Jazz Journalist, Victoria
Jazz vocalists are sonic and soul explorers. The art requires masterful technique, poetic daring, and a depth of experience that usually comes from years of tragedies and triumphs. Melinda Whitaker is a true jazz vocalist.
In an era when barely-budding sensations, washed-up pop stars, and long-in-the-tooth ex-rockers are dressing up and singing standards, Melinda Whitaker’s performances on-stage and on record defines the jazz vocal tradition. She embodies the art form.
“I sing because I breathe,” Melinda laughs, and critics and fans like Dr. Peter Gouzouasis, Professor of Music and former Music Director at Philadelphia’s WRTI/JAZZ90, agree.
Melinda Whitaker is a delight for anyone who likes vocal jazz. Her song is her life, and Melinda sings life like no other. Anyone who has heard Melinda’s voice knows its smoky brilliance, the seductive, electrical charge that this wonderful performer can bring to a song.”
Whitaker’s life in jazz began in Edmonton, singing original compositions and on CBC Television with Tommy Banks. Returning home to Vancouver, she became a fixture on the city’s vibrant jazz scene while making a second home in the equally active local studios singing on commercials for television, radio and film
While singing nightly with Vancouver jazz stalwarts like Fraser MacPherson, Bob Murphy, Miles Black, Rene Worst, Oliver Gannon, Ross Taggart and Linton Garner, Melinda performed for three years on The Rene Simard Show and television specials with Jose Feliciano, Kenny Loggins and Roger Whittaker. She sang with Martin Short on the first television show at Vancouver’s CBC Studios in a career that also includes work with everyone from Alan Thicke, Brent Carver and Andre Gagnon to rock royalty like Bryan Adams and Wolfman Jack. She has opened for jazz great Ray Brown at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and was featured jazz vocalist with the Victoria Symphony’s concert L’Amour! A Romantic Triptych Around the World. Melinda also appeared in concert at the Alix Goolden Hall performance with The Great Ladies of Jazz.
Victoria jazz pianist and composer, Brent Jarvis featured several of Whitaker’s smoldering vocal readings on Daedalus, his recently released CD jazz tribute to the poetry of Dorothy Livesay. But the best example of the jazz vocalist’s genius is Melinda’s 2004 CD, The Touch of Your Lips, where she mines the standard repertoire with wise, swinging arrangements in English and Spanish featuring pianist Miles Black, drummer Tommy Doran and the CD’s producer, veteran bassist Rick Kilburn. Whitaker’s spare, horn-like readings caress a repertoire of great old songs with warmth that is as soul-revealing as it is artfully performed. You can hear influences including Shirley Horn, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan, but Melinda has spun her influences into a rich, unique fabric of sensuous sound.
Whitaker is a singular talent with an exquisite sense of time and tone and a deep knowledge of the jazz tradition. Her music swings transcendently, creating art from life’s magnificent struggle.
What a singer!