November 1997

Ian Shaw

Ian Shaw is one of England’s top male vocalists who, at age 33, recently took his jazz chops to Los Angeles and wowed both audiences and critics alike.

“I’m truly amazed at how warmly I was received on the west coast tour,” he said from his London home. “It sort of gave me a mischievous feeling of taking coal back to the mine.”

His latest American release is The Echo of a Song, on Ronnie Scott’s Jazz House label, and Shaw credits the late Scott as his mentor and friend. “Ronnie was like a father for about ten years,” he recalled. “He always booked me when there was a free week, especially with American musicians, which was great. I got to work with people like Cedar Walton, with whom I’d love to record.”

He says his influences are mainly women singers, noting that when his voice broke he tried to copy their range, “which is where my falsetto probably comes from.” Shaw, a tenor-baritone, uses his falsetto to cause goosebumps to rise, like when he nails “My Funny Valentine,” an oft-requested tune from his previous Taking it to Hart, where he interpreted tunes composed by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers.

Shaw began singing the cabaret circuit in London, and he can list such high rollers as Mel Torme and Tony Bennett among his cadre of fans. His singing is often compared to Mark Murphy, but Shaw says the big differences are his forays into R&B. “I’m confident that I’ve learned exactly what I want to sing—a distillation of R&B, jazz, and soul.”

Shaw, who laments the lack of new male singers, says his arrival now “is about time.” He loves the standards and his ability to make them come to life: “I can’t believe a tune like “I’ll Be Seeing You” was written in about 1927. It still means exactly what it meant then, and what it will always mean. That’s the job of a jazz singer—to take a tune like that and give it some reinvention and new blood.”

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