Jaclyn Guillou puts her soul into Dinah Washington project

Free concert at West Van library presented as part of 2014 North Shore Culture Days

Behind the Music! Tribute to Dinah Washington, by singer Jaclyn Guillou and friends, Friday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at West Vancouver Memorial Library, part of the 2014 North Shore Culture Days, Sept. 26-28. artsoffice.ca/news/ns_cdays.php

Jaclyn Guillou is showing no signs of stopping.

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On the eve of the release of the Vancouver based singer's second album of 2014, Guillou already has her sights set on and is busy writing for her next recording project, slated to get underway in the New Year.

"I don't want to stop at this point," she says. The North Delta native has already had a long career in the arts, having been a working professional since she was a teenager, coming from the world of musical theatre.

In 2011, she released her first album, To The City, comprised of both original songs and new arrangements of jazz standards.

Having worked on To The City for a couple of years, pouring her soul into the project, after its release she took a much-needed break.

"Last year, I just went into this panic mode that I needed to start documenting everything I was doing," says Guillou. "Enough time has passed, I had more inspiration to continue working on standards in repertoire and to continue working on new music. But the focus that I really wanted to have was to start cataloguing all of my projects, and so to write each project in a different vein."

Two albums quickly came into fruition. The first, released in January, was rather spontaneous. On her way to Belgium for some concert dates, Guillou found herself penning some new songs en route, and went on to play them with a group while there.

"We just really had a good time," she says. "We recorded just for fun, and then I ended up releasing the album."

A collaborative effort, The Lover's Walk features Guillou's European Quartet. In November she's headed back to Belgium for its official release in that country as well as a string of performances and festival appearances.

Guillou's pending release, by Cellar Live, her first time ever being on a label, was a lengthier project and was recorded in Port Coquitlam.

"It's kind of like an all-star Canadian cast on the album," says Guillou, of Winter For Beginners.

She's joined by Bruno Hubert on piano, David Blake on guitar, James Meger on bass and Andrew Millar on drums, as well as special guests Peggy Lee on cello, Neelamjit Dhillon on tabla and Brad Turner on trumpet/flugelhorn.

Turner not only plays on Winter for Beginners, he co-produced it.

Guillou met the artist after playing a gig with him years ago.

"I kind of considered that my audition," she says.

A huge fan, she was pleased to be able to reconnect with him through her quintet member, Hubert, who plays in Turner's quartet, and get him on board with her project.

The work is quite contemporary in nature, a direction she is continuing to move in as she matures as an artist.

"I think I'm settling into not feeling like I have to write a certain thing or be a certain thing. It just feels very embodied and it feels very natural. It feels like a bigger piece of me in the writing and in the approach to the music. It's soft and it's romantic and it's dark and moody, all the things that are me," she laughs.

In terms of its theme, Winter for Beginners, is "very West Coast," says Guillou.

"People tell me that you can hear rain drops when you listen to it," she says.

Songs, including the album's title track, which is an instrumental work, are divided into four seasons, subtitled "When the Leaves Fall," "Winter for Beginners," "Spring is like a Promise for Beauty," and "Summer Where?" "There are a few different meanings behind the title, mainly just being I feel like anywhere I go in the world where it's winter, I feel like a beginner. I feel like I can't bear the cold, I can't handle it. I lived in Toronto for seven years and I kind of got used to the cold and then I came back to Vancouver, and January, I was cold, and it's not even cold here. I'm just kind of not able to handle winter very well so it's kind of my funny way of admitting that I'm a summer girl," she says.

Guillou's concept for the project was to address nature and the seasons and how people relate, react and respond to those things. All of the songs speak to those ideas, including the record's two covers, including "Land of the Silver Birch" a Canadian folk song based on a poem by Pauline Johnson, and "Poetry Man" by Phoebe Snow, released in 1974.

"I was always really, really a fan of her and the song. I would carry around her record. Every time I would go into the recording studio, it was kind of like my good luck charm. Somebody told me you should bring things you like into the studio so I would carry around this vinyl record. Then she died a couple of years ago and I felt so sad and so bad because I always wanted to make an arrangement as a tribute to her and maybe she would get to hear it," says Guillou.

An album release celebration and concert is planned for Oct. 9 at Vancouver's PAL Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Local audiences looking to see Guillou in action sooner can catch her at Behind the Music! Tribute to Dinah Washington, Friday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the West Vancouver Memorial Library.

The performance is part of Culture Days, a national movement intended to raise awareness, accessibility and engagement of Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities.

The 2014 North Shore Culture Days is offering a host of free, all-ages events, activities and performances at a number of North and West Vancouver venues, next weekend, Sept. 26-28.

Guillou performed her inaugural tribute concert to Washington, one of her first jazz influences, back in 2013. The show was recorded at and aired by CBC TV and Radio. She's continuing the project and working to expand it, a welcome opportunity to keep listening to and learning about the artist, her music and accomplishments, as well as pay homage to her.

"She was a phenomenal talent. It just blows my mind every time I learn a new tune or try to figure out a little thing that she did with her voice because she really was a prodigious. .. talent that paved the way for a lot of singers and created a completely unique style and way of singing," says Guillou.

Guillou works to share Washington's lesser known and more popular tracks, for example, "What a Difference a Day Made" and "Cry me a River."

"When you look at this new music that I'm creating and releasing and recording, it's very contemporary, very modern, very much a statement of me and who I am. Then to have this project where we pay homage to Dinah Washington, it feels amazing and it feels like the right thing to do to keep the jazz tradition alive," she adds.

Guillou will be joined at the West Vancouver library by her band, special guests and the singers of Company B.

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