLL
Grant’s vocal talents were aided and abetted by playing bass guitar in both improvising groups and rock bands, including the infamous underground industrial project Missing Foundation and the free jazz power noise trio Fihi Ma Fihi, recording and peforming at various venues, festivals and several live radio sessions. But it was her vocal sense of adventure which was called upon by leftfield rock group Cop Shoot Cop, with whom she co-wrote and recorded the track Empires Collapse, touring with the band in the UK and on the Continent.
BACK TO THE OLD WORLD
Through them she met the French rock band Deity Guns, joining the group for a tour across France and a recording with producer Lee Renaldo from Sonic Youth, for whom they opened at the Zenith in Paris. Signed to Cop Shoot Cop’s record label, Big Cat, they supported the band on tour throughout the Continent and the UK. Now settled in London, Grant continued playing bass with several bands including Pinkie Maclure’s Fingerfood, and writing her own songs for The Elements, with Silverfish drummer Stuart Watson.
Various club appearances and recordings with DJs led to a meeting with programmer Richard Gallon. The challenge of writing popular tunes and a shared love of the Bristol Sound inspired them to form electropop duo Switch. Their catchy and innovative pop helped hone her songwriting skills, and a string of successful gigs culminated in the recording of single What You Are with Natacha Atlas producer Tim Whelan.
After Gallon’s departure Grant returned to Free Improvisation, her playing enriched by her diverse musical experiences. For several years she focused on the creation of a hybrid sound, treating her voice with live electronics. Her more recent work has concentrated on the untreated exploration of the instrument that is the human voice. Considering the voice as an instrumental component rather than a privileged expressive vehicle, in the context of Free Improvisation she is a true ensemble player.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS (PART 2)
Grant has collaborated in groups of various sizes with many talented musicians including Alex Ward, John Russell, Martin Speake, Liam Noble, Mark Sanders, Ntshuks Bonga, Marcio Mattos, Olie Brice, John Edwards, Hannah Marshall, Steve Noble, Gail Brand, Eddie Prevost, Oren Marshall and (the late great) Lol Coxhill. In 2013 she played on the Mopomoso Sound and Music Tour, visiting seven cities in the UK alongside Alex Ward, Evan Parker, Pat Thomas, Alison Blunt, Benedict Taylor, David Leahy and the fearless leader John Russell.
AND THEN SOME
In addition to free improvising groups, Grant joined the Apartment House Ensemble in Aldeburgh performing Schumann : Entropic Song Meditations by Anton Lukoszevieze. She sang as a lead voice in pianist Veryan Weston’s opera The Mayfly and joined Phil Minton’s Feral Choir for live appearances at the Royal Opera House and the Hard Rock Calling festival. She has been heard on Resonance104.4FM as performer, programme host and interviewee. As part of Resonance Radio Orchestra she performed in several radio plays, singing Tina Tuner’s Nutbush City Limits in Tales Of Tthe Great Unwashed. She is also been a member of the Hauntological Orchestra, singing well-loved pop classics like Bacharach’s Anyone Who Had A Heart. In Autumn 2014 she participated in a two-day exploration of a disused library’s potential as a sound-source in A Call From the Library by artist Lisa Skuret. She continues to sing classically and is currently with Ad Libitum Chamber Choir.
CLOSE ENOUGH FOR JAZZ
Grant has recently turned back to her beginnings, setting her sights squarely on jazz. She performed with her own quartet – the Kay Grant All-four – featuring Martin Speake (Alto Sax), Liam Noble (Piano) and Mark Sanders (Drums) playing her original compositions with the voice as a (word-less) front-line instrument. She has sung standards with the Cyril Bass Quartet featuring Bob Sydor on sax and fronted with the Big Swing Big Band. Her new project, Living Standards, is a stripped-back song-singing affair with fine accompaniment from guitarist Martin Vishnick.