Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Vancouver native and student vocalist Laura Swankey performed a daring 45 minute set of forward thinking vocal jazz in which instead of singing straight lyrics, she treats her voice like a well oiled instrument.    She is more reminiscent of singers like Betty Carter and Norma Winstone, especially through her wide selection of original material and the way she does “vocalize” musically and very effectively.

Despite showing 15 minutes late for the recital, I was encouraged and blessed to hear that students such as Laura Swankey ensure that the future of creative jazz music is alive and well, and there are options to succeed versus the MTV route where fame and fortune is definitely fleeting.

Backed by a stellar band of student musicians such as Mike McCormick on guitar, Connor Walsh on bass, drummer Mark Ballyk and trumpeter Morgan Gardner, they provide a very modern, fresh foil for her explorations and compositions.   I managed to catch her original piece “Quiet”, a straight-8th’s piece where she does an avant-garde, free jazz introduction before getting into gear with her quintet mates.   Morgan’s trumpet was very complimentary and probing, Mike McCormick provided excellent comping patterns and a moving solo, Connor Walsh kept effective time while playing around with it for a little while and Mark Ballyk provided colour, movement and musicality on the drums.    The piece segued into a one-chorus reading of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark”, which was highly emotional and even brought tears to my eyes since she conveyed the timeless lyric and melody so well.

Upon hearing her recital, I wish nothing but the best for Laura Swankey as she pursues her professional musical endeavours as a vocal artist.   She is a creative force to be reckoned with, and she is a very unique vocalist that has something worthwhile to say.   I have heard (and worked) with MANY singers, and the majority in my opinion are just safe and under the radar.  Laura Swankey is a vocalist that blows the radar off the roof and takes her music into very vital and otherworldly directions.


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