Jacqui Naylor can only be described as … supremely versatile. This San Francisco based vocalist and songwriter, who is about to launch her fifth CD, “The Color Five,” shines through jazz, pop and rock while adding touches of gospel, folk, blues and even a little humor into the mix.
With “The Color Five,” Naylor has created an eclectic yet seamless recording of five originals, five covers and five of her trademark “acoustic smashes.” Acoustic smashing is a technique invented by Naylor, and is the singing of a rock tune over a jazz standard or vice versa. “There is true genius at work here,” claims legendary DJ Ken Dashow from New York’s only classic rock station, Q-104, in a press release.
For example, Naylor sings the American Songbook classic “Summertime” over the music from The Allman Brothers’ southern rock classic “Whipping Post.” Another surprising “acoustic smash” on the new album is U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” sung over Miles Davis’ “All Blues.”
“I wanted to blend genre in the interest of storytelling and bring out all of who I am and who we are as a band,” said Naylor, in the release.
Her quintet includes: Naylor on vocals; co-writer and co-producer Art Khu on piano and guitar; Jon Evans on bass; Josh Jones on drums; and Yoon Ki Chai on violin. Working with this group was a thrill for Naylor. “We had a blast making this recording,” she said.
“The Color Five” follows Naylor’s four previous releases, all available on her own Ruby Star Records label and distributed nationwide by Ryko Distribution. She received critical acclaim for her self-titled debut CD in 1999 and for her follow-up CD in 2001 entitled “Live at the Plush Room.” Her 2003 release, “Shelter,” prompted Vogue en Espanol to call her “the new voice of jazz and pop” and JazzTimes deemed her “the next-big thing with originals that are Joni Mitchell good.”
She’s had the honor of opening for such music greats as Michael McDonald and David Sanborn as well as performing at numerous clubs and theaters, such as Birdland, Blue Note, Blues Alley, Scullers, Yoshi’s, Jazz Bakery, Plush Room, and Snug Harbor. Naylor has also been selected to perform at the world-renowned Monterey and San Francisco jazz festivals.
Although she sang in musicals and talent shows during high school, Jacqui put her desire to perform aside and pursued a traditional college degree in marketing at San Francisco State University. But after listening to a recording of Sarah Vaughan singing Gershwin in a music appreciation class, she recognized that music was indeed her true passion. In 1991 she began studying with renowned San Francisco vocal coach Faith Winthrop, and continued to do so for the next four years.
It didn’t take long for the jazz community to embrace Jacqui Naylor. Phil Elwood of the San Francisco Examiner described her distinct sound, which reminisces the bygone days of jazz greats, as “Billie Holiday’s inflections and a touch of June Christy.” But Jacqui’s gospel-influence is just as recognizable, especially in jazz interpretations of her own generation’s music and her originals. It’s this combination of past, present, and future that explains her ability to attract old-time aficionados, new jazz enthusiasts, and fans of modern adult pop music. As Cabaret Magazine puts it, “She can make you sway gently with a blues-flavored melody, heat up a room with a strong R&B sound and then cool it right down with a smoothness that slides gently into your ear.”