‘Smashed for the Holidays’

Russ Tarby, Staff Writer 01/02/08More articles
Jacqui Naylor mixes and matches rock standards and holiday classics Saturday:

San Francisco jazz singer Jacqui Naylor calls it “acoustic smashing.”

For instance, she vocalizes Gershwin’s immortal “Summertime” over the music of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.”

Or she sings Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs” to the Caribbean syncopations of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island.”
Though occasionally jarring, the end results are more often mesmerizing.

Smashed ‘Santa’
Having so “smashed” a handful of such numbers on her 2006 disc “The Color Five,” Naylor now does so with a batch of Christmas standards to create one of the most intriguing holiday discs you’ll ever hear.

There’s “Santa Claus is coming to Town” over the groove of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Then she sings “Santa Baby” while the band jams on Led Zeppelin’s “Dy’er Mak’er.” Then she smashes “Silver Bells” with Sting’s “Every Breath You Take.”

By the time Naylor nails “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” it sounds like a relatively straight rendition…until you notice it’s in 5/4 time.

“Smashed for the Holidays” was called “the most adventurous Christmas album of 2007...” by All Music Guide, and Jonathan Takiff of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote that “Jacqui Naylor found a way to make even the most familiar Christmas standard sound fresh.”

Jan. 5 at Jazz Central
Naylor and her quartet plan to make their Syracuse debut at 8 p.m. Saturday Jan. 5, at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St., downtown. Tickets cost $18. For information, visit cnyjazz.org, or call 479-JAZZ.

Since the seasonal glow still lingers, Naylor will perform songs from “Smashed for the Holidays,” and will continue ringing in the New Year with her original tune, “Celebrate Early and Often.” She’ll feature music from her disc, “The Color Five,” as well as songs from her five prior recordings.

Naylor’s fans in Bay Area and around the world seem to appreciate her somewhat offbeat voice as much as her “acoustic smashing” technique.

‘Spellbinding’ singer
Raul Saavedra of Caracas, Venezuela marvels at her “wonderfully puzzling voice, crystalline and beautiful.” Roxy Carmichael Hart of Fremont, Calif., calls Naylor’s singing “spellbinding” and described the vocalist’s onstage demeanor as “amiable and humble.”

A typical Naylor performance includes about half original compositions, a quarter smashes and a quarter standards. Three show-stoppers, according to Carmichael-Hart, are a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” Carole King’s “So Far Away” and “I’m a Mean and Evil Woman.”

Naylor herself finds audiences responding positively to “My Funny Valentine” as smashed with AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”

The Village Voice praised Naylor’s “sumptuous voice, knack for scratchiness, and ability to sweeten those bluesy bent notes with dramatized cabaret flavors.”

Though she’s occasionally compared to singers such as Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson and June Christy, but with her original songs and her acoustic smashes, Naylor’s clearly evolving a singular, distinctive sound.

National Public Radio commented, “Jacqui Naylor has brought new twists to the notion of melding jazz and pop tunes – without high-tech assistance.”
As for herself, the veteran chanteuse appears ready and willing to smash the stereotypes about girl singers, jazz and the record biz.

“As an artist, I’m beginning to understand who I am and what I have to contribute,” Naylor said. “As a Buddhist and human being, I believe that we all have the capacity to make a difference with our hearts and our actions. And as a businessperson, I am committed to melding the inside with the outside, bringing people’s talents together to create and distribute music in a new way.”

Naylor and her band are now touring the East Coast and before heading back West in February and to Germany in March.

Rating: 2.2/5 (14 votes cast)

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