Melinda Whitaker
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Melinda Whitaker


Band Jazz Blues


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"MUSIC - CD Review"

"I'm old fashioned . . ." sings Vancouver vocalist Melinda Whitaker to open her debut disc The Touch of Your Lips, and there can be no arguing the fact. Whitaker, blessed with a rich alto, sings in the jazz tradition: she puts her stamp on the standards, swings hard and embellishes a melody to put her own stamp on it.

Backed by the solid trio of pianist Miles Black, bassist Rick Kilburn (who co-produced the record with Whitaker) and drummer Tommy Doran, Whitaker rolls through a baker's dozen of familiar jazz tunes, giving them a tweak here, a twist there. Her take on George and Ira Gershwin's Someone To Watch Over Me contains subtle changes, as Whitaker plays with the line, "I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood," and performs a vocal calisthenic as she slides into the last verse. She responds in kind to Miles Black's blues touch on Buddy Johnson's Save Your Love for Me, turning the chorus into a flat-out testimonial, and does a complete renovation of the bridge of It Could Happen to You. I Didn't Know What Time It Was double-times for Black's piano solo, which measure up to his high standards."

Melinda Whitaker performs Friday, 8 pm, at The Cellar.



CD - The Touch of Your Lips
CBC Airplay



What was a classically trained coloratura soprano doing taking song requests in a strip club written up in TIME MAGAZINE? Melinda Whitaker was the chick singer with the resident jazz sextet, "The Vancouver Sympathy Orchestra". Gary was an ex-rock drummer and enterpreneur who owned Gary Taylor's Show Lounge on Vancouver's Granville Street. The jazz and striptease bill was raking it in but it was a legal sticky wicket and one the law couldn't resist challenging. The Show Lounge was charged with "indecent acts" and Her Majesty's Court required that "The Vancouver Sympathy Orchestra" perform a typical set with the dancers. Court was set for 10 am - cruel and unusual punishment for musicians who rarely got to bed before the sun came up. The band rolled through a set of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Bill Evans tunes, the dancers were particularly spectacular and His Honour duly considered and ruled - charges dismissed and the judge stayed for the lunch show!

One of the legendary PR adages has always held that there's no such thing as bad publicity and so it was that following the dismissal of charges, West Coast movers & shakers in the music industry along with everyone else who read the article in Time Magazine and heard the street buzz, were driven to check out the scene. And so our classically trained Melinda, recently returned from honing her now contralto rock "chops" on a rock 'n roll tour of the Canadian prairies, found herself singing jazz and blues, immersed in a sizzling cauldron of what was happening during the heyday of the West Coast television and jingle industry. Recording studios like Little Mountain Sound, Pinewood and Mushroom were running around the clock. One day Ringo Starr strolled into a Mushroom Studio session where Melinda was recording background vocals for the Wolfman Jack series, just to say hello. Those were the days of the "steady gig" where fans came to the club to enjoy their favourite group - you could count on them being there. Everyone on the Vancouver music scene was one big happy family. Melinda sang with The Vancouver Sympathy Orchestra" till 3 am and then caught a few hours sleep before showing up at the studio for a day of jingles. The steady gig soon became history as jingles, CBC television specials, film soundtracks, and television series made the studio and sound stage her second home, working with such luminaries as Bryan Adams, Kenny Loggins, Tommy Banks, Doug Riley, Leona Boyd, Martin Short, the list goes on.

There were tours, television dates and club work but the music scene was changing. Melinda embraced her growing family and became an educator, sharing her wealth of showbiz experience with College level Jazz Performance Classes. Following a dream, Melinda and family left for the Costa Rican tropics, seasoned liberally with mariachi and salsa. An interlude later, steeped in and inspired by Spanish culture, Melinda returned to her Canadian roots where she rounded out her musical credentials by recording her own CD, THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS, featuring swinging standards from the Great American Songbook and latin favourites.

In 2003 she opened for the legendary Ray Brown Trio. Melinda collaborated with New York conductor Adam Glaser in September 2008 for three concerts as guest jazz vocalist with the Victoria Symphony Beltone Pops Series. Jazz festivals, recording and club dates abound. Joining Melinda in swinging standards and original explorations is the formidable Brent Jarvis Trio.

Her three-decade career has only intensified her rich, dark voice, her connection with the emotional truth of a song.

"The first time I saw Melinda Whitaker I was knocked off my feet by the sheer warmth of her personality and presence. Anyone who has heard Melinda's voice knows its smoky brilliance, the seductive, electrical charge that this wonderful performer can bring to a song. This is music for the heart, mind and soul of astute listeners. Special listeners, you and I. Music to groove by, music to live by, music to love by." Dr. Peter Gouzouasis, Music director, JAZZ90/WRTI (1983-1988)