November 24, 2011

Making Noise: Passion leads young singer to make a life in jazz

Hattie Simon started playing the piano at age 9, but she didn't start seriously studying jazz until she was 12.

By Aimsel Ponti
News Assistant

At the ripe old age of 15, Hattie Simon is already making a splash in the local jazz scene via regular live performances with her stand-up bass player Nicholas Thompson-Brown and her debut EP, "La Vie En Jazz."

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Hattie Simon

Courtesy photo


WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15

WHERE: Dobra Tea, 151 Middle St., Portland



"I Know You Know," Esperanza Spalding

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," Kurt Elling

"Mind Trick," Jamie Cullum

"First Train Home," Imogen Heap

"Round Midnight," Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin

"Rejazz," Regina Spektor

"River," Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae

"I Can't Help It," Gretchen Parlato

"Radio Cure," The Bad Plus with Wendy Lewis

"I Can't Get Started," Rickie Lee Jones

TURN YOUR RADIO DIAL to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her top three live music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.

Simon's a sophomore at Thornton Academy and lives in Old Orchard Beach. She started playing the piano six years ago -- at age 9 -- although she didn't start seriously studying jazz until she was 12.

GO tossed a list of questions at Simon, and she obliged us with responses. And a one and a two and a three ...

Did you grow up with a lot of music in your house?

I've grown up with a lot of jazz playing around my house and a good deal of alternative music. My mom is not a musician, but she loves jazz and has a great ear for it. We go to hear live jazz whenever we can.

What kind of music did you personally listen to growing up, and does any of that influence the kind of music you're playing?

I've always listened to all different kinds of music -- except for country -- but primarily jazz. When I first began playing piano, my mom suggested a few kid-friendly standards for me to learn, like "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and encouraged me to try singing along while I played piano. After that, I began to learn a lot of pop and jazz songs while in middle school, and performing kind of grew out of that. I've been building my jazz repertoire ever since.

What are your short-term and long-term plans as a musician?

My short-term plans through high school are just to keep studying jazz, improving my technique and interpretive style, collaborating with other musicians and doing plenty of gigging. My long-term plans include jazz vocal studies in college, along with another major that is "yet to be determined." I'm practical, so I know that I need a back-up plan for a music career. In the long term, I'd like to travel and perform a lot after college -- and definitely go to New York, where I know there will be lots of opportunity to meet and collaborate with other musicians.

How did you decide which songs to put on the EP?

I chose a sampling of songs that showcase different aspects of what I do as an artist, and I wanted the EP to be a mix of familiar standards, contemporary jazz, and then I threw in an original song which is not a jazz piece.

What's your favorite song on "La Vie En Jazz," and why?

I don't have a favorite. I think they're all great songs, but "La Vie En Rose" was an especially interesting challenge with having to sing it in both French and English.

Who is your favorite jazz singer?

It's really hard to choose just one, but Kurt Elling definitely inspires me with his mastery of interpretation, his elegant baritone and crazy vocal range. I also listen to a lot of Sarah Vaughan recordings. Her voice was so rich and full, and her improvisation incomparable.

Where can people purchase a copy of "La Vie En Jazz," and what's the best place for people to find you online?

My EP is available plenty of places online now, including:, iTunes, Amazon and Myspace. You can find video and audio links and listings for gigs on my website ( and also on Facebook at Hattie Simon-Vocals and Piano/jazz and more.

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:


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