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Jazz artist mines the past

Jessica Lalonde is all about the old school.

Jessica Lalonde is all about the old school.

And she means really old school. The Toronto-based songstress recently released her debut album Spinning Daydreams, a jazz-styled collection of crooning and swinging covers from the big-band era of 1930s and ’40s.

It’s a genus close to the heart of the musical theatre vet and student of Italian opera program Centro Studi Lirica, who cites as inspiration female crooners of yesteryear such as Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and Nina Simone. It’s also a far cry from her family’s tastes in music. Her parents are avid classic rock fans, and brother Luke Lalonde fronts indie rock movers and shakers Born Ruffians.

“If you believe in reincarnation, part of me almost thinks I lived during that time,” Lalonde laughs. “I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little and that was their style of music. They would put on Tommy Dorsey and Vera Lynn. And there was just something about it that hit home. It always stuck with me.”

Produced by Canadian jazz aristocrat Bill King, the disc is a kind of introduction for old and new fans of the genre. Spinning Daydreams has a healthy mix of ballads and boppers, among them Cole Porter’s Begin The Beguine from the 1935 musical Jubilee and Rogers and Hammerstein’s Academy Award-winning 1945 hit It Might As Well Be Spring.

The collection, Lalonde says, was meant to invite new fans and inspire nostalgia. (The cover features a sepia-toned photo of her brandishing an old-fashioned microphone.)

“I picked a lot of my favourites, things I loved,” she said. “If it was up to me I’d be doing a lot of ballads, but you can’t do that on an album, you’ve got to have a balance.”

The seasoned singer now faces uncharted waters: She frets over Spinning Daydreams’ success, hoping her song choices will resonate with listeners as much as they have with her. But she continues to get her biggest thrill from winning over a crowd.

“Success to me is getting the opportunity to sing more,” she said. “There’s a terror to performing at first because you’ve got this crowd hundreds of people deep in front of you, but I think you need that in a way to put on a good show.”


Jessica Lalonde plays

Toronto: The Rivoli on March 11.

 
 
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