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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

08/14 - International Scottish Jazz Performer and a Local Author Bring their Passions to the Waves

Slow Living Radio is delighted to welcome Alison Burns, internationally acclaimed Jazz Singer and Actor, who has relocated to Napa Valley from her home in Scotland.  Hear her inspirational story and path to fame.

Olga Cossi has spent her life penning books for children and is now launching a new book in celebration of her path and "sisterhood", another totally different inspiration showing how rewarding the art of writing can be.

Alison Burns
Jazz Singer and Actor

There are singers and there are jazz singers. There are jazz singers and there are a few artists who bring more to the microphone – their life, love, heartaches and joy. Alison Burns is one of those artists.

A lifelong love of music started at home, with an early education in the Great American Songbook from a father who played guitar and a mother who would carry the guitar case into his gigs! As a young girl in Dundee, an industrial city on the east coast of Scotland, the dreams were of singing and acting in Hollywood and the soundtrack was Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, and Bessie Smith, among many others. The road to a recording career has been an inspiring one. From being the first female apprentice engineer in the famous Timex watch factory at the age of 16 (complete with curls and a full face of make up!) to being sacked from a bingo calling job, to the tragic circumstances which encouraged her to make a leap of faith into performing from a secure but unsatisfying job. The death of her brother Alan, who was serving in the Falklands brought home the reality of a life lived unfulfilled.

Alison and Prince William at a performance
before his marrage announcement.
While acting, singing and presenting, her band The Rainmates were offered two record deals but the time didn’t feel right. Her heart took her back to the songs of the 1940s and the close harmony groups such as The Dinning Sisters. This led to the formation of a three-part female harmony group, The Penny Dainties. Not only did the Penny Dainties record an album, but it lead to Alison meeting her now husband who substituted one night when the regular drummer was unavailable. During this time Alison was twiddling her thumbs during the day so decided to do what anyone would – to study for a law degree! A short time practising was enough to send Alison back to music full-time, however.

Alison with the BBC Big Band
After working behind the scenes for a while, it was finally time to get behind the microphone and sing the songs that had been the soundtrack to her life. Her debut album, Kissing Bug, released in March 2007, was received with universal acclaim and became the first album by a Scottish jazz singer to reach the Jazz Top 10. So far, she has packed her bag to perform in far-flung destinations such as Tokyo, Nashville, New York, Cannes, Italy and Shanghai, as well as being invited to play by Michael Parkinson, who welcomed her off stage with a huge hug and the comment, “Wonderful, wonderful!”

She has played jazz festivals and venues across the country, with her own group and guesting with Martin Taylor at a number of concerts. It was at these concerts that the idea for the new album 1:AM came about. The recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass were the inspiration, stripping back the songs to just vocal and guitar. Despite the smoky dark eyes and robust sense of humour, there’s little of the jazz diva about Alison Burns.

For those who may think that Alison is where she has always wanted to be, that’s true up to a point, but looking at her track record, this is obviously just the beginning.

Olga Cossi
My Italian Sisterhood

A native Californian, Olga Cossi was born in St.Helena and began her writing career as a staff correspondent for  the St. Helena Star while still in high school. Olga has been a  writer all her life, being driven by her older sister, Rina, for whom she  served as a ghost writer during their school years.

When Alta Napa Press compiled “Voices of the Wineland”, Olga was invited to contribute to that project and expressed her feelings for Napa Valley in a poem she entitled "As One Born Here".

Olga’s first young reader title, “Robin Deer”, was published  in 1967 by Naturegraph Publishers of Healdsburg, followed by a crush of almost thirty books, both fiction and nonfiction, in addition to many feature stories for a wide readership in a variety of publications.

Olga Cossi began a life-long participation in Author Festivals throughout California as well as other states, and in  schools in England and Germany.
For a list of all her books and awards, go to,  which also includes the stories-behind-the-stories that give a deeper insight into the personal growth she experienced through each project.

Still writing and studing early every morning, and an active part of Santa Cruz radio station KUSP, Olga has just published “An Italian Sisterhood”, the autobiographical account dedicated to her two sisters and to sisterhood everywhere. A new young reader title, “Playing Your Heart Out”,  is being prepared for release by Silver Knight Publications.

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