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Bansko Jazz 2012 – Léah Kline

September 8, 2012 by · No comments

Interview by Dessislava Berndt with the singer Léah Kline

Jazz Festival Bansko

The International Jazz Festival in Bansko is one of the biggest summer musical events in Bulgaria and one of the foremost international cultural happenings on the Balkans.

Since its foundation in 1998 the festival has been held every year in August in the small town of Bansko. The concerts are free for the public.

Traditionally, the programme features styles and groups representing almost all jazz trends. During the festival week jazz is also played on various smaller stages in the large resort complexes and restaurants.

Today we would like to present you Léah Kline from Léah Kline Quintet , who performed this summer at the XV International Jazz Festival in Bansko.

Léah, you have full schedule for the whole year. How is it going so far?

Yes, it is full but for me it is not too much. In fact I can handle much more. Only traveling the whole time can be hard.

Léah Kline, Photo: Elisabeth Melchior

I love performing and usually people take care of me. The life of the musician seems to be glamorous but it is not. In Bulgaria it was really nice that people took the time to think how I can get around, invited me for lunch and introduced me to new people. So if you have this kind of a situation where people are looking out for you it is easier to travel.

I do a lot of different things. Because I have good memory I know my songs and don’t need to spend lots of hours learning them. Tonight we have a performance with three new tunes so I have to rehearse them. I do some swing stuff, but with the blues stuff we have been doing the same music for three years. And in Bulgaria it was my own music.

Léah Kline, Photo: Gerd Jordan

I want to be reaching people in every land and meeting all sorts of people sharing my voice and music. I am just happy to do it.

What are your plans for the rest of 2012? And for 2013?

I am working now with a New swing band of 11 people which is not yet one year old. It seems to be a very nice band for dance music. It is called Zoot vintage dance band. Everyone is dressed up in vintage clothes. A very large promoter of this sort of retro dance has asked us to be the House band. This is exciting because this will put us in front of more people. Big events are coming on 22.09.2012 and 29.09.2012 in Antwerp, Belgium and Amsterdam.

We are performing for Radio Modern. At their last party in Brussels they go all out. Everybody was dancing and having good time. And this is great for musicians to see the satisfaction of the people. We have at the moment just a demo tape and have to record a cd. (

I do also a lot of writing. I have started to write new songs. The songs I performed in Bansko are 4 years old, but the songs I wrote so far are not enough for a new cd. So, I would like to concentrate on that this year. I hope to play next year the new songs and to record a new cd.

Léah Kline Quintet at Bansko Jazz 2012, Photo: desenze

How was Bansko? Was this your first time at the International Jazz Festival Bansko?

It was the first time in Bulgaria and Bansko was the end of a little tour. We did a concert at the Jazz Festival in Lozenetz – Black Sea; we were there the main act. Dimitar Dimitrov – the drummer – and his wife Blaga who did the documentary are working with Bulgarian and Americans and organized this. We played at the Spirit of Bourgas and two concerts in Sofia. And finished with the Bansko festival.

I know Dimitar Bodurov from Amsterdam and we want to work together again. Normally he is doing a lot of solo or trio music without voice so it was really nice that he asked me. I was very pleased with the musicians they put together and I was very happy with the way they were able to interpret my music.

At the jam session I met Angel Zaberski and he asked me if I am interested in singing with his band. So, it seems that people are interested in having me come back. And that would be lovely.

I met Vasil Petrov at the jam session and it was good to sing some songs together.

What are your impressions of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people?

Extremely generous, warm and open. It was very easy to talk to people, to move around and I had the feeling that I was just welcome everywhere I went. It was really just charming and it makes me want to come back to Bulgaria.

Léah Kline Quintet at Bansko Jazz 2012, Photo: desenze

We met in Bansko this lovely couple, friends of Mitko Bodurov and they invited me for lunch and wanted to show me the mountains. That I loved. Another girl at the jam session said to me you should see the mountains and other places because Bulgaria is so beautiful and she was eager to show me this.

The food is also really good. I am vegetarian and was very happy with the food. I was really happy with the whole experience. I was charmed by the Bulgarians.

