b. 1954, England. As a child Jan soaked up the big band sounds of Basie and Ellington with Ella's sublime vocals. Impressed with artists like Scott Walker she managed to sidestep Beatlemania and began singing along with records and the radio to music that was often instrumental rather than vocal. She would improvise lyrics or scat to anything from classics to rock. Her interest in jazz proved to be just as eclectic as her other musical interests. Whilst her teenage peers listened to Genesis and Yes, not wanting to be accused by them of 'turning on to to mum and dad's music' she secretly listened to Archie Shepp. She also listened to folk groups like Pentangle, and later to singers as diverse as Helen Merrill and Joni Mitchell. Whilst shopping for Mahavishnu Orchestra albums she discovered Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' and never looked back.
Jan began singing professionally with Big Chief, a jazz rock fusion band which included Dick Heckstall-Smith in its ranks. Her listening tastes continued to be angled towards be-bop, modern, and contemporary jazz, with particular favourites being Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, and Chic Corea, and singers including Sheila Jordan, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack. The wide range of Ponsford’s musical interests and her searching stylistic endeavours led inevitably to her forming her own quintet featuring some of the UK's finest players including Harry Beckett, and later in the mid-90s she formed Vocal Chords with a line-up that bespeaks the very best in contemporary vocal talent: Norma Winstone, Ian Shaw, Winston Clifford, Liane Carroll, Jill Francis, Clare Foster and Anton Browne. Ponsford, who also teaches, is clearly a voice - singing and speaking - to listen out for in the future.