Top London jazz singer Iain Mackenzie, chats with Kevin Cooper about his love of all things Sinatra, performing at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s, the release of his debut lounge album Blow Your Horn, and his forthcoming tour to celebrate the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra.

Iain Mackenzie comes from a pedigree of great British jazz and big band singers. After graduating from the Guildhall School of Music, he worked with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, the RTE Concert Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Big Band. Iain was also the principle male vocalist for the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra, and section leader for the Ronnie Scott’s Singers; The iTones.

He has also toured with Brendan Cole’s Live and Unjudged show, and again on the Licence To Thrill show. Their fifth tour, A Night To Remember will be touring again early in 2016.

He has recently released his debut Lounge album, Blow Your Horn and is currently on tour to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late great Frank Sinatra with a concert of songs and music made famous by the world’s most loved singer.

Whilst busy touring he took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.


Iain good morning how are you today?

I’m very well thanks, how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem Kevin, it’s my pleasure.

So tell me a little about yourself; where are you from?

At the moment I’m living in Barnet, North London which is almost where I originate from as my parents live in Bushy near Watford which is not that far away at all. I am married to Helen and we have two children, Poppy who is fourteen and Fred who is eleven.

Are either Poppy or Fred showing signs of following dad into the music business?

A little bit Kevin, yes (laughter). I was recently performing at a ballroom dancing competition at The Royal Albert Hall here in London. I thought that I was doing alright however Fred was doing backing vocals for Sir Tom Jones at Wembley Arena (laughter). Apparently Fred was a little cheeky to Sir Tom but Sir Tom took it all in his stride (laughter). Fred shook his hand after the show and said “thanks Tommy boy” to which Sir Tom replied “good attitude young man” (laughter).

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life is certainly treating me very well at the moment Kevin. I am doing lots of fantastic things at the moment. For me to have the opportunity to sing this sort of stuff with a full concert orchestra is simply amazing.

Earlier this year you released your debut Lounge album Blow Your Horn. Were you happy with how it was received?

Yes I was Kevin, it got some very nice plays on the radio. What is nice about the album is that it is all original music. There are only two songs on there which I haven’t written so I am really proud of it. Because it is sort of Lounge style but with Electro Beats it’s a real mish-mash of contemporary and old school for me. I really do hope that people enjoy it.

Do you enjoy the writing as much as you enjoy the singing?

I really enjoy writing actually. I am getting more and more into writing Kevin. I have just recently co-written a whole big band album with bass player Geoff Gascoyne. We recorded that at the Angel Studios with a full concert orchestra and that was so exciting. I absolutely love song writing. I have actually bought myself a Sammy Cahn rhyming dictionary (laughter) which is a blueprint of how to write in his style. It is such a lovely thing. So the song writing side of things for me is most definitely on the up.

You have recently finished your fifth tour with Brendan Cole on his A Night To Remember tour. How was that?

It’s always great fun touring with Brendan and I am already booked for another tour with him early next year so all is good at the moment.

On the subject of Brendan is he in real life as argumentative as his on screen persona?

(Hysterical laughter) I think that TV can decide just how they want to portray people and then that is how the editing goes. I have to say that Brendan is an absolute gent Kevin. He and Anton du Beke are great friends; they are great chums, and they really get on well. They are the big boys now in Strictly Come Dancing.

They always say that you should never believe your own publicity but when a certain Kevin Spacey says that you are “the real deal” then surely that has got to mean something?

(Laughter) that was really great. Occasionally Kevin would come down to Ronnie Scott’s to see me performing with the big band down there. Obviously having made the amazing Bobby Darin movie, he showed that he is actually a really great singer himself. He came down to Ronnie Scott’s and he said to me after the show “I was in the john downstairs and I could hear you singing through a tiny little speaker and I thought to myself, man, this boy is the real deal” (laughter). It was really sweet of him to say that and he is a really nice guy.

Performing at Ronnie Scott’s with the big band orchestra how is that?

Firstly Kevin I have to say that Ronnie Scott’s is such a legendary place. It has so much history and the place has such a vibe. It is so nice and intimate as it only seats 250 people. We have a regular once a month slot for the big band at Ronnie’s and for me to sing with them in such an intimate place is simply amazing. To see a big band in such a close proximity is really exciting.

You got into Frank Sinatra when you were ten years old. What was it about his music that captured your imagination?

To be honest Kevin the very first album which I owned wasn’t by Sinatra it was actually an Elvis (Presley) album. Mainly because I had actually got into all of the Elvis movies on Saturday mornings at the local cinema. Because I had bought myself an album I decided to look through my mum and dads record collection and I found three Sinatra albums; Come Dance With Me, Ring-A-Ding-Ding and (Frank) Sinatra/(Count) Basie: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings. I just put them on and I was just gobsmacked straightaway with how powerful the sound of the big band was and how cool Sinatra sounded. I was totally awestruck straightaway.

