Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Patrice Jégou to find out all about why Jazz still matters and the creative process behind her new album, “If It Ain’t Love.”
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Patrice Jégou: I started keyboard lessons when I was a child. Organ lessons to be specific, and I even remember my teacher’s name – Mr. Whitehead and he was from Ghana. My mother and uncle play a variety of instruments by ear. For example, my mom played piano, organ, fiddle, and guitar. She often played the organ at home, and I can tell you that it brought her great joy. She also has a lovely singing voice. My uncle plays banjo, guitar, fiddle, and keyboard. I have a cousin who plays the guitar, and another who plays piano. The school that I attended from Grades 1 – 9 had a weekly chapel service that included congregational singing. That school also had music classes as part of its curriculum, and choral singing.
Music is also an integral part of figure skating. When I grew up skating in the Canadian Figure Skating Association (now called Skate Canada), our free-skate routines were usually set to classical music, as was the music we used for ice dancing. This meant exposure to a variety of Classical “war-horses” – and beyond – for the “design” and choreography of skating routines. When I was performing as a skating showgirl in an ice-show on tour in Mexico (Richard Porter Productions, Las Vegas & Circo Hermanos Fuentes-Gasca, Mexico City), a fellow cast-member commented that he thought I had a nice singing voice, and he recommended that I take voice lessons when I returned to Canada.
I started taking private voice lessons (Classical) in 1992, and began my Bachelor of Music degree (Classical vocal performance) in 1994 [B.Mus., University of Calgary, 1998]. I then went on to do my Master of Music degree (Classical vocal performance) at Belmont University in Nashville [M.Mus. 2000]. I was on the faculty of music at the University of Lethbridge (Canada) from 2002-2005, and there I taught applied voice, vocal pedagogy, Introduction to Music, and Music in Recital. I did my doctorate at Rutgers University (Mason Gross School of the Arts) in Classical vocal performance from 2005 – 2011 [DMA presented 2012].
Review Fix: Why does Jazz still matter?
Jégou: All good music matters, regardless of genre. Jazz matters because it continues to resonate with people. It touches people, it inspires people. It matters because people still desire to experience everything about this uniquely American genre, and it matters because it is a uniquely African-American genre in its origins. For that reason alone, Jazz still matters.
Review Fix: How are you different than your typical Jazz singer?
Jégou: That depends on how you define “typical.” What makes and defines a “typical” jazz singer? I’m “atypical” perhaps in that I don’t specialize in the genre of jazz. Also, I am not “trained” as a jazz singer, and my career trajectory has not been singularly in jazz. My musical training is in classical music, not jazz. However, like many singers, I sing in the jazz idiom, and I sing in a jazz-inspired way when I do. I’m never going to be on the level of iconic jazz vocalists like a DeeDee Bridgewater or a Diane Reeves. However, I think I can bring whatever is unique about my voice, my life experiences, and my personality into my interpretations of the jazz standard repertoire.
Review Fix: Who inspires you musically?
Jégou: My musical inspiration is rooted in the musical language of Schubert, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler, the bel canto composers, black gospel singers and composers (i.e. Doris Akers, Rev. James Moore, and others). I’m inspired by the musical language and sounds of Count Basie, the singing style of Sarah Vaughan, Patsy Cline, Diane Schuur, and kd lang to name a few.
Review Fix: What was it like to work with Take 6, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Tata Vega on this album?
Jégou: It was humbling, thrilling, and beyond a privilege. It was a “master class” of sorts.
Working with Take 6 was a truly “awe-inspiring” experience. Really. The level at which they sing, both in terms of technique and musicianship, is utterly mind-blowing. What’s great about working with Take 6 goes beyond just basking in their incredible voices. They are genuinely humble, kind, and generous people. I don’t have enough room to write about that here, but if you spend just a minute or two speaking with any one of them, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
As for working with John Clayton and the CHJO, what can I say? Here is a man who has worked with and arranged for the best of the best in the music industry. He’s been on so many of Diana Krall’s records – not to mention toured with her extensively – and he’s arranged for a who’s-who of music industry legends. I felt very honoured to work with John. I remember our first rehearsal at the AFM building in Hollywood. We were all kind of crammed into a small rehearsal room, and when the CHJO got into the first piece? Wow! There is nothing as thrilling as their brassy, free, booming sound! And of course John is no doubt the heir-apparent to Count Basie, so there’s that. He has a teacher’s heart about him, and he is a real gentleman.
Tata Vega is a singer’s singer, and a diva’s diva in the best sense of the word. Working with her was amazing. Observing her sing/record was for me a kind of “master class.” She has unlimited creativity when it comes to improvisation and vocal riffs and runs. She was kind, humble, and funny, and she was very open to David Paich’s suggestions (he produced the track she sings on – the Allen Toussaint tune which Paich “funked out” called “Yes We Can, Can”).
Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am that these musical geniuses would come on board with my project.
Review Fix: What song has the best story behind it?
Jégou: Perhaps “Remembrances” by Mike Lang. My husband and I were at his house rehearsing the tunes that I was going to record for our session the following day (if memory serves me correctly). On a lark Mike asked us if we’d like to hear him play a song that he wrote for Stan Getz. Of course we obliged. After he was done playing it on his piano, he said, “you know, this has lyrics.” He went on to explain that Peter Getz (Stan’s son) wrote lyrics to the melody that Mike composed, and he (Peter) had even recorded a version of “Remembrances”, which Mike played for us. I can’t remember how the conversation went from there, but here it is on my album now!
Another song with a good story behind it is “It Might Be You.” I went to Birdland to hear/see Alan Bergman perform. He sang “It Might Be You” and I wrote it down on a napkin, went home and told my husband, “we have to record this.”
Review Fix: What do you think is the underdog song on this album?
Jégou: “Losing You” by Randy Newman. My husband shared rehearsal footage of Mike Lang and me at United Recording studios preparing to record this track. My husband posted our “take 1” run-through on social media, and it has really, really resonated with people – just the rehearsal! Not the final product. We weren’t expecting the sort of reaction that we’ve received on this song. People are really touched by it.
Review Fix: How do you want this album to be remembered?
Jégou: I want this album to be remembered as one that is beautiful, interesting, and inspiring. I want it to be remembered as a top-quality musical project.
If someone would be inspired by the fact that this album was done by an independent artist on her own record label, that would be an added bonus. I founded Prairie Star Records LLC in 2012, and I’m part of a growing trend of artists releasing albums on their own imprint. I hope this inspires more female artists to consider what the combination of being an artist and entrepreneur looks like. It’s do-able. It’s a lot of work, and the learning curve is steep though. It’s something to finish tracking my vocal, then go out and hand out W9s to the musicians so I can send out 1099-MISC forms for tax season! Not glam at all!
Most importantly of all though, I want this album to be remembered as a testament to my husband’s genius, hard work, and dedication. He is the architect behind this album, and his blood, sweat, and tears were the drivers of this project. He wore many hats including executive producer, music producer for many of the tracks, travel agent, videographer, photographer, and coffee “gopher”, just to name a few.
Of course it goes without saying that it would be nice if this album was remembered as a timeless and musically beautiful album.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2019?
Jégou: Gigging. Expanding my fan base. Nurturing my relationships with my current fans. Improving upon my vocal technique and musicianship. Finishing the Marie Kondo book on de-cluttering!
Review Fix: How does this album help you accomplish them?
Jégou: The album is my calling card to booking agents and festival co-ordinators. I hope they’ll like what they hear and take a chance on me.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Jégou: Original music.