Nancy was born into a music-loving family, to be sure. "My Dad was always playing his sax along with the recordings while I sang and danced around the living room,” she recalls. Her brother managed a record store in Montreal where the family lives and he supplied her with the recordings of the up and coming Jazz players while introducing Nancy to other genres of music.
Her parents enrolled Nancy in ballet and modern dance classes at the age of three. When she was 10 years old, her dance instructor invited the students to perform an improvisational dance to “whatever song inspired them the most.” While other students chose the Beatles or Michael Jackson, Nancy’s choice was Reflections by Stan Getz.
Getz and other sax players remain an important part of Nancy’s thinking and inspiration. At one point, she decided to stop listening to other vocalists and concentrated on listening to those instruments and musicians that the voice could reflect. To that end, Nancy listened intently on Getz, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Once you know that, it is easy to hear that influence in her vocalization.
Her grandmother was an operatic stage singer. Her aunt was also a Jazz performer, especially at the family’s once-a-week dinner at her aunt’s house. After dinner, the family would gather in the parlor and “sing for their supper.” Her cousin accompanied them on piano while the women of the family performed standards and classics. This was where she received the greatest part of her musical training and learned stage-singing.
At the age of 17, she was approached by an agency for a solo contract. While her parents encouraged her participation in music, the idea of a career in Jazz was always off the table. Music and singing could be enjoyed but only as a sideline.
At the age of 28, Nancy was asked by a sound engineering university student to record a jazz standard that he could use as a his final exam submission. What Nancy did not know was that he entered her recording in Downbeat magazine’s student competition. Months later, this young engineer told her that she had, in fact, won in the vocal control category. The award, she was later informed, would not stand since Nancy herself was not a student.
The award, however, showed clearly what any listener of Nancy’s music already knows—she is in complete vocal control.
The sad death of her mother caused Nancy to reevaluate her life and career. After years of breathing classes and listening to the greats and participating in a local Montreal band, she is ready to launch.
Nancy has pursued songwriting for several years and has written numerous pop and indie songs. She was awarded the SOCAN award for her pop hit Feel Happy which was recorded by celebrated Las Vegas performer, Veronic Dicaire.
She has recorded everything from radio jingles to software training videos and can be heard on the soundtrack of the indie film, “The Union,” which won the Best of festival audience award at the 2015 International Hoboken film festival Nancy was also chosen as the original station identification voice for Couleurs Jazz (now Planete Jazz CRXI 91.9 FM).
At last, Nancy Lane can be heard beyond the confines of Montreal’s local Jazz scene as she releases her debut album, “Let Me Love You.”
The 2015 release includes musicians both young and seasoned. Nancy’s long-time friend, Andre White—an accomplished drummer and pianist who has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter and is a Jazz professor at McGill University—introduced Nancy to young pianist and arranger Lara Driscoll from Chicago who happened to be studying at McGill University at the time.
“A sisterly bond developed quickly and we were very comfortable working together. She was very attentive to what I wanted asking me, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘What don’t you like?’ Lara’s main goal was to ‘Honor the singer.’”
In 2011, Driscoll was awarded the “Outstanding Soloist” award in the Union League Civic & Arts’ Graduate Jazz. She now teaches at Loyola University - Chicago and the City Colleges of Chicago.
Along with Lara Driscoll was Kenny Bibace who has been widely recorded and was featured on the 2011 Juno award-winner for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year for Christine Jensen’s “Treelines.” Bibace teaches at McGill University.
On bass is Mike De Masi, an “active member of the Montreal music scene” and collaborator with the 1st prize for Jazz en Rafale 2012 recipient Becky Noble.
Drummer Dave Laing is considered a “fixture in the Canadian Jazz scene.” His album credits have surpassed the 50 CD mark, having worked with many of Canada’s biggest Jazz names including Remi Bolduc, the Joe Sullivan Big Band, Ranee Lee, Oliver Jones, Jon Ballantyne, Denzal Sinclaire, Kevin Dean and more. It was Laing who told Nancy, upon entering the studio, “We’re only 20 years late.”
François D’Amours is a Yamaha artist and has been on Gino Vanelli’s world tours as a saxophone and flute performer. “Franky Love,” as his name would appear in English, is an incredibly well-respected artist and brings his formidable gifts to Nancy’s debut.
On trumpet and flugelhorn is Aron Doyle who has also performed with several of Canada's outstanding jazz artists, including Vic Vogel, Bernard Primeau, Dave Turner and the Altsys Jazz Orchestra.
Padraig Buttner-Schnirer is the Montreal-based recording engineer and music producer who was the brilliant mind behind the final product. His experience as freelance musician made him a perfect fit for Nancy’s debut album. They recorded in Montreal’s famed Studio 451. According to Nancy, Padraig “gave and continues to give me a lot of his time and guidance.”
Nancy’s track list is very close to her heart. “I wanted to pick songs that my dad would enjoy hearing in his car,” she revealed.
To that end, there are the great standards of Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart, along with a couple of surprises.
The album opens with a stunning rendition of “Let Me Love You” and follows with the Jimmy McHugh 1926 piece “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me.” It becomes clear that Nancy has an affinity for 1920s compositions.
One of the great surprises is her recording and interpretation of Alan Dale’s 1957 single, “We’re Together.” When she decided to use this, it took months to find the rights owner. A tribute to her determination to record this song on her album, she went to extraordinary measures to find the rights owner. The result is a marvelous Bossa Nova treatment. Fortunately, Nancy saw what the song could truly be and made that vision our reality.
She wanted to sing one of the songs in French, so Nancy chose “Tout ce que veut Lola” (Whatever Lola Wants). Avoiding the cute version of Petula Clark, Nancy realized that Lola is a seductress and decided that a rhumba or tango feel was required. “I think of the movement of dancers as I sing this—the close attachment and the intertwined moves.”
“Cry Me A River” is the oft-recorded and reinterpreted Arthur Hamilton 1955 composition. Written for Ella Fitzgerald, it was—ironically—first released by Julie London. It is one of the stand-out pieces on an album of stand-outs.
“Everything I’ve Got” is a 1942 Rodgers & Hart classic. As often as it has been covered, Nancy makes you think that this is the first time you’ve heard it the way it was meant to be sung which is the same with Cole Porter’s “All of You.”
Rodgers & Hart make another appearance on 1928’s “You Took Advantage of Me.” Covered by Ella and by Bing Crosby, Nancy makes this her own.
Cole Porter’s 1929 composition “What Is This Thing Called Love” is a very influential piece, forming the chord progressions of Coltrane’s “Fifth House” and Mingus’ “Wham Bam Thank You, Ma’am.” Nancy doesn’t venture far in her interpretation but, rather, proves the point that a standard done well is truly immortal.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, aside from “We’re Together,” is “Just Say I Love Him.” It is a Neapolitan folk song entitled “Dicitencello vuie” written by Rodolfo Falvo and was arranged for English by Jimmy Dale in 1950. Covered by Johnny Desmond and Vic Damone, it is the Nina Simone version that caught Nancy’s attention. The vocal control of Simone is perfectly rendered by Nancy. The quality that got Nancy noticed by Downbeat is the appropriate way to end her debut album.
The songs are well known and have been covered by the best. It speaks loudly and well of Nancy Lane’s decision to include them all. Fearlessly taking on Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone, Nancy shows that—even on her debut album—she can stand with the very best of the very best.
Although her debut album is still fresh, Nancy Lane is writing her own compositions for what will most assuredly follow.
Where has she been all our lives?
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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To purchase "Let Me Love You" on MP3, click on the Amazon link below.