Gill Manly began singing at an early age, never believing that she would one day rub shoulders with the great Eartha Kitt, whilst performing in Chelsea. Raised on a diet of jazz records by her father, Gill naturally began to immerse herself in the Great American Songbook. Aged 18, she headed for London to Drama School where she began to perform. Encouraged by her voice teachers, Gill tried her hand at opera and auditioned for the Royal College of Music. Turned down she decided to leave drama school a year early and get down to the business of working. Chosen to perform in various fringe musicals in London's West End, Gill soon discovered that her real love lay in musical theatre and the great Broadway Shows. Thus the singer was born.
Gill went on to devise shows that were performed at The National Theatre, Barbican Centre and Royal Festival Hall. However, she soon committed herself to singing.
On meeting Ian Shaw in 1983, Gill became convinced that interpreting jazz standards in a new way was her true path. The duo have been friends ever since. They went on to share bills with fringe performers of the era like Barb Jungr, Julian Clary and Rory Bremner. Together, they discovered the 606 Club and this was a turning point. Here they met other jazz musicians and Gill forged links with pianists such as Bill LeSage who became a mentor and teacher. She also began to collaborate with musicians like John China, Nick Weldon, Clarke Tracey and Robin Aspland. She then met a young pianist, John G Smith, at a jazz course at Wavendon, who immediately invited her to become the vocalist for his group featuring Alec Dankworth and horn player Dave O'Higgins. Gill was introduced to a whole new gamut of jazz - from Chick Corea to Al Jarreau and Charlie Parker to Keith Jarrett as well as singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell.