Podcast: Betsy Ezell’s collaborative approach to jazz vocals

Ezell and pianist Becca May Grant discuss their work on the 2018 album “Voices.”

Ezell and pianist Becca May Grant discuss their work on the 2018 album “Voices.” (Photo: Grant, left, and Ezell. Photo by Treasure People.)

Madison-based composer and vocalist Betsy Ezell explores a lot of different vocal styles and approaches to songwriting on her debut album, 2018’s Voices. There’s also a strong spirit of collaboration at work here between Ezell and the other musicians—Becca May Grant on piano, Richard Hildner on guitar, Laurie Lang on bass, and Jim Huwe on Drums. Two musicians from out of town, saxophone player Virginia Mayhew and organ player Roberta Piket, also show up on a couple of tracks.

Ezell and her collaborators deliberately sought out what Ezell has called “an intentional and more feminine way of creating,” something that also ties into the album’s feminist themes. “You don’t want to generalize or stereotype, but I think women are just more wired to build one another up and to be OK in collaboration and to not necessarily need to clamor for the spotlight,” Ezell says.


On Voices, Ezell set out to write songs that openly reflect on where she was at in life—a female musician in what it’s fair to say is a very male-dominated local jazz scene, a multi-instrumentalist finding her voice as a bandleader, and a musician recording her debut album in her mid 30s. Ezell and Grant sat down in February to talk about the record and the evolving nature of their collaboration. Ezell, Grant, and bassist Matt Rodgers will play a trio show on April 14 at the Sequoya Library.

Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.

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