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Interview with Edison Jazz Award Winner Lils Mackintosh

Holland's Lils Mackintosh won this year's prestigious National Edison Jazz Award at the North Sea Jazz Festival 2000 for her latest CD "Black Girl," a tribute album to Huddie Ledbetter, better known as "Leadbelly." The Edison Jazz Awards can be compared to the American Grammy awards and Lils did an outstanding job with her modern interpretation of the songs of this legendary Louisiana blues singer.

Album producer and tenor sax player, Hans Dulfer said in the liner notes, "Making this album was a true pleasure. As an artist, I live for the opportunity to play with open-minded musicians who know as much about the past as they do about the future of contemporary music. As a producer, you can only hope for the chance to work with such musicians. I was lucky to be able to work on this album with Lils Mackintosh and her colleagues. I had know Lils and some of the musicians for a long time, so I was sure that they could do something great with the music of one of my all-time favorite blues players, Huddie Ledbetter. Whenever I hear this album, it makes me feel very good. It is the true blues feeling combined with the solid modern arrangements, the fine solos and a superb Lils Mackintosh. Wow!"

Wow, is a word that certainly sums up Lils Mackintosh. She is a vivacious, talented singer, who in Europe, has been coined as "the Dutch Billie Holiday." I had an opportunity to speak with Lils in the lobby of her hotel about her performance at the North Sea Jazz Festival, her personal feelings, and about winning the Edison award:

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Congratulations on winning the Edison award Lils, how does it feel?

LILS MACKINTOSH: "Oh, I was so excited. I just couldn't believe it! This is my 4th album, a tribute to Leadbelly and Hans Dulfer. I'm not gonna sing "On a Clear Day," again! Everybody sings it and I want to be different than the other jazz singers in Holland. I'm kinda a rough singer, exactly how I look, (laughs) and I said to Hans, 'I love these ballads, but the point is, everyone sings the same songs.' Then Hans found it. You know Hans and I were doing a lot of jam sessions together many years ago. At that time, I was really a tough blues singer, but I am older now and it's great to venture into other areas."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I see that Hans Dulfer joined you and the Beets Brothers on stage last night.

LILS MACKINTOSH: "Yeah, he is wonderful. Hans Dulfer is the father of Candy Dulfer and he produced and played on my new CD. He is world famous for his sax playing you know, especially in Japan. Everyone talks about his daughter, Candy, but Hans has already been there a long time ago. Three weeks ago we celebrated his 60th birthday in Amsterdam at the Paridiso. It is a favorite place of Hans where he started performing when he was young. It is such a fabulous place to perform and it was amazing how many bands came out to play for him on his birthday. It was so much fun."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Lils, you were outstanding last night in your concert with the Beets Brothers. You all seemed to be having such a good time. How long have you been associated with them?

LILS MACKINTOSH: "For about three, four years now. I used to play with this guitarist, Chris, for about seven years, but this has been so good playing with Peter now. I love Peter's craziness. I never understand why after a concert, he hasn't broke all his fingers. Peter is just amazing! He is so over-talented. I really enjoy every second I play with this guy because he is so much fun and so crazy. Even though we play the same numbers, I never know what to expect. It's different every time. I never know what key he is going to play the song in. I have a good range, so that's not a problem, but that is half the fun of it. He is so stimulating, really! Alexander and Marius (Beets) are such really, really fine people, not just professionally, but socially as well. And, the way Alexander plays the sax gives me goose pimples. Alexander and Peter Beets played on my "Black Girl" album and it's so good working with them."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: You were having such a good time on stage last night and the audience was really a part of it. How do you see yourself as a singer?

LILS MACKINTOSH: "Well, I watch other singers doing very heavy stuff with complicated notes. I don't see any fun in that, just complication and that's not making music. Making music is having fun, giggles and making jokes with one another. Yesterday, the concert was a one hour and fifteen minute show. I find it very hard to start something, then build it up. How do you get the real thing without seeming forced? I don't see or hear anything, only the music. I want the audience to be comfortable. If they're not, I cut the whole thing and see to their comfort. I do it for them, well, for myself also because, hey, I'm an artist! We all have big egos, but if you're on stage, you have to serve your public. They pay to come and see you and they deserve the best. When they don't like me anymore, then I'm outta here, really."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do you have any immediate plans following the North Sea Jazz Festival?

LILS MACKINTOSH: "I'm going to Japan. They tried to get me there four times and it didn't work out. I don't know why, but this time I'm going. Next month I go to Switzerland and will be touring around a little bit. I think after winning the Edison, a lot of things are gonna happen, at least I hope so."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Any plans to go to the United States?

LILS MACKINTOSH: "I would love to, but how to get there? (laughs) I don't know right now. I did a festival in New Orleans about ten years ago. They used to call me the Dutch Billie Holiday, so in New Orleans they asked me what I wanted to sing. I said I want to sing 'Lover Man.' I can sing very loud, but some songs like 'Lover Man' you have to sing very small and into yourself to get people to understand the story of the song. Singing is telling a story and not with your ego. So, in New Orleans when I was on stage and starting to sing the song, people were screaming, 'Come on girl, give us your big voice!' I was like, oh my God; I'm here in America, they just whistled me out here on stage and now they want me to sing in a big voice. I didn't know what to do. People were screaming and cheering and I didn't understand. So, I walked off stage because I thought how terrible, I was doing it for fun not to get everyone pissed off at me. Then the announcer had them start playing my record over the system, the same song I was starting to sing. Everyone said, 'who is that?' and the announcer said, 'That is Lils Mackintosh!' So then, everyone whistled me back on stage again. I didn't understand. When you are from Holland you think, whooooooo, America and when you are from America you think, whooooooo, Holland! I realized the audience in the States is so much more energetic. When they recognize a song, they start clapping and cheering. You get so much energy from them. So, when I understood the audience was not mad at me and cheering because they recognized the song and liked it, I came back on stage again and everything was cool. The audiences in Europe don't do that. Now I know how American audiences work and they're really great."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Well, it sounded much like an American audience last night. You were really hot in your Charleston dress.

LILS MACKINTOSH: "Yeah, we sure had fun and I was really hot. I had bought this expensive dress for North Sea, but I didn't feel well and just felt better in my Charleston dress. I was running a fever of 39 degrees (101 degrees Fahrenheit). I told Peter, but I didn't tell anyone else. Peter could see it in me and asked, 'How are you?' Well, I admitted it to him, but why would I tell anyone else? It is only a poor excuse if you do something wrong onstage. Never! I just want an honest response to my performance and I am happy everybody liked it."

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Lils songs from the Great American Songbook are sometimes sad, sometimes touching, but always with a bit of humor and an intense feeling for life. As Lils is quoted at the Maxanter Music Productions website, "If my life and singing career had no problems or ups and downs, I would never have been able to sing like I do." It is good to see Lils on top and recognized by the Edison Jazz Award for her outstanding contribution to the world of jazz. For more information on Lils Mackintosh and the Beets Brothers go to (in Dutch) maxanter.nl or search the archives right here on jazzreview.com for "Dutch Treats, Holland's Beets Brothers Quartet."

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lils Mackintosh
  • Interview Date: 7/1/2000
  • Subtitle: North Sea Jazz Festival, The Hague, Netherlands
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