Jazz singer closes Coquitlam summer series

Jaclyn Guillou ends Music on the Grill at Evergreen Cultural Centre on Aug. 13.

No, Jaclyn Guillou is not on a farm. She's in suburban Los Angeles, staying with her sister at a place where wild roosters roam and crow.

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The North Delta native is relaxing in California and catching up with friends and family before she hits the road once again, a tour that includes a stop in Coquitlam next weekend.

On Aug. 13, the award-winning jazz singer will close the Evergreen Cultural Centre's summer series Music on the Grill with a nod to a vocalist who inspired her to change genres: Dinah Washington, the American singer and pianist known as the most popular black female recording artist of the 1950s.

Before she made the switch, Guillou was heavily into musical theatre having performed with Gateway Theatre and Theatre Under the Stars. The classically trained opera singer was also winning tap contests and provincial competitions and, at 17, she moved to Ontario to enrol in the prestigious musical theatre program at Sheridan College, where she was on scholarship for three years.

But after she graduated, Guillou had had enough with the craft. She told casting agents: "Don't call me for auditions. I'm done."

Still, with the dancing and costumes gone, she yearned for the limelight. Around the age of 25, Guillou picked up her first jazz CD. Washington was the singer.

Guillou explored her musical background — and the people she worked with — and listened to her songs, which she also sung in country and blues style. "She had a huge range and sung with a lot of power," Guillou said. "She made me pay attention."

In 2009, at her first gig at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Guillou won the CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award.

People told her, "You can really sing!" she remembered. "I thought, 'Yes, I can do this.'"

And, since then, she has travelled the world, playing at jazz fests and at famous jazz venues — among them, Yoshi's in San Francisco, Birdland Jazz Club in New York and the Cellar in Vancouver.

Five years ago, she released her first jazz album, To The City, and two years on, CBC invited Guillou to record a live concert in tribute to Washington for its series Absolutely Canadian.

That documentary was followed by two albums in 2014: The Lover's Walk and Winter For Beginners — the latter recorded at Groundhog Sound in Port Coquitlam with Bruno Hubert on piano, David Blake on guitar, James Meger on bass and Andrew Millar on drums.

Recently, Guillou came out with her fourth work, This Bitter Earth, a CD dedicated to Washington that earned her a Juno award nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year in April.

Guillou said her Music on the Grill concert will feature music from that album — the first set as a quartet; the second set with more strings.

She doesn't regret her transition from musical theatre. That genre, she said, doesn't have much wiggle room for interpretation unlike jazz in which "you have to be really spiritual and meditative to be in the moment…. I feel like I'm too rebellious and independent for musical theatre now."

• Tickets for Jaclyn Guillou at Music on the Grill on Aug. 13 are $35 for the concert, or $55 for a BBQ and show. Call the Evergreen Cultural Centre box office at 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca.




Want to win tickets to see Jaclyn Guillou at Music on the Grill? Email jwarren@tricitynews.com by Aug. 5.


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