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Jacqui Dankworth: I Can't Help Pouring My Heart Out

By Published: August 15, 2011
The other John Dankworth song is "The Man," with lyrics by Jacqui. In contrast to the title song this is a more upbeat, humorous, number. It's also the only track that features Sir John's alto saxophone playing. "Dad wrote the tune as a piece for his small band, his quintet, about five or six years ago. Then we did a music library project—songs for films and television—for a company called Audio Network. I wrote lyrics for about ten of dad's tunes. 'The Man' was one of them. We recorded it for this album before dad passed away, and after he died I rang Audio Network and asked for the recording of dad's solo. It was miraculous—it was exactly the same tempo as the album version. We've done the song in so many tempos, no click tracks or anything, but his solo just fitted exactly with the chosen version: no trickery, it just slotted in." She adds, with obvious pride, "So he's on the album. Even after his death he still manages to get on to the recording."

Although that alto solo is Sir John's only performance, his personality is stamped across the album through his arrangements, and also through his vocal presence on "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" and "The Man." On both tunes Sir John can be heard organizing the recording, counting in the musicians. "We did that at the beginning and the end of the album: we thought it made a nice sort of 'bookend' for the recording. It's important for people to know that he was involved in it, that he was very much part of the whole process."

The lineup of musicians on It Happens Quietly is outstanding: almost a who's who of contemporary straight-ahead British jazz. Some, such as drummer Steve Brown, have worked with both Jacqui and Sir John over many years. The selection of these musicians was another collaboration: "The rhythm players are people I've worked with a lot. Malcolm Edmonstone is my regular pianist and musical director, I've worked with him for ten years or more. Chris Allard, the guitarist, is also in my band." Jacqui's brother Alec Dankworth plays bass on most of the tunes, with Steve Watts taking on the role for three numbers. "Alec is on the numbers from the first session, the session which we did in mum and dad's house. He couldn't make the second session, which was in London, so Steve came on for that one." There's a large wind section, featuring yet more top players. "Yeah, that's true. Henry Lowther
Henry Lowther
Henry Lowther
played trumpet in dad's band for many years, Jimmy Hastings has been a very loyal friend and band mate to dad as well. Karen Sharp and Tim Garland
Tim Garland
Tim Garland
are both sax players who my dad admired. Dad nurtured Tim from an early age—not that he needed much nurturing."

On tour there will be different combinations of players, varying by venue and event and ranging from trios to larger ensembles with strings. "We've got different versions of the arrangements, but it's nice to have Ben Davis on cello because you can then hint at the full string arrangements. We are aiming to do some gigs with the orchestra next year: we'll also be doing a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester later this year, with a string section formed by the students."

The string arrangements are one of the most striking elements of the album. There's a lush romanticism to some of them that, while they are very definitely contemporary, gives them a feel that harks back to the '30s and '40s. Jacqui pauses for a few seconds to consider this before replying. "I'm not sure if dad would like that interpretation or not. He was composing right up until he died and it certainly wasn't a deliberate thing, to try to recreate that period's sound. But I'm glad it's got that classic feel."

Jacqui and Alec are the children of one of Britain's best know and best loved musical partnerships, household names since the '60s. How did that impact on her childhood? "Looking back, I suppose it was extraordinary but at the time it never really felt like that. We were fairly scruffy kids, climbing trees and running around. I went to the local primary school, then boarding school when I was eight years old ... I think it's hard to think back that far. At the time it just felt normal. It certainly didn't feel like a celebrity life: my parents always had their feet on the ground."

Jacqui's parents were both talented individuals, and a central part of the British music scene, so following in their footsteps in some way seemed inevitable. "I don't think there was ever a time when I thought I would do something else. There was never anything else I was any good at, to be honest," she says, laughing. Jacqui's first move was not into singing, however, but acting. