NIKI SZŐKE, virtually unknown at the time even in Hungary, astonished everyone by winning the Shure Jazz Voice World Competition at the 2005 Montreux International Jazz Festival. An incredibly talented improviser, a highly intelligent singer with a style of her own and stupendous timing, she is one of the few who’s become adored by audiences and fellow musicians alike. Although she had been born into one of the Hungarian Gipsy musical dynasties (her father is a noted cimbalom player), she didn’t start learning music until the age of 18. Her first teacher was vocalist Gábor Winand, the man rated as the most original jazz-singer in Europe by the critics of the influential French magazine, Jazzman. She also took classical singing lessons as the only jazz-oriented pupil of Júlia Bikfalvy who had coached the diva Andrea Rost to international stardom. Originally heading for a degree in English and Russian at Budapest University, after her first year, Niki Szőke had to make a choice between her studies and full-time jazz singing. Her decision may have been Academia’s loss but a colossal gain for the world of jazz. Now, at the age of 25, she is already the undisputed favourite of the cognoscenti on the Hungarian jazz scene.
Golden Earrings / 2008 GR-079