This year’s Wellington Jazz Club Tribute is to celebrate Erna’s achievements as a vocalist, music teacher and her contribution to Jazz.
Many musicians associated with her career will perform at the Tribute and this will include the Rodger Fox Big Band with whom she performs regularly.
Erna Ferry Many musicians associated with her career will perform at the Tribute and this will include the Rodger Fox Big Band and her School Jazz Trio The Hamonettes.
ERNA FERRY - VOCAL ARTIST
Erna Ferry has come to jazz via years of performing in commercial and blues based bands throughout the Manawatu region in New Zealand, as well as experience in performing Theatre with roles in major musical productions the likes of Slice of Saturday Night, Hair and The Best Little Whore House in Texas.
Erna explains; “Singing was in the DNA. I was born in Germany, with a German mother who grew up listening to the ‘American Forces Network Radio’, and sang Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald around the house every waking moment of every single day. My Scottish soldier father played clarinet and listened to all the big bands from the swing era. It was inevitable that the jazz germ would convert to the hard drive, and stay there, just waiting for 1993
My father was in the New Zealand Army and we moved around New Zealand a lot when I was small. I loved to sing, and joined every school choir in every town. We ended up in Palmerston North where I went to high school – here’s a photo of a 13 year old me and my best buddies – ‘The Bluejays’ – a pop group who played ukulele and sang the hits of the day. The school wasn’t that supportive, but we sure came in handy going door to door selling the school’s terrible Christmas cards!!
Then there was a gap, filled with growing up, travelling, returning to New Zealand, Palmerston North specifically, having a family and, after I’d caught my breath, finding a hobby – musical theatre. I did enough to realise that I was a terrible actress, but that I still enjoyed singing. My first role ever was playing the Dolly Parton part from the show “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” – great fun and here’s a photo. Learning to dance and sing at the same time presented a bit of a challenge!!
Things were in store though .…… I did a few more shows, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Grease”, “Stepping Out” and “Slice of Saturday Night” – where I met a guitarist named Simon Bowden (now Executive Director of the Arts Foundation). He talked about a jazz trio, a simple line-up of guitar, saxophone and voice and asked was I interested? Sure I was…. did I know any jazz? Ummmm – I don’t know. He arrived one night with the “Jazz Real Vocal Book” and strummed through a few tunes – and suddenly all those lovely melodies my Mom had sung came tumbling through and there it was!
From that time onwards, things went jazzward – the trio worked every weekend in Palmerston North until Simon and Hugh, the saxophone player went to university and I moved on to work with a piano player called Johnny Carson (whose name may be familiar to some of you). My first jazz festival was at Tauranga, with Simon’s band “Flibbertyjibbet” and how exciting that was!! I went to the Bay of Islands with Flibbertyjibbet for 3 years and when they disbanded, joined the lovely chaps from Tauranga called “Shades of Grey” – bandleader Vern Clare would be familiar to some of you - working with them for quite a few years.
In 1993, an enthusiastic friend of mine entered me into the ‘Jazz Quest 1993” in Wellington, run by Geoff Culverwell.
My Dad drove me to Wellington and I hit the stage about midnight with trembling knees and clutching my charts!! I was absolutely stunned to end up winning this competition. The winning prize was a bottle of Chardonnay, and a half hour recording session at Radio New Zealand with Geoff and his band. On that recording date I met a glittering array of senior jazz players – Rodger Fox, Mannie Abrahams, Nick van Dijk, Roger Sellars. Jazz work came in regularly from that date onwards. I still had a little solo act going on while all this was happening – singing jazzy tunes over backing tracks and playing latin-american percussion – corner of the restaurant sort of stuff, weddings, conferences.
And then I went to Monterey with the Rodger Fox Band”!!!
Erna toured the USA in September 2000, along-side the Rodger Fox Big Band with appearances at the Monterey Jazz Festival and performances in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
2000. The release of her first CD recording ‘Devil May Care’featured the musical backings of The Rodger Fox Big Band, musical arrangement by acclaimed American writers Gordon Brisker and Jeff Driskill and specials appearances by star performs Bill Cunliffe and Jon Papenbrook.
