Genres: Vocal, Jazz
Styles: Standards, Vocal Jazz, World Fusion, Brazilian Jazz
Vocalist Jackie Ryan arrived on the ever-changing jazz scene at the dawning of the new millennium, deriving a classic, yet exotic style and sound. Of Mexican, Irish, French, and Spanish decent, Ryan throws her background it into her music. She sings in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, and echoes of Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday can be heard. The live effort For Heavens Sake was issued in 2000. Two years later, Ryan released Passion Flower.
- MacKenzie Wilson (All Music Guide)
"Extraordinary - a world-class talent!" Don Heckman, jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times, calls her. And it's no wonder. She has a magnetic stage presence. Wherever she performs - domestically, or in Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada - it's the same story. She's been such a hit at London's famed Ronnie Scott's Club (where she has been a regular for the last eight years) that the owner, Pete King, asked Jackie to appear on Ronnie Scott's own prestigious Jazz House label and the London Evening Standard called her "one of the finest singers to perform at Ronnie's since Shirley Horn." Among the many jazz greats Jackie has sung, recorded, or toured with are: Clark Terry (at the Monterey Jazz Festival), Toots Thielemans, Barry Harris, Cyrus Chestnut, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, Red Holloway, Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt, Ernie Watts, Roy McCurdy, George Gaffney, Amina Figarova, Mike Wofford, Larry Vuckovich, Jon Mayer, and Jon Hendricks - just a few of the legends with whom she has shared the stage, and who sing her praises as well.
She has written and recorded not only vocalese lyrics to such be-bop improvisations as Joe Henderson's "The Kicker," but also lyrics to such poignant ballads as Barry Harris's "Deep Love." This creativity as an artist and performer, combined with her being a genuinely warm person, has put her much in demand for concerts both here and abroad - with sold-out shows not only at London's Ronnie Scott's and at Christofori's in Amsterdam, but also at New York's Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club, at Los Angeles' Jazz Bakery, and at San Francisco's Yoshi's and Plush Room.
Jackie has been blessed with a three and a half octave range. Her mother, who was Mexican, crooned Spanish folk songs to her when she was a child (Jackie often includes a Spanish song on her CDs as a tribute to her mom who passed on when Jackie was in her teens); and her father, who is Irish, is a classically-trained baritone who sang in several languages. So it is not by accident that her appeal "bridges the gap between both geography and generations," as BILLBOARD so aptly put it. She was born to it.
Jackie's previous CD, "This Heart Of Mine" (featuring Toots Thielemans and two-time Grammy Award winner, Ernie Watts), won unanimous praise from top jazz magazines, JAZZ TIMES, JAZZ IMPROV, JAZZIZ, received a '4 STAR' rating ("excellent") from DOWNBEAT, and reached #5 nationwide on JAZZ WEEK's jazz chart. Her newest CD, "You And The Night And The Music," is set for release in the fall of 2007. It features Red Holloway on sax - a legend in his own time - who has swung with jazz greats Dexter Gordon, Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins and Lester Young, as well as internationally-known blues-men Muddy Waters and B.B. King. And it's backed by a host of top-flight California musicians, including Tamir Hendelman on piano, and Jeff Hamilton (co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) on drums, who was voted "#1 mainstream jazz drummer" for 2006 by MODERN DRUMMER magazine.
Future releases include a double CD recorded at Tony Bennett's studio right after her 2006 Lincoln Center performance (hailed by VARIETY as "savvy interpretive jazz vocalizing - adventurous, deftly assured"). It features Jackie performing with Cyrus Chestnut (named "the best jazz pianist of his generation" by TIME Magazine) and is backed by some of New York's hottest names in jazz: Eric Alexander on sax, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Carl Allen on drums, Ray Drummond on bass, and on guitar - Brazilian virtuoso Romero Lubambo.
Her mother's family came from Acapulco. During the Mexican Revolution, living in this city became dangerous. "So my grandfather brought my mother and her sisters onto a ship and had to swim ashore each day - just to get them milk. Finally, they moved to San Francisco - to an area called "Butcher's Town" where all the immigrants of different cultures lived." Jackie's father's family, being Irish, also lived there and this is where her mother and father met - in a church choir where they both sang. Children of Mexican and Irish marriages were not uncommon, both groups being Catholic (the gifted actor Anthony Quinn being an early example).
She grew up listening to her mother's Spanish and Mexican records - albums depicting bullfights with beautiful Contessas on the cover. "I used to sit on the floor and stare at the album covers imagining I was there," remembers Jackie. "Mama used to sing to me all the time in Spanish - cute little songs like the song of the dove Coocooroo Coo Coo Paloma. Her favorite hand soap had a picture of the Maja on the cover with her red and black dress and her mantilla and fan. I use it now and put it in my dresser drawer because the smell still reminds me of her." Jackie's mother, Soledad, died when she was 15 and her very first CD "Passion Flower" is dedicated to her (and Jackie always seems to find a Mexican song for each of her albums to honor her). Influenced by the Latin folk songs that her mother taught her, Jackie began performing professionally, composing and singing original songs for local dance bands.
