German jazz singer Miriam Ast and Spanish pianist Victor Gutierrez met just two years ago while studying for their masters at the Royal Academy of Music in London. It was an encounter that would become a key moment for both artists. Having played together just once, the two immediately discovered their common musical language. The Ast/Gutierrez Duo was born, and their success proves that they‘ve taken the right step! In May 2017, after working together for only a year, they won the „Best Vocalist Prize“ at the International Jazz Competition in Bucharest. They were also delighted by the constantly growing fan base at their concerts. In the same year, the duo launched a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign to finance their debut album Secret Songs, which Ast/Gutierrez are presenting here.

Secret Songs has become a very personal album. The two artists play mostly their own compositions, together with a few special arrangements of well-known jazz standards. Miriam Ast‘s vocals and Victor Gutierrez‘s piano playing enter into an intense musical dialogue that is characterized by warm and lyrical sounds, experimental and free-form passages, and virtuoso improvisations. Ast employs her voice like a true musical instrument, knowing when to caress and when to emphasise. Her brilliant scat singing is complemented on some pieces by the distinctive intonations of British saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, a player who also serves up nimble and impressive duets with the pianist Gutierrez. A veteran of the British jazz scene, Stan Sulzmann has played with greats like Kenny Wheeler, Michael Brecker and Gil Evans. He is one of the duo‘s London instructors, and they have dedicated three compositions on the album to him. With his exciting improvisations and lively interactions with both vocals and piano, he has enriched the works enormously.

On all of these pieces, as well as those containing lyrics, Ast/Gutierrez focus on melody and harmony, telling stories of emotional intensity and urgency.

With their debut album Secret Songs, Miriam Ast and Victor Gutierrez have managed to bridge the gap between vibrant freshness and musical maturity. It‘s a huge success!