Fiona Ross looks at life from both sides now on her smart, stylish and sophisticated new album Red Flags & High Heels — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
With her fifth studio full-length, the internationally acclaimed London jazz vocalist, pianist, composer, producer and journalist draws upon her vast experience and expertise to fashion a personal yet relatable collection that documents life’s ups and downs — along with everything between.
“The Red Flags represent those things that just don’t sit right with you,” Ross explains. “Although you are not always sure why and you don’t always know what to do about it.” For example: “Constant analysis. People’s ignorance. Those things you shouldn’t do but do anyway and you have no idea why you did them until after it has all gone wrong.” On the flipside: “The High Heels represent fun, sex and strength. For many, high heels bring to mind something sexy and playful, while for others they represent power, strength and freedom.”
Speaking of freedom: You Are Like Poison, the first single from the LP, is a romantic kiss-off that minces no words — and takes no prisoners with its speedy pace, slinky guitars, busy drums and volleys of brash brass. “I went to town with brass for this album and fell in love with Dave Boa’s muted trumpet,” recalls Ross. The album also features stellar contributions from saxophonist Loren Hignell, bassist Derek Daley, percussionists Marley Drummond, Warren Woodcraft and Simon Todd, guitarist Gibbi Bettini, backing vocalist and saxophonist Ashaine White, as well as mastering engineer Nick Watson and mixing engineer Warren Woodcraft and Elliot Richardson.
Other key tracks on the set include Good Enough, a reflection on self-esteem; When I Get Old, a tribute to Ross’s female role models who’ve grown gracefully; More Time, a be-bop cut inspired by Ross’s research on the history of jazz; and The Apple Trees Won’t Grow Anymore, a moving song based on a dream about Ross’s mother, a published poet. “I had this weird dream where there were very grey fields and my Mum kept saying the apple trees won’t grow anymore and there was a weird cheerful melody playing throughout my dream,” Ross remembers. “I didn’t understand it at the time at all. She passed away not long afterwards, during Covid lockdown. In my last album, I wrote a song for my Dad, but for this album, I wrote one not for my Mum but about her and it felt right to reference the apple trees.”
And there’s more: The disc’s 10 studio tracks are augmented by four bonus live recordings that showcase Ross’s character-filled voice and expressive piano, alongside her band’s crisp, tight accompaniment. “I recorded a few live sessions during the lockdown period but only released them as videos, so I wanted to include them on my new album,” she explains. “It’s nice to share some new arrangements of some of my early songs, which I always perform live and always go down well with the crowd!”
Red Flags & High Heels arrives in the wake of a plethora of honours for her previous album Fierce and Non-Compliant. The accolades include Best Jazz Song from the World Songwriting Awards for the paternal ode For My Dad, an Outstanding Achievement prize from the Global Music Awards, and International Female Songwriter Of The Year honours from the International Singer Songwriters Association.