Rebecca Jenkins
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Rebecca Jenkins

Band Jazz Adult Contemporary


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"Strong songs simply sung key to success"

Album a breeze for Jenkins and hubby

Thursday, May 29, 2008

By Tom Harrison, The Province

The origin of Blue Skies, Rebecca Jenkins' first full-length album, is romantic.

The actress and her husband had rented a canal boat in France and as they traversed the water she would sing and husband Joel Bakan would accompany her on guitar.

Between sips of wine, Jenkins might do "Cheek to Cheek," the old Irving Berlin song. Bakan would finish his wine and pick up his guitar to play along. She'd grown up with "Cheek to Cheek." He, by contrast, hadn't played jazz in years.

Back in Vancouver, the two attempted to capture that summer in France on a record that would keep the romance going. The resulting Blue Skies is a model of understatement. As implied by the title, it just breezes along sunnily. The arrangements of Henry Mancini's "Moon River" or Cole Porter's "Night and Day" are short and to the point, played by a small ensemble that eschews bass guitar and sung by a woman who likewise doesn't gild the lily.

"It was actually a very spontaneous approach," claims Jenkins. "They're all great love songs."

"One of the creative choices was that we let the songs speak for themselves," adds Bakan. "Rebecca is just such a great interpreter. The key theme was simplicity."

"Those are really strong songs," Jenkins notes. "They don't need embellishment."

Jenkins is better known as an actress in such independent films as Whole New Thing, Bob Roberts or 1989's Bye Bye Blues, where she was first recognized as a singer, and TV (The Guard, Twilight Zone, Nero Wolfe, The Road to Avonlea). Bakan played guitar in rock and jazz bands before immersing himself in law. He is a professor of law at UBC, but he also wrote a successful book, The Corporation, which became an award-winning documentary film.

"I really didn't get back into jazz until I was sitting on the boat," Bakan recalls. "So, we kind of re-discovered jazz together. We both respond to the same things."

While she was appearing in the movies, Jenkins concurrently was singing and occasionally the two media overlapped. She sang in the film Wilby Wonderful, for example, but also onstage or record with Jane Siberry, Holly Cole and on a Bruce Cockburn tribute album.

"Joni Mitchell gave her a standing ovation when she sang 'Blue,' notes Bakan proudly. This was at Harbourfront in Toronto where Mitchell was nominated for a "Genius" award.

The two evidently have a high regard for one another. They are successful in their own way and so are self-confident. They cheer each other on.

"My philosophy is trying to be true," Jenkins says. "Always try to be present and as natural as possible."

Jenkins is now recording an album of her original tunes augmented by "a few cool covers." Once again, Bakan is there to back her. At the cellar, they'll play songs from Blue Skies and the album in progress with Bruce Meikle and Liam MacDonald.

- The Province (Vancouver Daily)

"Rebecca Jenkins-Renaissance Woman"

Rebecca Jenkins-Renaissance Woman

Rebecca Jenkins re-imagines the standards and crafts a new chapter for herself

By Shelley Gummeson

“If music be the food of love, play on” - Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Envision floating down a river in France with your lover, your life partner. Now, hear the music that flutters inside you, the gorgeous melodies and fabulous lyrics that bubble to the lips. Classic songs that can’t be contained but must be played, sung, and shared. It sounds like the most romantic of stories. That is the true story of how Rebecca Jenkins’ new album Blue Skies, took its’ first breath, and it couldn’t be more perfectly scripted.

“The jazz album, well, Joel and I were floating down a river in France, on a chartered river boat a couple of years ago, and that’s where this album came from. We were just playing and started singing some jazz tunes and we were having so much fun. We thought why not just go in and do this CD. These songs are so fabulous.” Joel Bakan, professor, author and musician is also Rebecca’s life partner and shares in her appreciation of beautiful melody and strong lyric.

“With Blue Skies we took these twelve standards and tried to un-standardize them. These days people think of standards as ‘oh, that old standard’, but they are unique and very special songs. Our approach was I'm a singer. I've always sung and to express myself through music, melody and lyric is incredibly natural for me. to keep it very simple and keep the truth and purity of the songs, to present them very simply because they don’t need much adornment. They are fabulous pieces of music.

The songbook of jazz standards is vast, so how does a singer choose one song over the other? Rebecca Jenkins tells how the choice was made. “It was a very organic process. We just chose songs that we loved. I mean I love Jobim and so does Joel. Then, you know the funny thing is, after we recorded the songs and listened back, we realized that every song is a love song. I loved every aspect of the production. I mean we have incredible players on it, Al Matheson is so wonderful on the trumpet and flugelhorn. Liam MacDonald just came back from Brazil where he studies with a Brazilian percussionist and drummer, so he really brought the flavor to Jobim. We didn’t need a bass player because Joel has a technique where he comps the chords and plays the bass line.” The album contains two songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim. “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)” and “Once I
Rebecca Jenkins "Blue Skies"Loved”. The arrangements on this album are very clean and nothing overwhelms the other. “We didn’t want to impose anything on the songs. We wanted to bring the listener to them,” says Rebecca.

While the album Blue Skies offers one side of Rebecca Jenkins, her live shows showcase another. “In our live show, we play these songs and we have some of my original work, some interpretations of more cross over styles. It’s livelier. The next album will reflect that.”

