Jazz singer gets fresh start… at age 20

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jen Zoratti

TO say Nikki Yanof­sky is a prodigy is an un­der­state­ment. At 12, the Mon­treal jazz-pop chanteuse be­came the youngest-ever head­liner of the pres­ti­gious Mon­treal Jazz Fes­ti­val. On her 14th birth­day, she kicked off a tour with famed com­poser and con­duc­tor Marvin Ham­lisch at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. At 16, she be­came the voice of the 2010 Van­cou­ver Win­ter Olympic Games — not to men­tion a house­hold name — thanks to her per­for­mances both the na­tional an­them and I Be­lieve, the Games’ of­fi­cial theme song. A year later she per­formed with Her­bie Han­cock; last year, it was Ste­vie Won­der. Now 20, Yanof­sky has just re­leased her sec­ond stu­dio al­bum, Lit­tle Se­cret, which was not only pro­duced, but ex­ec­u­tively pro­duced, by Quincy Jones. The 81-year-old mu­sic leg­end and 27-time Grammy win­ner who helmed three of Michael Jack­son’s most iconic al­bums — Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad — has been a fan of Yanof­sky since he first heard her sing six years ago. She per­formed at his house af­ter meet­ing through a mu­tual friend. “A year later, I ran­domly ran into him in Rot­ter­dam, he asked me what I was do­ing that Fri­day and in­vited me to the Mon­treux Jazz Fes­ti­val to per­form,” she says. “And the rest is his­tory.” A self-de­scribed taskmas­ter in the stu­dio, Jones de­manded a lot from Yanof­sky in terms of per­for­mances — but she ran the show. “He re­ally en­cour­aged me to go forth to what I was think­ing of do­ing, rather than try to get me to con­form to what’s out there,” she says. “One of the amaz­ing things about Quincy is that he al­ways pushes me to be real and to put out mu­sic that re­ally rep­re­sents me.” In many ways, Lit­tle Se­cret feels like a de­but. The al­bum’s 12 tracks are pol­ished, the per­for­mances con­fi­dent. While her ear­lier re­leases — 2008’s Ella... Of Thee I Swing (her trib­ute to Ms. Fitzger­ald) and 2010’s Nikki — may have had a hint of nov­elty ow­ing to her age, Lit­tle Se­cret is the sound of a for­mi­da­bly tal­ented singer com­ing into her own.

“I def­i­nitely con­sider Lit­tle Se­cret to be a com­ing-of-age al­bum and one that re­ally rep­re­sents me as a mu­si­cian

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Nikki Yanof­sky called on her ac­quain­tance, pro­ducer ex­traor­di­naire Quincy Jones, to helm her lat­est al­bum, Lit­tle Se­cret.

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