2002 Guest appearance on the World Blues Revue – New Zealand Tour: Erna gained a lot of new friends with her powerful performances as the special guest on the World Blues Revue Tour alongside blues legends Robben Ford and Long John Baldry.
February 2004 - has Erna releasing her second CD, which features Danny Caron – Guitar, Dewayne Pate – Bass, Deszon Claiborne – Drums and Dave Mathews – Keyboards, all who have performed recently with the World Blues Revue. This CD is titled “BIG BLUES"...check it out.
2009. The Blues Buffet and Erna Ferry performed at Capital Blues Inc. a Wellington blues club which runs the Roomfulla Blues live music nights every Thursday night at the Hotel Bristol. The write-up included:
“Erna Ferry has just returned from the States where she’s been playing some clubs there. She’s got a strong voice and plays mean Little Walter-style harmonica. The Blues Buffet recently played the Blues, Brews and BBQ gig in Tauranga and Church Road Winery, Napier and have a gig at the Manawatu Jazz and Blues Festival on Queen’s Birthday weekend. They cover Albert Collins, Herbie Hancock, SRV, Muddy Waters, Little Charlie and the Nightcats plus originals from their CD, Appertiser.”
May 2010 - has her third record titled “ Close Your Eyes”. This CD was recorded at the Blue Room Studios in Los Angeles with star American jazz artists: Joe LaBarbera - Drums, Tom Warrington - Bass, Larry Koonse - Guitar, Clay Jenkins - Trumpets, Bob Sheppard - Saxophone and New Zealand’s own Rodger Fox – Trombone
July 2013 – Erna toured to the USA with The Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra and recorded with the band at the famed Capitol Recording Studios in Los Angeles – This CD has been released under the title of “The Capitol Sessions”.
2015 Erna toured the Peggy Lee Story (including The Wellington Jazz Club) to much acclaim while continuing to work with the Rodger Fox Big Band and the Wellington Jazz Orchestra.
Erna the Jazz Educator
“I’m an ‘accidental teacher’ of jazz vocal workshops! My ‘baptism of fire’ was thanks to Rodger Fox, who took me to New Caledonia one August in the 90’s for a music festival at the University.
A couple of weeks before the tour he casually mentioned that ‘by the way’, he had offered my services as a jazz vocal tutor to the classical vocal students at the university. To say this threw me into a mild panic is an understatement! Not knowing if anyone there spoke English, let alone knew anything about jazz, I had to put my thinking cap on. I found a French teacher in Palmerston North, wrote myself a jazz vocal workshop which she translated it to French and then over the next 2 weeks, she taught me how to deliver it (we remain firm friends today) I had to anticipate questions – and understand my own replies!!! It was a great success thankfully and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
I now had a jazz vocal workshop to offer at jazz festivals around the country.
Over the years I have presented workshops at jazz festivals in Tauranga, Wellington, Auckland, Manawatu, Nelson and Christchurch. I am a tutor at the NZ Jazz Foundation High Schools’ Course in Wellington in January every year, and also in July at the ‘Rhapsody in Rotorua’ Youth Festival, which features combined schools from New Zealand and Australia. I have been the vocal tutor at Awatapu High School for many years now and have a run a jazz choir – which evolves naturally as students leave at Year 13 and join at Year 10. I have recently joined the teaching staff at Palmerston North Girls High School and have founded a 3 girl jazz group there. Certainly it’s really rewarding to have a group of young people passionate about singing in the jazz style – my favourite saying (stolen from someone else) is that “Jazz teaches you what to do when you don’t know what to do”. Even if you don’t end up as a jazz singer – touching on the basics makes you a better singer in the end because you must think on your feet as you sing!!”
2017 Erna appeared, With Rodger Fox at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California USA. Discography
Devil May Care 2002
Big Blues 2004
Close Your Eyes 2010
Wild About You 2016
Erna ferry guesting on:
A Rare Connection (R Fox/Brian Smith with US rhythm section) 2005
Harmonica Masters of NZ, 2007
Goin’ Out of my Head (R Fox/Irv Wagner & University of Oklahoma Trombone Choir) 2008
Gershwin with Wellington Jazz Orchestra 2010
Capitol Sessions w/R Fox Big Band 2012
King of the Blues w/Chris Cain 2015
Hip Walk w/RF Big Band 2018