Rebecca is no stranger to live shows and even livelier road trips. She has recently played to sold out audiences at the renowned Cellar Restaurant/Jazz Club in Vancouver and has toured with Jane Siberry and Parachute Club. When asked if there were any road trip stories she could share, she gave a throaty “Oh yes…”

On touring with Jane Siberry, Rebecca reveals a love affair with garlic and the impact on those poor souls who were not garlic aficionados. “We were big garlic eaters. Oh yes, we would bake whole heads of garlic and make these really disgusting sandwiches. I don’t know how health conscious it was, but peanut butter on bread with this roasted garlic spread. Can you imagine how horrendous it would be to interview anyone with that kind of breath? What weren’t we thinking!”

“We had a kind of Spinal Tap moment. The cult classic, music mocumentary [This is] Spinal Tap was always playing on the tour bus. We had a moment like that, where the band was trying to get to the stage, you can hear the fans cheering and ready and you’ve been announced. But you’re in the bottomless cavern of this building, the boiler room’s there, and you have to cut through here and we get lost. It’s just silly things…”

Rebecca Jenkins is a celebrated Canadian actress as well, and continues to act in television and film. It was her award winning role in Bye Bye Blues where the two worlds of acting and music converged. When asked how she There is a character within each song. The writer is trying to tell a story and I respond to it. handled the duality of the role, this was her response: “I am a singer. I’ve always sung, and to express myself through music, melody and lyric, is incredibly natural for me. Basically I’m an interpreter. Whether it’s from my own thoughts and feelings or whether it is a script, it’s really all the same. There is a character within each song. The writer is trying to tell a story and I respond to it. ”

Today Rebecca Jenkins says she has come to a place where she is trying to be as much of herself and present to the creative music expression that is evolving within. A strong story that is entwined within an unforgettable melody is one of the things that drive this remarkable woman. With Blue Skies she has added another chapter to her life’s musical book. The next installment is currently being lived.

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- !earshot

"Film left blues far behind"

Film left blues far behind

Role launched singer's acting career 18 years ago


Thursday, June 21, 2007

By Glen Schaefer, The Vancouver Province

It's been more than 18 years since director-writer Anne Wheeler and a small cast and crew got together in a little Alberta crossroads to make Bye Bye Blues, Wheeler's fictionalization of her own mother's experience singing with a band during the Second World War.

The resulting movie turned out to be a perfect confluence of personalized story-telling, subtly rendered period detail, intimate performances and music that served those characters and their story. The movie won three Genie awards, including best actress for star Rebecca Jenkins.

Wheeler, Jenkins, cinematographer Vic Sarin and other crew will be at tonight's screening, sponsored by Moving Pictures and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Director, cast and crew will talk about the making of what has become a Canadian classic.

For singer-actor Jenkins, who had spent the 1980s touring with Toronto new-wave acts The Parachute Club and Jane Siberry, her first starring role proved to be a springboard to acting. She had earlier had a supporting role in Wheeler's Cowboys Don't Cry, but says she had to convince the director that she could play a 1940s singer and mother.

"I had this bleached white hair, sticking straight up, just so far removed from what was in Anne's mind. She said 'You're too Queen Street, you couldn't play my mother.' She made me audition seven times."

The fictional Daisy Cooper joins a small-town jazz band to support her two children after her army-doctor husband goes missing at the fall of Singapore. The movie captures the bittersweet spirit of a generation of women forced to seize their independence, and then give it back again at war's end.

The production filmed for six days in India, and split its Alberta schedule into a summer and winter shoot. Sarin, who went on to shoot Margaret's Museum and direct the recent historical drama Partition, frames the actors against the spectacular hills and valleys around Drumheller.

Jenkins, now based in Vancouver, rode the movie's success to roles opposite Kevin Spacey in the TV drama Darrow and Tim Robbins in the political satire Bob Roberts. She went from being a singer who acted, to an actor who sang.

She last saw Bye Bye Blues about five years ago, when her then six-year-old daughter Sadie watched the movie with her grandmother.

"Sadie made me sit down and watch it with her, we watched it three times in a row. I was knocked out, I could see everyone else's work so clearly once I'd had so many years of distance. The look of it, the music from [musical director] George Blondheim. A gorgeous film, but authentic and real. Anne didn't miss a thing."

Jenkins' own musical tastes turned more strongly to jazz afterwards. She and guitar-player husband Joel Bakan have just released Blue Skies, a CD of jazz standards.

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- The Province (Vancouver Daily)


Blue Skies - 2008, Maximum Jazz/EMI
(Listen to tracks at

Bye Bye Blues - 1989, Warner Bros.



"There's nothing like hearing her live on stage." The Province newspaper (Vancouver)

Rebecca Jenkins, one of Canada's most beloved and respected actors and singers, burst onto the Canadian film scene with her best actress Genie Award-winning performance as a 1940s jazz singer in Anne Wheeler's Bye Bye Blues. Her soulful and charismatic singing and acting in that film launched a career that has included numerous critically-acclaimed and award-winning roles in Canadian and American film and television. The soundtrack of Bye Bye Blues, featuring Jenkin's singing, was released by Warner Bros.

With her more recently released album, Blue Skies (2007), distributed by EMI, Jenkins re-visited her jazz roots. She is now working on a new album composed of originals, covers and some jazz tunes.

As a singer-songwriter, Jenkins toured and recorded as back-up vocalist with the Parachute Club and Jane Siberry as well as performing and recording her own works as a solo artist and with various bands. She has performed original and other material in front of symphony orchestras, on radio shows, at music festivals, on numerous compilation albums, at clubs and concert halls, and for film and television soundtracks.

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