How and when was found Léah Kline Quintet?

The music I have done is my own music and has existed but it was the first time in Bansko that I played it with other musicians.

The Bulgarians did a great job. I was very happy with the flexibility and professionalism of the trumpet player Mischo Yossifov.

11:35min – Léah Kline Quintet

Léah Kline Quintet plays mostly music from my cd Juzz Flirtin. They are poems put to music and the pianist who wrote the music is Dirk Balthaus. He comes from Germany, lives in Amsterdam and we made lovely music. We toured together for 3 years. Then we took a little break and did other projects. So Bulgaria was the first time I played our music without Dirk.

We toured under “JuzzFlirtin” but Dirk felt that the name wasn’t working so we changed it to Léah Kline…

I keep Léah Kline for my original music but it can be also Léah Kline trio or band, or quartet…

How did you get into music?

As a kid, my grand parents were big party givers. They had this huge beautiful piece of furniture, a record player from the 50’s. On one side you could stack 5 records on and the other held at least 50 records I would listen to music for hours.

I always sang, danced and acted. I was listening to musical theatre which is very early jazz standards. It was really easy for me to transition into that kind of music. Early Jazz I have a very simple (straight, clean) voice that fits to that style. I did singing in a choir at church. There I learned about harmonies. In high school there was dance, chorus and theatre and I learned a lot about music there.


I was on a cruise ship for six months and had decided that I wanted to be a jazz singer. So I committed 200 jazz standards to memory. So, after that I could jump into a jam session and sing. I started really getting to expand my jazz singing when I moved to Holland in 2000. I had to adapt to what was being played, to have feeling for the tempo and to listen. It taught me a lot of skills.

I don’t consider myself a composer. I am a singer, actress, story teller; I always need a musical partner. After I made my debut cd “Playground: jazz standards” I wanted to take my poems and see if it is possible to turn it into music. That’s what I did with Dirk. It was very scary to suddenly allow people into my head and my heart. I couldn’t hide behind someone else’s songs anymore!

What are your other passions?

I discovered yoga. I used to teach dance and somehow I taught yoga in my dance school. I know a lot about the body and what yoga does. With the whole travelling thing, yoga balances me. But it has changed me too. Yoga is in my performing and in my writing.

Léah Kline, Photo: Elisabeth Melchior

I am an entertainer. It is in my blood but I don’t want only to entertain. I want to touch people, I want them to wake up and to come to themself and not only to drink beer and to disappear. I want to talk about real things, to perform my own stuff. I do yoga and music because they are a part of me.

What’s your life philosophy?

I want to be around people who are completely themselves. I strive to be completely myself. To be Authentic. We are too affected by advertising and other people’s opinion. I try to remain in the Here and Now and to be spontaneous, groovy, sexy, and childish. I just try to be honest with everything that’s coming out of me.

Léah Kline Quintet at Bansko Jazz 2012, Photo: desenze

“We are here together” – this is my wish to show people.

I write, I sing and move to the music. I feel it first in my body and have to move and express it. It is second nature. I just obey it.

Why do you sing without shoes?

I just started doing it this year. It was a small venue and I took my shoes off. I felt that something wasn’t right, at a certain moment I wasn’t connected with the musicians. I can’t explain it but it felt right to take off my shoes. I kind of actually threw them off like “ get off my feet you are in the way! Stupid Shoes”. The connection was there again. It feels like me. I am connecting with something in the floor or the earth maybe because of the yoga thing. I don’t know… We say in America, “Don’t change a winning combination”.

Which was for you the most surprising experience working with other musicians?

I am a bit of perfectionist and I don’t like to make mistakes. Once I was performing a well-known tune Route 66 I sang it in C and they played it in a wrong key F. It was so high for me that I tried to sing around the melody just trying to fix it. After the performance everybody was excited. “Wow that was wonderful!”

I was pleased that my natural intuition was good to fix the situation. Because of those kinds of situations I am more open and trust that I have good ear that will lead me. Now I can handle difficult situations and I am no more afraid of it. Lesson: Listen.

