Maria and all that jazz!

Maria Ball is delighted at the increased confidence which comes through singing with Bosham’s Jazz Smugglers – all the result of a happy accident.

“I started singing in the church, but jazz singing was when I did an evening course at Chichester College.”

The Jazz Smugglers

The Jazz Smugglers

She was on an accounting course to get a job after having children: “But I could hear the music going on in the background, and my heart is in music. I had been doing music all my life.”

And it was on the first evening she attended the music course that she bumped into Jazz Smugglers founder John Winkler: “He happened to be there. That was 2004. The guy leading it just said ‘repeat after me’, and I opened my mouth and sang, and John just grabbed me. He said ‘I don’t usually pounce on people, but you have got to be in my band!’

“Actually, I turned him down for a while because I did not want the commitment, but I found that jazz really did suit my voice. There is a lot of improvisation which I am quite good at. I found that it fitted in with jazz and I got more confident.

“Now I quite genuinely improvise at every gig I do. Sometimes I open my mouth, and I am amazed at the sound that comes out. But you have got to be relaxed. It’s taking a risk obviously because you can go wrong. You can get a bit lost and then you have to listen to the bass player as the one that holds it all together. But when I sing jazz, I am very relaxed. I have to calm myself down and take deep breaths...”

It’s not something Maria finds herself wishing she had done earlier in life: “I am just happy that it is happening now. I have had the family. I have had four children. Three of them are in their 20s. The timing would not have been right to have been out gigging with younger children.”

The next gig comes as part of the Festival of Chichester on July 13 when Maria Ball and the Jazz Smugglers band play ‘songs which made Sinatra famous’ at the Hillier Garden Centre at 7.30pm. Tickets £10 on

Included will be numbers by timeless composers including Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington – the writers behind the songs which helped mark out Sinatra for stardom.

“Since Sinatra has recorded and sung just about every jazz song, there were a lot to choose from! My Funny Valentine is my favourite. We do it in a slightly-different way with more of a Latin rhythm. We do it with a different feel.

“I really like Ella Fitzgerald, but I do like Sinatra as well. I like Sinatra’s voice. I like Sinatra’s effortless style.”

Maria has got some songs she might well record herself one day: “I have written my own music for the church, and that’s an area where I would like to record. They are modern contemporary gospel music. I go to Grace Church which is a really vibrant up-and-coming church, and it has got an amazing cast of musicians.

“I have got whole collection of songs. They are 90 per cent finished, just not quite. There is a little bit of tweaking that needs to be done to them. We did use some of them at the last church I was at, and people seemed to like them.”

The Sinatra concert comes on the final weekend of the Festival of Chichester, to which the Jazz Smugglers have contributed eight events.