Brant­ford teen ma­tur­ing into a jazz sen­sa­tion

Avery Raquel builds ca­reer, hit­ting string of fes­ti­vals while keep­ing up her grades

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - TR­ISH CRAW­FORD Spe­cial to the Star

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.

JULIE NIKOTA PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Avery Raquel is just 17, but “has an un­be­liev­able nat­u­ral phras­ing, not un­like singers from the past.”

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