By Stephen Weir
Hectic just doesn’t cut it when describing jazz singer Quiana Lynell’s life these days. Two better words just might be “airport and hotel”.
The red-hot jazz singing sensation from Louisiana is en-route to Toronto for her long delayed Canadian debut concert. But in between leaving her home two days ago in the Deep South and experiencing her first Deep North winter next week, she has taken her quartet to Europe to perform.
The vocalist extraordinaire is booked into the George Weston Recital Hall, next Saturday night ( February 15th) as part of the Jazz at the George concert series. The George bills itself as Canada’s best recital hall and one of the world’s top venues; it is part of the Meridian Arts Centre complex on Yonge Street in North York.
On Wednesday, the Caribbean Camera caught up with the winner of the highly influential 2017 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. She had just checked into a Spanish hotel after completing a 30-hours trek that began in New Orleans, Louisiana on Tuesday.
“It is the beginning of a spring tour,” she said. “We head to Bern, Switzerland for a week residency (then on to Toronto and right back here) for a 10-day European run. You know, I actually was scheduled to perform last year at the Montreal Jazz Fest but due to weather delays was not able to make my performance. Toronto will finally be my Canadian debut!”
Although she has never been on stage in Canada, she already has a strong fan base in Toronto. Her music is getting heavy play in the GTA and not just on Toronto’s JAZZ-FM. Because her music covers many genres, the stations that regularly play Soul music and the Blues are giving her album A Little Love considerable airplay.
Winning the Sarah Vaughan competition in 2017, paved the way to record and release “A Little Love” last April. It is a collection of tunes associated with Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Ray Charles and New Orleans’ soul queen Irma Thomas. The album also shows her church-going roots with the anthem, “Sing Out, March On,” which feature four generations of Lynell’s gospel-singing family.
Lynell will be backed by a quartet when she is on the George stage. She has a number of goals for the upcoming Toronto concert. It is Black History Month, the Valentine’s Day Weekend and a golden opportunity to try out new material on Canadian ears.
“Yes this entire tour I am focusing on shining a light on those who have paved the way for me to be able to perform and travel the way I do now,” continued Lynell. “Black history month is very significant to me. “
“With this show we will be debuting some new material. I’ve been digging into the Nancy Wilson songbook and am super excited to bring a love infused set to Toronto for our Valentine’s show. I’m bringing my quartet, which always means an extra good time. I have a very strong connection to the vibe of a space and the energy directs my set.”
While Lynell knows all about Toronto’s Caribana festival, it is her own state’s Mardi Gras that turns her on.
“Yes Mardi Gras is a tradition I partake in fully, we have annual family activities as well as adult activities that traditionally take place. True Mardi Gras In New Orleans is actually still deeply connected to the religious aspect of Lent for the locals and it is all about the Experience for the visitors. This year I am missing pretty much all of carnival season. I’ve only had one piece of king cake before I left for Spain and Toronto, and no crawfish. Boo!”