The fact that one of the great hopes of German jazz singing comes from Munich is no longer news for those familiar with the scene. 26-year-old Alma Naidu has recently sung her way into the limelight. 2019 can be seen as the year of her breakthrough. Not only did she get a leading role in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Augsburg State Theater and her first appointment in the Unterfahrt, her trip to the Burghausen Jazz Week was decisive. Naidu first sang impressively Duke Ellington’s “Sacred Concert”, then she joined the session in the jazz cellar. And the session band consisted of star drummer Wolfgang Haffner with his keyboard prodigy Simon Oslender, who was also very young, and bassist Jean-Philipp Wadle. Haffner was so enchanted by Naidu and her voice that he immediately hired her for his upcoming projects. Naidu was part of the Haffner album “Kind of Tango”, released in 2020, as well as on the subsequent tour.
This gave her a powerful stream presence even in the Corona year, in 2021 she became a member of the Jazzrausch Bigband, and prizes rained down: first she won 3rd prize (against the toughest instrumentalist competition) at the Kurt Maas Jazz Award, then the BMW Young Artist Jazz Award and the Art Promotion Prize of the Free State of Bavaria. This year her debut album “Alma” was released by the Cologne label “Leopard”, which is like herself up-and-coming. It peaked at number six on the jazz charts and received rave reviews, even from Rolling Stone magazine. The attention is not surprising, since Haffner, Oslender and Cologne’s top bass player Claus Fischer form the rhythm section, and on some songs star trombonist Nils Landgren and Sting guitarist Dominic Miller join as guests.
Naidu’s dynamic ranges from the almost breathy to the phonically powerful outburst
But Naidu’s compositions are at least as impressive: fine, variable songwriter jazz with unusual lyrics and an audible love of film music. “Alma” underlines that the best pop can currently often be found in the jazz department. Which of course is not least due to Naidu’s outstanding voice, trained in both classical and jazz music. Jazzthing has described it as “delicate, beautifully clear and absolutely sure of intonation”, plus the dynamics that Naidu has at its disposal, from almost breathy to loud outbursts. After all, thanks to her charisma, Naidu makes it straight into the heart and mind of the listener.
One wonders how she managed to do all this in such a short time, because she also had to complete her studies at the Munich Music Academy, including a guest year at the Royal Academy of Music in London, which was severely hampered by Brexit and Corona, where she was allowed to learn from the great Norma Winstone. But Naidu has always been full of energy, vigor and ambition. It was passed on to her that this was aimed at the music. Her father is a conductor, her mother the opera singer Ann-Katrin Naidu, who has played more than 80 stage roles at the Gärtnerplatztheater, which Alma accordingly calls her “place of childhood”. So she grew up with music, learned piano, violin and guitar, ballet and dance, received classical and musical singing training. She also rebelled against her parents’ path, as is proper, wanted to become an astronomer and began studying communication sciences and psychology. But then just to find my way back to music. And to end up in jazz, where all of their many talents and experiences can best flow.
In view of her diligence, it’s no wonder that Naidu puts in more work than others during her first “Summer Week” in the Unterfahrt : she denies the five evenings in five different constellations and with five different programs. At the start on Tuesday she will appear solo on the grand piano, the focus will be on the songs from her album. Wednesday is themed “Vocal Night” – Naidu invites three colleagues to a colorful a cappella mix: The Austrian Veronika Morscher, who, apart from her own albums and the BuJazzo, is above all known as a member of the grandiose quartet Of Cabbages And Kings knows; the equally multi-stylistic and multi-instrumentalist Florian Stiersdorfer, who is touring with Andreas Dombert as The Music Makers , among others; and fellow student Maximilian Höcherl, who, with his voice and charisma, is also one of the great hopes.
Naidu’s ancestral band with Lukas Häfner on guitar, Lisa Wulff on bass and Simon Bäumer on drums will have their turn on Thursday. The most opulent cast will be on stage on Friday with “Voices & Strings”: In addition to the rhythm group with Wulff and Marco Duffner on drums, there will be a string trio with Valérie Siegrist, Barbara Grohar and Sofía Rodríguez as well as Stierstorfer and Morscher as backing vocalists . For the final on Saturday, Naidu finally chose the classic duo formation of singing and piano. With Tim Allhoff, she accompanies one of the most successful and popular German jazz pianists, who has recently moved in the direction of classical crossover. It’s all very, very exciting. Actually, you should go to all five concerts in the Unterfahrt.
Alma Naidu, Tuesday, Aug. 30 to Sat., Sept. 3, 8:30 p.m., Unterfahrt, Einsteinstr. 42, phone 448 27 94