Courtesy of the artist
Jacques Schwarz-Bart and Stephanie McKay, a married couple who are also partners in music.
Jacques Schwarz-Bart and Stephanie McKay, a married couple who are also partners in music. Courtesy of the artist
Soul, jazz and a vibe inspired by the beats of the island of Guadelupe all merge into a sound that's gentle but rich on a new release recommended by the Tell Me More team. It's called Rise Above, and combines the talents of saxophone player Jacques Schwarz-Bart and singer Stephanie McKay, who are also a married couple.
Hear two performances recorded live on Tell Me More, including an improvised piece by Jacques-Schwarz-Bart
The two met at a concert at which they were both performing. As they describe to Tell Me More guest host Allison Keyes, their personal partnership has always been a part of their musical one. Schwarz-Bart says the idea for "Rainbow," a track from the new album, came to him while he was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on his way to meet McKay. "I wanted it to be poetic," he says, "but not just a love song."
Both musicians led past lives far from their current ones. Schwarz-Bart was a government official in France, where he once lived, while McKay was a dancer. "I always had a gift for singing," says McKay, who comes from a family of singers. "It was a natural gift that I ignored because I struggled so hard to be a dancer." Her life changed when an injury put her dance career on hold — she started seeking out auditions as a singer, and soon enough found she had a new career on her hands.
Rise Above is a cultural collaboration as well as a personal one: It blends McKay's background in soul and funk with the Caribbean rhythms of Schwarz-Bart's native Guadalupe. McKay says the singing in an a way that suited both styles was an adjustment — but not a huge one. "The music has a very blues-based foundation, and it's very soulful," she says. "It was another side to my artistry that I had to discover."