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HIGHGATE JAZZ WITH SOUL FESTIVAL: Jacqui Dankworth talks about growing up with music legends

Jacqui Dankworth plays the Bull, Highgate, on Saturday as part of the Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival

Published: 23 August, 2012

Singer Jacqui Dankworth has made her name not only for her soaring jazz vocals, but is renowned for her acting ability too.

And she says that having strings to her bow in the world of performance has been a help after she followed the advice her tutor – the actor David Suchet – gave her when she was studying at the Guildhall.

“David said to me ‘make sure you never have anything to fall back on, because you will’,” she recalls.

“It is such a tough business that if you think you can fall back on something else, you will.”

She has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, recorded with Courtney Pine and appears in the film version of Les Miserables, out this autumn.

It is hardly surprising that she earns a living this way when you consider her background.

She is the daughter of two of the UK’s most legendary jazz performers: the late Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Lane.

So did coming from such esteemed players mean she was always destined to be a singer?

“They didn’t push me in one way or another, but they were always insistent I got an education,” she says.

And she remembers being in her family kitchen at home when Charlotte Wanamaker, Sam Wanamaker’s wife, was visiting while Sam was raising funds to rebuild the Globe.

“She said to me ‘whatever you do, do not go into showbusiness’,” recalls Jacqui.

“I was in my 20s, and I remember thinking ‘but I have to do it’.

“People say if you have to do it, you have to do it.”

This Saturday she is topping the bill at the Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival, an annual event that is making its mark. It is running at four venues over the bank holiday weekend.

She will be accompanied by her husband, the pianist Charlie Wood. He is a renowned Hammond organ player – an ability that made Jacqui’s heart melt whenever she hears him.

“I love it,” she admits. “I first heard him play in a gig on the west coast of Ireland.”

They met around seven years ago and have been married for two – and theirs was a love based on a mutual passion for music.

Then she saw he was appearing at Dean Street’s Pizza Express Jazz Club.

“I rushed down there to see him,” she says.

They married, and now he occasionally accompanies her.

Also appearing is Chris Allard, who appears in her larger band: “This is really a pared-down version,” she says. “Normally we will have a larger band appearing but this is much more intimate.”

She says that as the singer, having more or less instruments can change the dynamics of what she does; but not having so many backers doesn’t mean she has to vocally fill spaces.

“When you have fewer instruments it allows you to create something very intimate,” she says.

• Jacqui Dankworth Trio, featuring Charlie Wood and Chris Allard, appears at the Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival at the Bull, 13 North Hill, Highgate, N6 4AB, 7.30-9.30pm, Saturday August 25. Tickets £15/£12 concessions.

• The Highgate Jazz with Soul Festival runs from Saturday August 25-Monday August 27 at Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park
Highgate Hill, N6 5HG; The Old Crown, 90 Highgate Hill, N19 5NQ; The Bull, 13 North Hill, Highgate, N6 4AB; and Caipirinha, 177 Archway Road, N6 5BL. Full festival details at Day and full festival passes available at Passes and individual event tickets can be purchased at any of the four venues.


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