Some singers are known only by their first name. It’s all that’s needed.

With Eska Mtungwazi, universally known as Eska, there’s no mistaking the musicianship and supreme vocal talent at play.

An improviser first and foremost, with an ear for a melody that vaults genres and continents, new EP Gatekeeper, to be followed by a milestone album English Skies, are expected later this year.

But before that, at a major solo headlining show the singer is to present, appearing at the Albany theatre in London previewing new songs some of which will appear on English Skies, an album that promises to be one of the most talked about UK jazz vocal events of the year.

Brought up in Lewisham, the Zimbabwe-born singer has a voice that communicates instantly no matter the style, and features a technique that’s unsurpassable in terms of range, emotion and skill, with Eska at home in an a cappella situation, part of a vocal grouping, or even improvising against a saxophone or raw bass line. Eska’s talents have also seen her work with acclaimed indie bands including The Invisible; and she has appeared with vocal great Bobby McFerrin, as well as maverick jazz composer and big band leader Matthew Herbert.

Now an associate artist at the Albany in Deptford, where Soweto Kinch previewed The Legend of Mike Smith last year, and clarinettist Arun Ghosh has performed multi-media experimental productions in the past, the Saturday 23 March show is a first-name-only affair, and a chance above all to glimpse a singer on the cusp of great things. MB
Stephen Graham

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