Brantford teen maturing into a jazz sensation
Avery Raquel builds career, hitting string of festivals while keeping up her grades
On an album of mostly self-penned ballads, Without a Little Rain, Avery Raquel lets ‘er rip on her rendition of the Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.”
It is a soulful wailing about the threat of love lost, a far cry from her cheery age-appropriate songs on her first album, Life Lessons.
At 17, Brantford’s jazz sensation is maturing before her audiences’ eyes. On the road for the past two years attending festivals and performing in clubs, the Brantford Collegiate Student, who enters Grade 11 this fall, is working hard at providing the foundation for a breakout year.
She performs at the South Coast Jazz Festival in Port Dover, Ont., on Saturday, followed by Riverfest in Elora, Ont., on Sunday, and the Hot & Spicy Food Festival in Toronto on Sept. 3.
“If Avery stays true to herself and cultivates her intuition and follows her passion, I think everything is going to work out great for her,” says piano teacher Adrean Farrugia, who is also in her band.
Working for someone half his age is easy, says the Hamilton jazz pianist. “Music is music, regardless of who is playing it.”
However, he admits that the guys in the green room tone down their jokes and stories when she’s around.
There have been no teen tantrums, rebellion or slacking off on her mission to succeed, Farrugia says.
“She is a very Zen personality” and is good at “rolling with the punches, which, in this business, is a very valuable asset.”
Her manager and father, Lorne Kadish, who is self-employed in marketing, has leapt at every performing opportunity to give Raquel experience and expose her to larger audiences.
“A lot of people look at her and think that jazz is so odd,” Kadish says of his only child. As early as age 7, “she was throwing out jazz notes out of nowhere,” he says.
Her earliest influences were Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, says Kadish, who really had to scour the jazz oeuvre to find songs “relatable to a 14-year-old girl.”
So no “Don’t Explain,” “Black Coffee” and “My Man,” the lovelorn torch songs that thread most jazz sets. It was “Swinging on a Star” and “Accentuate the Positive” instead on her first album.
Jazz legend David ClaytonThomas unites his raspy lived-in voice with Raquel’s girlish, clear tones in “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” on the second album
Singing with the long-established Canadian artist was a thrill, she says. “I think he’s amazing. He is a lot more serious (in the studio).”
Clayton-Thomas has been watching her perform and Raquel considers him a valuable mentor. “I learned from him.” She’s starting to branch out into soul, she adds.
She finds herself listening to Amy Winehouse and Norah Jones these days. Also, some of her concerts have drifted from jazz into pop. She had to learn 40 Beatles songs to perform three 45-minute sets in the Beatles Festival in London, Ont., a few years ago.
That’s how “Oh! Darling” ended up on her second album and “Blackbird” on her first.
She will appear at this year’s Beatles Festival on Sept. 9.
She is aware of the social media campaign that propelled Justin Bieber (now 23) to stardom and from which current Canadian singing sensation Shawn Mendes, 19, has benefited.
But she is sticking to her slowand-steady approach “to perform live and get my music out there.”
There’s no hint the grind is getting to her. “I so love performing; I could never get tired of it,” she says.
Producer Greg Kavanagh, who worked with her on her second album, has great expectations for Raquel.
“She has an unbelievable natural phrasing, not unlike singers from the past, where she lays things back and interprets a melody.
“She is studying piano and has a solid understanding of music, and can comfortably talk to veteran musicians as an equal.”
Winning a summer scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music and attending the Newport Jazz Festival this summer are giant steps forward, he says. (She also sang at New York’s famous jazz joint Birdland and met industry executives.)
“I expect she will be in the company of the best of the best in music very soon,” Cavanagh says. “People can’t believe she is as accomplished as she is and also worry about the changes that life brings between 15 and 20, but Avery is a dedicated artist and will be doing this for a very long term.”
Although career beckons, Raquel makes sure she gets her homework done, communicates regularly with her teachers and never lets her grades slip.
“I’ve maintained my honour roll (standing),” she says proudly.
So far, she’s earned an A in hard work.
Avery Raquel is just 17, but “has an unbelievable natural phrasing, not unlike singers from the past.”