STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Five years ago, Franconia Township jazz singer/songwriter Jessi Teich was facing the possibility of not being able to sing again.
Fully recovered from surgery to remove a cyst surrounding a vocal fold, the Fiona Apple-style chanteuse has returned with an album recorded in Paris, “Twisted Soul,” on the Skippack-based indie label Madame Freak.
The song “Sunday Morning” recently landed at No. 1 on WRTI 90.1-FM’s listener-voted Jazz Hot 11 Countdown. “I’m really glad that someone’s doing something that’s real jazz, that’s fresh and new,” said WRTI program director Maureen Malloy in a press release. “It’s things like these that are going to get young people interested in the jazz genre.”
Teich (pronounced teach), a Hunterdon County, N.J. native, who lived in Philadelphia seven years, is a voice teacher at Clemmer Music in Franconia.
Although “Twisted Soul”’s closing track, “The Simple Life,” describes the “wonderful, happy place in my life,” her newest batch of songs — “little nuggets of wisdom,” she calls them — chronicle a toxic relationship, and incorporate offbeat covers of “Clap Hands” by Tom Waits and the Justin Timberlake hit “Cry Me a River” in telling the story.
“It was a feeling of being a twisted soul in that relationship,” Teich said of her ex. “The album does break down and explain what it feels like being in an emotionally abusive relationship, and breaking away in a positive way.” She endorses the Philadelphia domestic violence advocate Women Against Abuse (www.womenagainstabuse.org).
A Berklee College of Music graduate with the supplemental education of her father’s record collection — Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, etc. — she experienced a transformative awakening in Paris in 2012. On a getaway for some songwriting inspiration, she got a shock entering the Duc des Lombards jazz club to find an eerily-quiet crowd paying rapt attention to a performance by The Thierry Maillard Trio (who perform on Teich’s album).
That’s just how they roll in France, she said.
Teich went back later that year, and what was originally conceived as a four-song EP, turned into a full-length album, subtly mixing jazz, blues and soul and featuring accordion, upright bass, piano, guitar and drums/percussion. “I had no idea that I was going to create this popera narrative,” she said with a laugh.
However, the 10 international awards she’s won so far — three of them for songs on “Twisted Soul” — almost didn’t happen. In 2010, while still under the influence of her controlling ex, a hoarseness and lack of vocal power was discovered to be caused by “silent reflux,” irritating her vocal cords so badly that something that looked like a water blister was deep under her vocal fold. At the time she was giving 40 voice lessons a week.
The surgical procedure eventually gave her back the upper octave and a half of her range, and her story made CNN in 2011. Since then, Teich, 30, has maintained a highly disciplined approach to caring for her voice, which includes consuming very little caffeine or alcohol.
Besides Paris, and a CD release show at Sellersville Theater 1894, Teich’s performance resume also includes The Roots Picnic (alongside Kid Cudi, De La Soul, Diplo, St. Vincent, Stretch Armstrong and DJ Diamond Kuts), Philadelphia’s WaWa Welcome America!, Musikfest in Bethlehem, the Canadian Music Festival and Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater.
For more, see www.jessiteich.com and her Facebook (Jessi Teich Music), on Twitter @jessiteich and YouTube pages.