A turning point in Jackie's career came about when she sat in with vocalese innovator Eddie Jefferson's band (she credits Jefferson's early enthusiastic support as being inspirational for her both as a jazz singer and as a lyricist). Since then, she has written and recorded not only vocalese lyrics to such be-bop improvisations as Benny Carter's complex solo on "DOOZY" and Joe Henderson's scorching sax solo on "The Kicker," but also lyrics to such poignant ballads by Wayne Shorter and Barry Harris.
Jackie's multicultural heritage (Mexican, Irish, Spanish, French) and her natural affinity for singing in several languages (she sings in English, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese) has added to her increasing international acclaim. So it is not by accident that her appeal "bridges the gap between both geography and generations," as BILLBOARD so aptly put it. She was born to it.
CNN TV en Espanol devoted an entire 15 minute segment to Jackie which was broadcast on television worldwide. And over the past few years Ms. Ryan has toured North America, Australia, Japan, Canada, Italy, Spain, Germany, Amsterdam, and London - where she has performed eight years at Europe's premier jazz venue Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. Reviewing her performance, jazz critic Jack Massarik of the London Evening Standard called her "One of the best singers to sing at Ronnie's since Shirley Horn." So impressed with Jackie was the club's owner, Pete King, that he asked her to return and record a live CD for Ronnie Scott's prestigious Jazz House label ("Whisper Not" released in the U.K.).
Among the many musicians Jackie has sung, recorded, or toured with are Clark Terry (at the Monterey Jazz Festival), Toots Thielemans, Jon Hendricks, Barry Harris, Cyrus Chestnut, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, Red Holloway, Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt, Ernie Watts, Benny Green (at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival), Amina Figarova, Mike Wofford, George Gaffney, Emil Richards, Larry Vuckovich, Jon Mayer - and Sergio Mendez's original rhythm section - Octavio Bailey on bass, Claudio Sloan on drums - with whom she, together with pianist Liz Kinnon, performed a two week all Brazilian show in Los Angeles, singing the entire show of samba and bossa nova in Portuguese.
Her first release "For Heaven's Sake" (Bluport BP-J004) featured several Latin songs, including three Brazilian selections: Se Todos Fossem Iguais A Voce (Someone To Light Up My Life), Caminhos Cruzados, and Samba De Rei, plus the beautiful Mexican Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado (What A Difference A Day Made) which was written by a Mexican woman, Maria Grever, only later to become a popular jazz standard in the United States.
Recorded live with The Mike Wofford Trio, "For Heaven's Sake" received overwhelming praise (see OpenArt's official website for Jackie: www.JackieRyan.com) and rose to the Top 40 on the National Gavin Jazz Chart. Jazz DJ John Adams cited it as: "One of the most pleasant and intelligently conceived releases of tunes in some time . . . marking a return to lyricism, grace and melodic beauty in jazz."
Jackie's passion for all things Latin infused the Latin selections featured on her next CD with a heartfelt vitality - adding a deep intimacy to her interpretations of the three Latin songs on "Passion Flower" : 1) the all too infrequently performed Jobim gem Luiza 2) a haunting rendition of the unheralded but brilliant Brazilian composing team of Lenine and Dudu Falcao, O Silencio Das Estrellas (to which, Ms. Ryan has added her own poetic lyrics), 3) and a powerful interpretation of the Mexican Spanish folk classic about a woman's sadness in love, Historia De Un Amor.
"In Latin songs, the heart's feelings are not suppressed in the least," says Ms. Ryan. "I grew up this way - with stories of both my parents' love - romantic. My father had an incredible voice and was very handsome, too. And my mother was very beautiful. So they fell in love. When my father asked my grandfather, Luis, for my mom's hand in marriage, Luis was very strict. He told my father he must wait two years without seeing her! If, at the end of that time, he still wanted to marry her, then he would grant his permission. So my father left to join the army - unmarried - and fought in World War II. Luis took the whole family back down to Mexico to Guadalajara to live on Prolongacion Independencia where my mom and her four sisters sang operettas at the Teatro Delgado near the town square. After two years my father returned from the war. He returned to marry my mom. They were married in Guadalajara. My Dad's whole Irish family came there for the wedding. They didn't have much money so they drove the whole way."
"When they moved back to San Francisco," Jackie continues, "I think in some ways it was a little hard for my mother here. In those times, it was strongly discouraged to speak Spanish. 'Much better,' they would say, 'to speak English.' There were not very many people of Latin descent for her in those days here in my home town of San Rafael. I think she missed her family and speaking her native language. But she still had her music. That kept her culture alive for her."
Currently living in San Francisco Bay Area, Jackie Ryan keeps her culture alive by visiting her sister Donna in the "old city" section of Puerto Vallarta, and her many cousins, nephews and nieces who live in Mexico City (other relatives live in parts of Jalisco and in Oaxaca.)