Jazz singer Greta Jane Pedersen loves mid-century tunes, beautiful clothes and Olympia.
But next month, Pedersen will leave town and The Greta Jane Quartet, which has repeatedly been chosen Olympia’s best jazz band in readers’ polls. She’s about to embark on a journey that will take her first to Paris and then she knows not where.
Monday, Pedersen and the rest of the quartet — guitarist Vince Brown, pianist Andrew Dorsett and bassist Cary Black — will play a farewell concert at Rhythm & Rye. The bar was formerly the Royal Lounge, where the foursome played every Monday night for three years.
“I’m taking what I like to call a leap of faith,” Pedersen said. “I will travel in Europe for four months, wherever I have people, wherever I can get a show.
“I have a lot of changes going on here, and it feels like it’s time. I had this great psychic reading, and it was all about Paris. Paris is calling.”
Pedersen, who grew up in Boston, moved to Olympia 16 years ago in a similarly spontaneous way. She got a call asking her to come help friends open the downtown restaurant and music venue Le Voyeur. The idea of moving to the other side of the country appealed to her, but she didn’t plan to stay long.
“When I got here, I was always like, this will be my last year, this will be my last year,” she said. “After four or five years, I was like, ‘I guess I’ll stop saying that.’
“It really has become my home.”
It was here she fulfilled her lifelong dream of singing.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a singer,” she said, “but I was really shy about it until I moved here.”
She started the alternative band Romanteek 14 years ago. The band, while not too active in recent years, will release a few more songs before Pedersen leaves.
Then seven or eight years ago, The Greta Jane Quartet came together.
“I started playing just with Andrew, and we were invited to perform at a secret café,” Pedersen said. “While we were there, we saw Vince, and Andrew was like, ‘We have to see if we can play with that guy.’ Then Vince asked Cary, and then we began.”
The quartet went on to a regular gig at the Royal, playing Mondays night from 2009-12. The Royal’s successor, Rhythm & Rye, still hosts weekly jazz every Mondays, and the quartet’s farewell show is part of that series.
“We had a great time performing for the community and really creating that special place,” Brown said.
Pedersen has an amazing connection to the period music the quartet plays, he said.
“Greta really brings the sensibilities of the mid-20th century pop jazz singer to what she does in the 21st century,” he said. “Her gift as a singer is her ability to really get inside a particular song and figure out what it means to her and communicate that so clearly to the audience.
“In a live performance, you can talk to anyone in the audience afterwards, and they’ll swear she was singing to them.”
Besides her work with Romanteek and Greta Jane, Pedersen performs solo poetry as Pearl Diver, and DJs music with Sarah Adams as Captain Lady and the Guilty Pleasure.
Although she’ll travel to Paris with a friend, Pedersen will be on her own in Europe. She’s developing a short one-woman show suited for performance at salons and house parties, a combination of storytelling, music and more. She’ll play her new instrument, a set of six musical brandy snifters.
She already has one show booked — in Belgium — and she also plans to serve in the kitchen at a few Vipassana meditation centers.
One coincidence about the timing of the trip is Pedersen might get the chance to see a documentary about her at some film festivals in Europe. A Swedish friend has been making the film, “Greta’s Guide to the Galaxy,” for the past 15 years, and it’s finally complete.
“She just sent the rough cut, and I really liked it,” Pedersen said. “Hopefully, it will get into a couple festivals in Berlin and Göteborg.”
Other than the first six weeks in Paris, though, her itinerary is mostly open. “I’ll be a flaneur, one who just wanders aimlessly,” she said.
The trip will last four months. At the end of that time, Pedersen might make arrangements to move to Europe, she might move back to the U.S., or she might continue wandering.
“It’s been my long-term goal to be a full-time world-traveling performer,” she said.
She will return to Olympia, but not, she said, to stay.
“Any bigger city that I go to is going to be great for my career,” she said.
That makes the farewell all the more poignant.
“I’m going to miss her dearly,” Brown said. “She’s a unique and special person, and her departure is going to create a hole in our community that will be difficult to fill. I’ve loved playing music with her, and I’ve loved spending time with her, and I’m going to miss both of those things.”
Recently, Pedersen and Dorsett were performing as a duo at the Little Creek Casino.
“There’s this song ‘Once Upon a Summertime,’ s” she said, eyes glistening just a bit as she talks. “It’s so beautiful and so sweet and so sad.
“I was in the cigar lounge singing for no one who cared, and I was on the edge of tears thinking about singing the song at the going-away party. I thought, if I can be almost crying singing this with no one listening, how will it be when people are really feeling it?”
GRETA JANE QUARTET FAREWELL CONCERT
What: The popular quartet, specializing in mid-century vocal jazz, plays its final show before lead singer Greta Jane Pedersen heads to Paris.
When: 8 p.m. Monday.
Where: Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way N., Olympia.