Jumpin on the A train, Nikki Yanofsky ended her US tour on Friday night at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Who? Oh, you’ve heard her sing. Don’t you remember? It was Yanofsky’s incredible voice you heard opening the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver with “O Canada” and the closing ceremonies with her hit “I Believe.” Or maybe you caught her in Montreal at the tender age of 12, singing Ella Fitzgerald’s hit, “Airmail Special,” scatting her way into the history books as the youngest performer ever at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Now at the age of 16, Nikki Yanofsky is taking the music world by storm.
Starting the show with old chestnut standards like “Take the A Train,” “God Bless the Child,” “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” you quickly forgot Yanofsky’s age as her dynamics and vocal range within a single phrase proved her musical chops are greater than most seasoned performers.
Moving to a more modern repertoire, Yanofsky wove into the program Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary,” the Beatles’ “Two of Us” and a quiet yet powerfully arranged version of Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter.” Her rendition of “Old MacDonald” was nothing like you learned in grade school, with a solidly swingin’ rhythm and plenty of scat singing to keep the audience members bopping in their seats.
Between tunes, Yanofsky spoke to the audience in an intimate manner, sharing secrets of the road. While reminiscing of times at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam watching her idols Al Green, Quincy Jones, and Herbie Hancock, Yanofsky shared every jazz lover’s dream of being invited to sit in with Hancock. She confessed that if she were alive in the ’60s, she would have been among the girls at the front of the stage screaming for the Beatles to touch her hand.
Her dynamic backing band – bassist and musical director Rob Fahie, pianist John Sadowy, guitarist Andy Dacoulis and drummer Richard Irwin – provided the foundation which gave Yanofsky a playground for her talents. Fahie’s genius arrangement took a vamp from Led Zepplin’s “Fool in the Rain” to introduce “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”
The captains of music are all jumping on board to work with her. Phil Ramone produced her latest CD, “Nikki.” Herbie Hancock and Black Eye Peas’ will.i.am helped arrange her rendition of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s film, “On the Shoulders of Giants.” She’s composed songs with Grammy Award-winning Jesse Harris (famed for penning Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”). Don’t miss their collaboration on a song titled, “Grey Skies.” It’s sure to haunt your brain.
Closing the night with “I Got Rhythm,” the audience brought Yanofsky back for an encore, and she dancing her way back onto the stage to performed “Muddy Water/ Walk Off.”
Be sure to catch Nikki Yanofsky the next time she’s in the area. Whether it’s a jazz festival or a cozy venue like the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, her energy is infectious, and you’ll leave bopping.
Review by Cheryl Jenks
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “The maturity, skill and control of her vocals is amazing. She can scat, she can carry ballads, and, being young, she has muscle. But what lies ahead for her is not all clear yet, based on her performance Friday night. Her stage presence is awkward – dressing her up like a young teen in front of a mostly older audience is not a smart start. She has no idea what to do when the musicians are soloing. You cringe when she speaks between songs: ‘I was freakin’ out…’ And she can’t help but over-sing, no matter what the moment calls for: Troy Music Hall is the perfect place for a performer to treat gently, and anyone who misses that piece pays for it at The Hall more than most places. To be fair, she’s only 16.”
NIKKI YANOFSKY SET LIST
Take the A Train
God Bless the Child
Lullaby of Birdland
Stompin’ at the Savoy
The Wind Cries Mary
Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya
Everything I’ve Got
Bienvenue Dans Ma Vie
Sunny Side of the Street
Heart of the Manner
Try Try Try
Two of Us
No More Blues
For Another Day
I’ve Got Rhythm
Muddy Water/Walk Off