Jazz singer gets fresh start… at age 20
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
Nikki Yanofsky called on her acquaintance, producer extraordinaire Quincy Jones, to helm her latest album, Little Secret.