MUSIC has clearly been at the centre of the lives of Susie and Craig Webb for a long time. As a 14-year-old Susie informed her careers adviser that she already knew what she wanted to do – she would sing for a living. He replied to the effect that she should rethink this and consider getting a ‘real’ job.
Thankfully she was not deterred.
Susie and husband Craig have been together since their school days at Fairwater High School in Cwmbran when they became well known locally as a duo – Susie on vocals and Craig on guitar. They then headed off to the Birmingham Conservatoire to study their respective disciplines. Susie soon realised that a purely classical course was not for her and she spent much of her time performing with jazz musicians and studying with one of the country’s best-known jazz singers – Marion Montgomery.
Nowadays Susie ( better known to many as ‘Bluesy Susie‘) is one of Wales’ outstanding jazz vocalists, as well as working as a singing teacher for the Gwent Music Support Service. Husband Craig is a guitarist of note in a variety of styles and is someone that I have long known as the most inspiring of teacher. The musical household is completed by five-year-old son Nathaniel who can be heard in an adjoining room demonstrating his drumming skills to my seven-yearold. There can be fewpeople who are as passionate about what they do.They both believe strongly in the power of music and the important role that it can play in people’s lives.Much of this is the result of seven years of working in music therapy.After college they travelled across the country playing in the most diverse of venues, from hospitals to prisons to hospices, and performing as many as 250 gigs in a year.
As well as this, Susie enthuses about her Gospel Choir at the Torfaen Music Centre (‘a real buzz’) while Craig directs a thriving Guitar Orchestra of 35 pupils.
They are passionate about playing with their regular quintet with Steve Jenkins (double bass), Steve Tarner (guitar) and John Evans(drums). As one would expect of jazz musicians, improvisation is at the centre of their art and their interpretations constantly evolve.
They are keen to emphasise the importance of listening to each other in performance and of responding to one other. Each song is therefore akin to a ‘tightrope act’ – without a safety net.
Over the years they have played at some of the most prestigious venues such as Ronnie Scott’s club and at Brecon Jazz. They are nearer home this weekend – at Abertillery Met on Saturday and The Hen and Chickens in Abergavenny on Sunday.
‘Bluesy Susie is the eponymous singer ( big-hearted Susie Webb) of the band which takes her name and which trawls songs from a number of different genres, infusing all with an instinctive jazz feeling based on how superbly its personnel gels. It’s the supreme test of such a band that wherever one looks there’s a sense of knowing that each musician will deliver, both as a soloist and as a contributor to the ensemble. At Pontypool, and with a completely new set of charts for the occasion played as though they had been in the book for years, guests Nick Baron (percussion) and Gethin Liddington (trumpet) slotted in seamlessly to prove that jazz – and even popular music forms brought into the jazz fold for the occasion – has a wider currency than purists imagine. A swinging band, a rocking band, a blues band – a band for all occasions.’ Nigel Jarrett – Jazz Journal Sept 2010
‘I have played with some bands in my time’ – this is one of the best – Art Themen
‘One of my favourite musicians’ – Andy Roberts BBC
‘One wishes some of the American bands had their grooves’ – Birmingham Mail
‘Susie’s ability to move through feisty gritty blues through tenderness and delicacy imparts its own distinctive and irresistible character’ – Birmingham Post