Florence Tu Hong was born in Strasbourg, France. She likes to tell her story: - "My Vietnamese father and my mother met at the time when he was singing and playing the guitar on her high school's stage"
; it gives a special music lover background to a career that she describes as very passionate. At home, vinyls of great French chanson performers like Francesca Solleville, Jacques Brel or Leo Ferre took turns on the gramophone with jazz records from the 1950s, 1960s. Growing up with Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole's magnificent voices as a soundscape certainly helped giving her the strong taste for vocal jazz she has today.
But pianist Erroll Garner as much as organist Rhoda Scott are the responsible ones for her childhood dream of becoming a jazz pianist. Moved by classical pianists from the romantic period, she started to study the piano at seven.
The last ingredients which have undoubtedly enriched Florence's musical background are the voices of the rock and pop music “divas”. At this point comes an endless list of the bands which were part of her everyday life in the 1970s. Progressive rock was in its brightest days when she was only fifteen, with King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes, Queen, and so on.
- "I probably acquired my music writing style and my taste for symphonic arrangements listening to their music."
Arrangement - here is a fundamental concept, inherent in the way she creates and performs as the four Florence Tu Hong albums prove. She is closely related to ses
in composing and arranging and often has the original idea of a song. They have worked together for about 20 years today. This strong choice is still providing a great complicity and allows her to set sail to a variety of musical shores while always keeping an original touch.
Recorded in 2002,"Rêve en Têt
" paved the way for her jazz to make the French language its own. It combines jazz and poetry through lyrics and compositions she wrote once again with her musicians.
- “Each one of my records is an adventure where skills meet doubts.”
Her repertoire is eclectic, deep and colorful, with reinterpretations of universal tunes. It lies somewhere between jazz, bossa nova, blues, rock and pop music. As a result of their collective research, the quartet released "The
trees of may
" in late 2007. It's an inspired and convincing album where the joy of reinterpreting standards in their own way is obvious.
In 2011, the group went back to the sources of blues with a new repertoire which introduces various aspects -electric, acoustic, country, urban- of this historical yet modern music genre. "Twelve
" is full of double meanings, with the presence of a subtle jazz voice within fiery hendrixian riffs, the Dobro immediately bringing to mind images of wide-open spaces.
The notion of arrangement took on a very special meaning when Florence discovered and became keen on jazz polyphony, after she met bass player and arranger Eric Le Cardinal.
In 1988, she founded a vocal ensemble of about 20 singers in Aix-en-Provence, and left it shortly afterwards to found the vocal trio “Scatsy” with Eric (1990-2006). They have recorded two albums together, D'ici et d'Asie
(1996) and Plutôt
(2005) and have performed live in various festivals and jazz clubs.
The polyphonic adventure went on with the creation of a big choral jazz ensemble in 1992, called "Jazz en Voix
". This ensemble -which stills exists in Provence- is characterized by creative compositions following the example of the great inventors of voice arrangements, Marty Paich and Gene Puerling. Florence worked as a choir conductor between 1998 and 2002 after the creation of a “Jazz en Voix” ensemble in Paris.
Her immediate immersion into the professional field is at the origin of her musical richness and creativity. From the very beginning she chose to focus on improvising and invented her own virtuoso phrasing by attentively listening to her mentors (Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Bill Evans...)
- “Twenty years ago, it was hard for a singer to have a high voice, because it did not fit the standards of the time. Moreover, in spite of Ella's, Sarah's and Carmen's success, it was also very hard for a female singer to do a lot of improvising. Today, I want to stand for a kind of “lyricism” and feel free to improvise a lot while always remaining very careful with harmony...”
Florence acquired a significant experience on stage, all the more so as she had the opportunity to work with renowned and experimented musicians.
- “The way I teach is the direct result of a long experience which allowed me to learn the codes of the musical language, for creation as much as performance...”.
Through the years, she has enriched her all-jazz experience through various training courses with professionals, including: Laurence Saltiel (vocal jazz masterclass, 1988), Stéphanie Nakassian (I.M.F.P. Salon de Provence, 1991), jazz singers Sara Lazarus (1993) and Judy Niemack (Cluny, 1997), Sara Lazarus, Viviane Ginapé and Hériberto Parédès for a “Jazz Harmony, Performance and Vocal Technique” Professional Training (I.A.C.P. Paris, 1997-98), Bill Evans Piano Academy (Jazz Piano and Solfège, 1 st year of study (Paris, 1998-99), Tran Quang Hai (introduction to overtone singing, 1998), and tenor Richard Cross (vocal technique training courses and training of trainers (1998, 1999 and 2007-08).
- “The human voice is built and grows up following a person's mental evolution, their experiences, their victories, their failures... It is largely thanks to the reassuring presence of the phoniatricians (the “voice doctors”) that I have learned how to gain control over my vocal gesture”.
During twenty years of artistic career, Florence developed deep teaching skills which naturally led her to set up several vocal jazz workshops and training courses. For more than fifteen years, she has given lectures in a variety of organizations such as: music schools, teacher-training faculties, education offices, choral ensembles... In 2003 and 2004 she joined the vocal jazz educational team of the Festival des Enfants du Jazz in Barcelonnette as conductor of the vocal ensemble.
A large stage experience
Since 1988, Florence has lent her name to numerous ensembles, from the duo to the big band.
Florence has specialized in polyphonic jazz and took part in the creation of the ensemble “Hot Gammes” in Aix-en-Provence (1988). She also cofounded the vocal trio “Scatsy” with Éric Le Cardinal in 1990 ("D'ici et d'Asie
"was recorded in 1996,
" was performed on stage in 2004 and recorded in 2005).
The repertoire she plays on stage with the four faithful musicians of her quartet (Christian Bon on guitar, Éric Le Cardinal on bass and Philippe Rousselet on drums) reflects the eclecticism of her music. The fifteen-year-long collaboration which gave birth to four records joyfully explored a great variety of musical styles, including: jazz in English or inspired by French poetic or philosophic texts, Brazilian bossa nova, French chanson, the many faces of the blues, up to the edge of pop music.
- “Today I know I can free myself from the barriers of style and make my own a repertoire which at first sight seemed to be in contradiction to my type of voice...”
Cité de la musique in Marseille, guest of Gian Maria Testa at the Festival Les Acousmies in Venelles (French department #13), guest of the vocal group 6 ½ at the Théâtre de Gagny (94), Théâtre Jean Le Bleu in Manosque (04), castle of La Tour d'Aigues (84), Pierre Cardin's castle in Lacoste (84), Castle of Gréoux les Bains (04), Théâtre de la Colonne in Miramas (13), Théâtre des Salins in Martigues (13), Train-Théâtre in Portes-les-Valence (26), festival of La Roche de Rame (05), jazz festival of Barcelonnette (04), Festival Voix de Fête in Rouen, Festival “Musiks à Manosque” (with the Florence Tu Hong octet, 2009), Festival “Nuits des Voix de Femmes” in Bourges (2010) and Festival Bourges & Blues (2011).
As for jazz clubs: the Sunset and the Sunside in Paris, the AJMI in Avignon, the Moulin à Jazz in Vitrolles, the Cri du Port in Marseille, the JAM in Montpellier, the Comptoir du Jazz in Bordeaux, the Mandala in Toulouse...