Janet Seidel – The Girlish Voice is Gone

Janet S
Janet Seidel. Photo supplied.

The Australian cabaret singer and pianist Janet Seidel died August 7 after succumbing to cancer at the age of 62. Seidel, who released 18 albums across two decades, enjoyed substantial success overseas as well as in Australia.

Her trademark was a girlish voice and her ability to blend the ingenue with the sophisticate. While jazzy interpretations of the Great American Songbook were central to her repertoire, she also offered up French chanson, bossa nova and tribute albums to the likes of Blossom Dearie, Doris Day and Peggy Lee, all delivered with a soft-focus sound that massaged the ears rather than assaulting them.

This approach found particular favour in Japan, where Seidel was a fixture in the country’s top 10 jazz singers in relevant polls, and her south seas-flavoured 2005 album Moon of Manakoora spent three months topping the jazz vocal charts (also subsequently winning Best Jazz Vocal Album at the National Jazz Awards in Melbourne). Her trio (with guitarist chuck Morgan and her brother David on bass) played in prestigious Japanese concert halls and shared tours with such major US artists as singer Helen Merrill.

Other tours took her to the UK (where she sold out three nights London’s famed Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club) the USA, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. She also received critical acclaim overseas, with The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (2006) calling her “Australia’s first lady of jazz singing”.

Seidel was born in the small South Australian town of Cummins, and attended university in Adelaide before moving to Sydney, where her career took off in the early 1990s. Guest collaborators on her albums included such luminaries as Don Burrows, Col Nolan and John Morrison, and she also performed with orchestras including the Sydney Symphony. She continued to tour after her diagnosis last year.