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KUHF’s “The Front Row” – Houston’s Vibrant Arts Scene: Billie & Dolly… & Jacqui

Here’s what’s happening on the Houston jazz scene this week from KUHF’s Eric Ladau:

Innovative singer Jacqui Sutton brings her freshly minted “Frontier Jazz” to The Front Row Thursday, December 9.

Jacqui Sutton grew up inspired by Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five,

among many others. She was acutely sensitive to music. Even schmaltzy “elevator” music could catch her attention and send her into a state of reverie. As a young lady she learned her musical basics studying the flute.

Although she had little singing experience, she joined Jazzmouth, a San Francisco-based jazz vocal ensemble in the 1980’s. Jazzmouth’s vocal director Molly Holm taught her the discipline and focus required to excel as a vocalist — soloist or ensemble. The following years were spent in Portland, Oregon; New York City; and finally Houston. Along the way Jacqui dabbled in dance theater, Shakespeare, break dancing and Bluegrass music. Always eager to learn more and to refine her style, Jacqui studied with University of Houston Moores School Professor Cynthia Clayton, who “helped her love singing for the first time in her life.

Inspired directly by banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, Jacqui formed The Frontier Jazz Orchestra to perform and record a fascinating amalgam of Bluegrass- and Jazz- influenced tunes. He new CD, Billie and Dolly, is dedicated to Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton, Jacqui’s favorite singers. The Frontier Jazz Orchestra consists of pianist and arranger Henry Darragh, trumpeter Dennis Dotson, cellist Max Dyer, flutist Aralee Dorough, bassist Anthony Sapp, percussionist Ilya Janos and a special bluegrass touch added by Paul Chester on banjo.

The CD release party for Billie and Dolly will take place Friday evening, December 10 at 8pm in Duncan Recital Hall of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. A CD signing and reception will follow the concert.

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