Rebecca Jenkins is an actor and jazz singer based here in Vancouver. I went to see her and her four-piece band play on Sunday at a tasteful basement jazz club in Kitsilano, The Cellar.
I’d first heard of Rebecca Jenkins as an actor, particularly in the film Bye Bye Blues, in which she played a Second World War bride who embraces swing music as a means of getting along after her husband is captured. Then, being a Bruce Cockburn fan, I heard her version of Cockburn’s “All the Diamonds In the World”, one of my favourite songs of his, and a passionate version from Jenkins featured on the Kick at the Darkness – Songs of Bruce Cockburn tribute album.
More recently, Jenkins has embraced jazz, particularly standards as featured on her most recent album Blue Skies which has Jenkins exploring the American songbook, including the title track from Irving Berlin, and another one of my favourite songs of all time. Because of the record, I was expecting a set of traditional standards. But, I got more.
One kvetch I have with jazz groups is that they tend to be overly reverent when it comes to material. The American songbook has produced immortal classics and all. But, there are tons of songs that are crying out to be tackled by jazz musicians and arrangers who are a bit more broadminded when it comes to material.
And that’s what made the show special for me. Jenkins and her group, including her guitarist husband, a saxophonist, double-bassist, and drummer, played some of the standards. But non-standard jazz material was also represented; Cat Stevens (“Where Do the Children Play?”), Bill Withers (“Ain’t No Sunshine”), Burt Bacharach and Hal David (“What the World Needs Now”), and perhaps most incredibly, Jefferson Airplane (“White Rabbit”), among many others.
Clearly, Jenkins is interested in songwriting as well, having also played a few originals, my favourite being her song “Higher Than the Cathedral”, which is a meditation on spirituality that goes beyond organized religion, yet not in a heavy handed sort of way. As a songwriter, it’s also clear that the traditions out of which good material comes are secondary to the fact that it is a good song. I appreciate that, as a listener.
For more information about Rebecca Jenkins, take a stroll on over to her site at Rebeccajenkins.ca.