After that I remember seeing him in films and thinking ‘wow I want to be this guy’ (laughter). It was his phrasing; how he captured the lyric and how he lived the song. He was also very particular about the music and what songs that he would perform. He championed the songwriters, the melody writers and the lyricists all the way. He was so very passionate about music in general. I just love everything that Sinatra has recorded with the exception of a couple of blips in the 70’s and 80’s when he attempted to record pop songs (laughter). Although he did do a great cover version of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.

Who do you listen to now?

As far as jazz singers are concerned I love Kurt Elling who I think is an absolutely wonderful jazz singer. Many people might not have heard of Kurt but he is certainly big on the jazz scene. If we are talking about pop music then I love Bruno Mars and Pharrell Williams. I think that they are great. They are both writing in such a classic style of writing. I have to be honest Kevin and say that if I have any serious down time then it’s not new stuff that I am listening to. I will still always go back to Frank. Once you are hooked you are hooked Kevin (laughter).

On Tuesday 22nd December you will be performing the Sinatra Centenary Show together with the London Concert Orchestra to celebrate the 100th Birthday of Frank Sinatra, here in Nottingham at the Royal Concert Hall. Are you looking forward to getting out on the road with the show?

Absolutely Kevin, I am loving the idea of it and it is going to be a fantastic event celebrating 100 years of the greatest singer of all times.

What can we expect from the show, any surprises?

In Nottingham that will be a Christmas Concert Kevin. There will be all of the classics of course which I am not going to run through because you already know those (laughter). There are going to be some nice Christmas things in there including some nice things from Sinatra At The Sands, maybe Luck Be A Lady, a few things like that; maybe a little Witchcraft too, who knows (laughter). There will be some great Christmas tunes too but Kevin, you will just have to wait and see (laughter).

You have got Emma Kershaw touring with you. Does that give you a few more options when it comes to selecting which songs go into the show?

Yes it does Kevin, very much so. Having Emma on the tour with us gives us the opportunity to do things like Baby It’s Cold Outside, Marshmallow World and things like that Kevin.

You have also got the London Concert Orchestra conducted by Richard Balcombe. Is it fun performing with them?

Basically Kevin the concert orchestra is the big band with sixteen strings, harp and percussion and the guys who are playing are top, top notch. They really are a fantastic orchestra and they are the first call guys for many things. So it is going to be really exciting.

Putting you on the spot, do you have a favourite Sinatra song?

If you ask me for my favourite single Sinatra song I would have to say All The Way which I sang to my grandfather at Ronnie Scott’s on his hundredth birthday, which was a very special moment. However if you asked me which my favourite song is that I will be singing on the show then that would have to be I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Composed by Cole Porter and conducted by Nelson Riddle, add Frank Sinatra and it does not get much better than that, does it?

Having performed there a few times now, how do you find the acoustics here at the Royal Concert Hall?

I think that the whole place is fantastic Kevin. However I must point out that this will be the very first time that I will have performed there with a full orchestra (laughter). I am very excited to find out what the acoustics are going to be like with the full orchestra. I think that the whole evening is going to be great. I have very fond memories of Nottingham. I think that the city is just great.

How did you find yourself in musical theatre?

To be perfectly honest with you Kevin Musical Theatre really isn’t really so much my bag as I am more of a jazz singer who has fallen into performing live on the stage. I started off as a chorister in Durham Cathedral when I was a lad and then when I had decided that I wanted music to be my life and career I went to the Leeds College Of Music where I studied Jazz Piano for three years. I then decided that there were much better piano players out there and that perhaps I could earn some money as a singer. So I took myself off to the Guildhall School Of Music as a singer on their Jazz Masters course. One thing lead to another and I got out there and I did it (laughter).

You have worked with some big names in the music business, Sandie Shaw, Joss Stone and Mica Paris to name but a few. Who has given you the most pleasure?

That would have to be the small concert which I did with James Tormé who a lot of people will not know is the son of Mel Tormé. I did a couple of things with James including Children In Need and I had a great time with him. I really did enjoy working with him and being able to listen to him telling stories about his dad. The added bonus was that I am a huge Mel Tormé fan too Kevin. It was just great. I also enjoyed performing a few duets with Susan Boyle on her last tour. It was great fun even if Susan is a crazy character (laughter). She really is lovely.

On that note Iain let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me and good luck with the tour.

Thanks Kevin. Make sure that you come and say hello when we reach Nottingham. It’s been great.