Nikki Yanofsky in Toronto by Stanley Fefferman

Wednesday, February 6, 2008. Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto.

“They say as a child, i appeared a little bit wild_with all my crazy ideas._but i knew what was happening, i knew, _i was a genius._what’s so strange,_when you know that you’re a wizard at three?_i knew that this was meant to be.” –Emilie-Claire Barlow–

“A wizard at three”– the phrase fits Nikki Yanofsky too, whose father Richard, also a musician like Brian Barlow, has archived everything his daughter has done since she started singing at ‘three’.

Further into the coincidence department, Emilie-Claire led off her first successful album “Tribute” (2001) with her version of Ella Fitzgerald’s scat number, “Airmail Special.” Nikki, aged 13, performed that same number at the Montreal Jazz Festival last year and also recorded it as the closing track on the star-filled Ella Fitzgerald tribute album “We All Love Ella, “recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles – where Ella herself recorded.

How do the Emilie-Claire’s and Nikki’s performances compare? Both are crisp. Emilie-Claire takes it for subtlety, nuance and humour. Nikki has it for sheer energy– velocity, clarity, and guts.

When asked how she managed to make her first attempt at scat singing to be a perfect copy of Ella’s, Nikki replied: “It comes from my toes, it just comes out… I don’t know. I heard it and I loved it and I tried to learn it.”

This evening, Nikki sang jazz like Ella (”Airmail Special”, “Mack the Knife”), gospel like Aretha (backed by the great 10 member Imani Gospel Singers), soul and rock like Stevie Wonder, Etta James (“At Last”) and Joe Cocker (“With a Little Help from My Friends”), pop like Judy Garland (“When You Wish upon a Star,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”).

This girl has some set of pipes on her. Nikki can really belt out a tune or be soft as a summer breeze. She has a killer ear, flawless coordination and timing, a tremendous range of vocal stylings, and a convincing ease with sophisticated lyrics. When she sings “I’ve got music in me,” I believe it. As the concert moved on towards 90 minutes, it felt like I could listen to her all night and never be bored.

Jazz pianist Oliver Jones said after hearing Nikki sing. “In the years to come, if she keeps it up, she’ll exceed what Diana Krall has done,” Yes indeed. When Nikki and her bitchin’ 12 piece band get to Carnegie Hall in few days (Friday, February 8th), if they do in New York what they did in Toronto, a new star will be born.

Feel the pride.

Nikki’s Toronto “In Concert” appearance was presented by LUMINATO, in partnership with the TD CANADA TORONTO JAZZ FESTIVAL, Patrick Taylor, Director.

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