Gwen Sampé is a jazz singer for whom the art of improvising is an integral and indispensable part of her musical soundscape. Born into a family of singers in Houston, Texas her approach to jazz singing is rooted in the past yet unapologetically modern. She has worked with musicians such as Bobby Few, John Betsch, Dudu Pukwana, Jobic Le Masson, Peter Giron and John Stevens among many others.
Nurtured on John Coltrane and Betty Carter, she brings surprise and daring to her performances, whether it be “standards” or what she calls “SlamJazz.” Her artistic background is rich and diverse.
Although primarily known as a jazz singer, her artistic experience is rich and diverse. She has performed in and directed jazz inflected mixed arts pieces including a one woman show “From The Fields To The Concert Hall,” an improvised opera, “L’Inquietude des Funambules,” by Luc Boltanski and “Turnings,” based on the poetry of Wole Soyinka. In 1990 she took the role of “God” in Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde,” the first woman to do so.
Currently she is working on her one-woman show “Boundaries,” which she premiered in Paris last before performing it in Italy and as well creating music for the rarely talked about and little-known Haikus of Richard Wright,
Gwen also uses her improvising chops in collaboration with Iranian dancer/choreographer Mehdi Farajpour. Together they were awarded best performance for the PUF in Croatia in 2016. This collaboration has taken her to Greece, Germany, and most recently South Korea.
Gwen studied dance with Yolande Burke and Bill Louther in London, and with Elsa Wolliaston in Paris.
She has released 2 albums, the first “Water Gazing,” in 2002 and “Conversions,” in 2014 with pianist Jobic Le Masson.
Il semble que Gwen Sampé ne soit pas moins éclectique! D'origine américaine, mais installée entre Paris et Londres depuis de nombreuses années, elles s'est fait connaître comme compositrice/directeur d'une production base sur les poèmes du poète nigérian Wole Soyinka, puis comme soprano dans des productions d'opéras de Benjamin Britten et Henri Purcell. Mais sa voix se fait particulièrement exceptionnelle dans standards du jazz dont l'interprétation engage qu'elle en donne l'a comparé à Betty Carter." —
Pierre Fournel, Festival Des Claviers en Poitou
La voix de Gwen Sampé, feulement de chat, puissance du swing, rocaille du rhythm 'n' blues. Des dégringolades vertigineuses de l'aigu dans les graves. Tout une vie...dans cette voix portant un jazz puisé profond dans ses racines afro américaines.
— Marie Perrin, La Tribune-Le Progès
Sampé played with her voice as if it were an instrument which has a range covering a thousand tones of colour and a sheer boundless register.