Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2009: John Pizzarelli and Aaron Weinstein

Denzal Sinclaire: Paying Homage to a King

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The Christmas season will be a whole lot merrier this year for anyone who enjoys great music, as Toronto-born vocalist Denzal Sinclaire will join the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra for its December concert.

Sinclaire’s smooth timbre and joyful approach to singing have been winning over listeners around the world. He seems to have effortless control over his voice, taking it wherever he wants it to go. One of his fans is singer Diana Krall who observes that “Denzal Sinclaire embodies the tradition of the great singers I love like Nat King Cole, yet definitely has his own voice. He is one of my favorite singers.”

“I guess I started singing when I was 8 or 9,” Denzal said when we spoke on the phone in early October. “I would try to sing along with recordings of Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis.” While he has developed his own distinct sound over the years, the influence of especially Cole has remained very much apparent in Denzal’s voice today. Fittingly enough, the reason for Sinclaire’s stop in the Jazz Capital of Canada is to perform in a show paying homage to Cole and his music.

Sinclaire’s musical resume speaks for itself. He is a multiple Juno Award nominee, and was inducted into the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005. He was voted “Male Jazz Vocalist of the Year” four years in a row by Canada’s Jazz Report magazine, and was the subject of a one-hour BRAVO! television special. He has performed around the world as a headliner for major Jazz Festivals and as a guest vocalist with symphony orchestras.

Sinclaire has released three albums under his own name. After his debut, I Found Love, appeared in 2001, he was picked up by Verve. In 2004, his self-titled recording won the National Jazz Award for Best Album. It was followed in 2006 by his newest release, My One and Only Love, also from Verve. With each recording, his performances only get stronger. He always seems to choose the right music at the right time.

Sinclaire also has great taste when it comes to choosing his bandmates. My One and Only Love features a stellar cast of musicians from both Vancouver and New York, including Brad Turner, Seamus Blake, Russell Malone, Reuben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson. He also took a chance by playing piano on two tracks of this recording. He told me he has been playing piano since he was a child, but had only “added colours to the music” in earlier recordings. His playing is very tasteful, especially on the classic song “Always on My Mind,” my favorite track. When I asked him what it was like to play piano while singing live off the floor, he called it “a good challenge,” and pointed out that “jazz is one level cool, and one level killer.” It seems as though Sinclaire is balancing both levels beautifully.

Don’t miss Denzal Sinclaire when he takes the stage with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra this December. Not only will the music put you in the Christmas mood, but you’ll experience for yourself why Sinclaire is considered by many to be the premier male jazz vocalist in Canada.

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