Dynamic divas


DIONE TAYLOR with JANE BUNNETT AND THE SPIRITS OF HAVANA , JORANE , LAURA OCAMPO , NDIDI ONUKWULU and NIDIA MOYA in the third annual Global Divas gala concert at Kool Haus, tonight (Thursday, March 31), 8 pm. $30. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN

It’s Easter Sunday, and for Dione Taylor, who was introduced to music in the church, it’s time for a yearly ritual.

“I just watched Star Wars,” the jazz singer admits over the phone from her Toronto place, laughing. “My family’s in Saskatchewan, so I’m sure they’re at church or something now. But this is my Easter Sunday tradition.”

Taylor began playing the organ at age four, was her church’s music director by ten, at the Royal Conservatory of Music by twelve and was drawn to the challenge of jazz in high school.

“It was a real brain-tease, coming from gospel,” she says, adding that her church roots remain part of her appreciation of jazz today. “What I like about jazz is the blues side. That gospel feel really gets to me. It’s an emotional response that I look for in music.”

You can hear it in her voice. On songs from her debut album, Open Your Eyes, there’s a steely gospel quality embedded in her Sarah Vaughn-like vocalizing, not to mention a refined versatility that betrays years of classical and technical training.

The album is up for vocal jazz album of the year at Sunday’s Junos. Taylor is excited about her vantage point at the ceremony.

“It’s such an honour to be nominated, and I think it’ll be fun watching all these Canadian stars act silly and try and be American,” she laughs.

Taylor is also looking forward to tonight’s Global Divas gala concert of performances by international artists including the Grammy-nominated Jane Bunnett. The event is a fundraiser for St. Stephen’s Community House, which provides child care, conflict resolution services and neighbourhood support.

“I had a chance to meet all the women who are going to be performing, and they seemed really cool. It’s gonna be an interesting mix: African, salsa, bolero and Argentine music – it’s going to be amazing.”

High praise from the experienced Taylor, who played at the White House last summer with Dr. Billy Taylor (no relation) for President Bush, the First Lady and an audience of dignitaries, to celebrate June as National Black Music Month.

The Force must have been with her that day, as George W. extended an invitation that Taylor won’t soon forget.

“I spoke with him afterwards, and he said he really enjoyed my singing and he’d like to have me come back again. I’m gonna hold him to that.”



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