CDcover JuzzFlirtin
CD-Cover JuzzFlirtin, Photo: Egon VIebre

So when I played with the Bulgarians -and they have a really different way of feeling rhythm- I was open. My ears were open. That’s when something special happens.

What is the most important thing you would like that people should know about you?

That is a tough question.

My website?

I am not going to sit still and I probably won’t keep my mouth shut.

That for the most part I am doing everything myself and that is what most jazz musicians are doing. It is a full time job. And it can be lonely sometimes. And kindness and help from others is a beautiful balance to this life.

Oh and that I am available for jazz festivals and radio shows and your living room to perform, but not for free. : – )

What are you dreaming about?

A large group of people in front of me. Travelling to all places, singing. I was born in Japan, my cds are selling there but I’ve never been there to sing.

Léah Kline Quintet at Bansko Jazz 2012, Photo: desenze

I want make a new cd, to be on huge stage with lights, to make a great show and people that a totally touched and moved.

I also would love to own a house somewhere where it is beautiful and have extra rooms for guests to pay back all the kindnesses I come across.

Where can your albums be bought from?

I am singing on 7 cds now. But two cds I produced by myself: Playground and JuzzFlirtin. You can buy a physical CD on and I will send you the cd signed if you ask me. But also digitally on Or Apple iTunes.

Léah Kline is an accomplished stage performer who has enjoyed the privilege of performing in virtually every field of entertainment.

As a singer, Léah is noted for her personal delivery and phrasing of songs paying great respect to the meaning of the lyrics. Particularly well received for her vivacious stage presence and clear melodic tones, her phrasing and interpretation has earned favorable attention from jazz fans.

She currently resides in Amsterdam, where she enjoys a full performing and teaching schedule.

An American jazz singer based in the Netherlands, Léah Kline performs an eclectic variety of music that ranges from straight-ahead jazz to Cabaret to original cross-genre material. She was born in Japan when her father was stationed there in the military, but grew up in the United States. Kline played piano, congas and hand bells as a child. She graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1991. She worked in the Washington D.C. area as a singer/dancer. In 1995 she moved to Los Angeles, performing in a wide variety of situations. A fall off a balcony disabled her for a period and a six-month USO tour of Europe convinced her to become a jazz singer. Kline became part of the Los Angeles jazz community.

In 2000 she moved to Amsterdam. Since then, she has performed in “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (a musical based on the life of Irving Berlin), was part of a “tribute to Ann Burton”, worked with the Glen Miller Orchestras, appeared in “42nd Street” and “Musicals in Ahoy”, toured with her own “JazzCabaret” shows through Nederland and performs as a jazz singer throughout Europe as a guest or with her own group.

She has also co-hosted a radio show The Jazz Corner, written music articles and teaches at the Theater School in Amsterdam. Kline has thus far recorded 6 CDs: a theatrical standards album based on her Jazz Cabaret Shows (Play ground), her original lyrics and poetry written to pianist Dirk Balthaus’ music on Juzz Flirtin ,a blues Cd from German boogie pianist Christian Bleiming (Boogie in my Heart), 2 cds of recognition and in 2011 on a cd with the Benny Goodman influenced Bernard Berkhout Swing Orchestra, “Let’s Dance”.

Léah placed as finalist in the Dutch Jazz Vocalist Competition in 2005 and is listed as one of the Top Jazz Singers in the book The Jazz Singers – the Ultimate Guide, by LA jazz critic, Scott Yanow. Léah has written songs with Dirk Balthaus, Joost van der Knaap, Bastiaan Woltjer and singer Anne Chris.

Bernard Berkhout – “Let’s Dance” – Swing – 2011
Anne Chris (as co- lyricist) – “ Play for Now” – Pop Jazz – 2010
Christian Bleiming Trio featuring- Léah Kline – “Boogie in my Heart” – Boogie Blues – 2009
Léah Kline – “Juzz Flirtin” – Contemporary – 2007
NL Jazz Vocalisten Concours – Finalisten Classic – 2005
Léah Kline – “Playground” – Theatrical Standards – 2003

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