Performing the music of Shirley Horn at the upcoming Jazz Legends Lost & Found with Resonance Records series at Frankie’s Jazz Club this week, the talented Jaclyn Guillou talks with us about her take on singing Shirley, what inspires her, and a career opportunity that will take her all the way to the sunny coast of Spain.
CJ: As a budding young artist what was it that drew you to jazz?
JG: It was working with a jazz band on stage for the very first time during a musical, and falling in love with the upright bass and how it sounded. The musical was Cabaret, at the Arts Club. I remember the jazz musicians playing alongside the singers on the stage and being really impressed by that. Also, my first jazz concert at O’Douls when Rene Worst took me to hear his wife Jennifer Scott perform. The next moment was when I picked up a Dinah Washington CD, my first jazz album, and it completely blew my mind!
CJ: Musical theatre is part of your background. How have you integrated that into your current career path?
JG: In two ways; one with my experience as a tap dancer, which helped me understand rhythm, syncopation and swing. The second was as an actor, and understanding the lyrics in a comprehensive way, storytelling through the art of act pacing, and how to convey one solid message within every song.
CJ: You’ll be singing some Shirley Horn tunes during the Resonance Records series at Frankie’s on Sunday. What do you see as qualities that define a great jazz singer?
JG: For me it’s important that a jazz singer understands what they’re singing about. Always. That and excellent phrasing, both rhythmically and melodically, to explore new ideas of approaching a song, and playing with colour and tone in a creative way are all part of being a great jazz singer.
CJ: You’ve stated that Shirley Horn is one of your most admired jazz vocalists… how are you preparing for the upcoming concert at Frankie’s?
JG: I really love Shirley. In fact, working on this show has now ranked her as my favourite jazz vocalist! It was an amazing experience putting together a tribute show, because you go so deep into an artist that you really start to understand what you loved about them in the first place. My prep has included going through a variety of her albums, choosing songs that grab me and speak to me, as well as songs I think are “signature” songs done in a style that people remember her by. A few you’ll be hearing during the show are “Here’s to Life” and “You Won’t Forget Me”.
CJ: You’ve been doing a lot of travelling recently…are there artists you’ve come across that have made an impression on you?
JG: I met Kevin Hays while I was in New York and have become really fascinated with his newer music that incorporates his vocals and piano playing. I’ve been studying with Kate McGarry, the reason that brought me to New York during the spring on a BC Arts Council study grant. She’s introduced a lot of new ideas in terms of phrasing and improvising, as well as her husband guitar player Keith Ganz when they were both in Vancouver last year for a show.
CJ: Rumour is you’re moving to Europe. Fact or fiction?
JG: Fact! I am moving to Andalusia, Spain, where flamenco is from. It’s a very inspiring place in terms of language, culture and climate. The area is called Costa del Sol, which literally means Coast of the Sun. The move will allow me to focus on and progress my jazz career. There are so many clubs and festivals all year long throughout Europe, Spain will be my home base but I’ll be touring quite a bit to promote my current album “This Bitter Earth”.
CJ: Do you have a future album project you could tell us about?
Right now I am focusing on my recent album. I learned from this CD and the successes that are coming from it to slow down a bit and not be in such a hurry, while taking time artistically to focus on the next one once I’m ready. Learning all these Shirley Horn tunes has been a great experience because I’ve never done them before, so who knows, they may work their way into my next album!
CJ: If you could have dinner with any person living or dead, who would it be?
I would say Anton Chekov because I have been re-reading his short stories. Also, my grandmother is from Russia, so I’ve always held a kind of fascination with that part of the world. Chekov is the first playwright I ever fell in love with, and when it comes to songwriting, I am usually inspired by writers and playwrights as opposed to other songwriters. It allows me to cultivate a completely different perspective.
Jaclyn Guillou sings the music of Shirley Horn Sunday, November 20, 8pm at Frankie’s Jazz Club, in one of her final local appearances. Don’t miss it!