I’ve seen a lot of cover bands in my day. You know the types: 40-something guys who need something to do when craving time away from the wife/family or a hobby after work to share with “the boys.” Jacqui Naylor is nothing like that.
Naylor has made a career that spans over a decade out of covering American popular songs from The 20th Century Songbook. From Gershwin’s “Summertime” to Fitzgerald’s “Black Coffee” and even REM’s “Losing My Religion”. Each song is sung with strength and valor in honor of the Great American Jazz Standard.
Naylor came back to DC for two reasons, she said. “There’s a real history here [at Blues Alley] but there’s also a sweetness in DC. There’s just something about it.”
DC would have to agree with you Miss Naylor, seeing as your fans packed the house.
What’s unique about Naylor’s show is that each song in each set played is requested by fans ahead of time. The names of each fan who requested a song were shared with the audience, making the evening quite intimate – not that it needed any help, Blues Alley is a candle-lit sardine-can of jazzy goodness.
She started in the San Fran region back in 1998 and hasn’t looked back since. Naylor loved to sing as a kid but decided she needed a job that would be pay the bills. So she did what any wise undergraduate-to-be would do — picked a career with job security aka marketing.
It wasn’t until 10 years ago that this “acoustic smashing” queen started flexing her vocal muscles.
“I remember that I didn’t even know what jazz was,” she said. “But now, it’s all I want to do.”
Naylor grew up in a household flooded with player piano rolls and automated musical instruments. Her parents “force fed” her the best of the best when it comes to jazz standards, she said, by packing her and her siblings into the car to see countless concerts. Hence, her love for all things music.
The evening’s performance was rather flawless. Her backing band gets a big A+ for their tight grooves and in-the-pocket sound. Everyone got a solo which rounded out the night nicely seeing as Blues Alley is in fact one of DC’s oldest Jazz joints still around.
Overall, the performance and audience response outweighed Naylor’s somewhat disappointing low-range vocals. It might have been the sound guy or it might have been the equipment, but it was quite difficult to understand what she was saying once she started toying with the lower notes in her vocal range.
One thing’s for sure though, her latest album title brings all on home for anyone who has yet to hear of Naylor — You Don’t Know Jacq … or at least you didn’t. But now, you do.
All photos taken and provided by the author.