YolanDa Brown is a one-off, very much a woman of her time, and one of the precious few truly independent artists whose DIY ethic hasn't hindered the progress of her career but instead has laid the kind of foundations that could endure for decades.
As much entrepreneur as she is musician, as much gifted singer-songwriter as she is the UK's premier saxophonist, this is a young lady with an entrepreneurial bent who, in 2012, is going to make a considerable mainstream splash, her name in lights at last.
After several years on the jazz circuit, not just London's jazz circuit but, as we shall see, the world's, she is now poised to release her debut album, April Showers, May Flowers, that will surely see her cult reputation brought to the fore. This is an album of effortless unfurling grace and impeccable soulful poise. It is the product of a two-time MOBO Award winner who knows exactly what she is doing, and precisely how to do it.
She was born in Barking in the early 1980s. Her father was in advertising, her mother a head teacher. By six, she was already something of a musical prodigy. Her first instrument was the piano, but, never much caring for the theoretical side, she gradually lost interest, and gravitated instead to the violin, and then the drums. The next few years saw a fleeting interest in several more instruments, the oboe and the recorder among them. But by 13 she had settled for the saxophone, with which she felt most comfortable, and also most naturally inclined towards - so much so, that she refused her parents' offer of lessons, and simply did precisely what it is that defines all musical prodigies: she taught herself.
By her mid-teens, it was clear to both her and her parents that music was what she would go on to pursue in life, but, unlike so many musicians who get the bug early, her pursuit did not come at the cost of her education. Quite the contrary: she juggled both. A head girl in comprehensive school in her native East London, she sailed through her GCSEs and A-levels, and gained a First in her operations management degree, before gaining two Masters in the subject . After a year studying in Spain, she came back not only even more versed in the world of business, but also fully bilingual.
Playing live as much as she could over the next few years, she quickly gained a reputation for herself - to the extent that, in 2008, she won a MOBO for Best Jazz, and then again in 2009. She played sax with everyone from Alexander O'Neal to Mica Paris, Soweto Kinch to The Temptations, and released two lovingly crafted EPs. She began increasingly to tour further afield - in the US, in Italy and Spain - and for 18 months even hosted her own talk show on Sky.
She has been listed in the Evening Standard as one of the top 30 black students in the UK (as selected by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown), and now increasingly works within the charity sector, as ambassador for both the Prince's Trust and the Yamaha Class Band, an initiative that visits schools in underprivileged areas encouraging children to pick up an instrument.
She is also currently backing Plan UK's Because I Am A Girl campaign, and is a patron of the Mayor of London's Fund for Young Musicians.
There is, dizzyingly, yet more: last year she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the University of East London, and in 2011 was invited to meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. She went, had tea, and a lovely time.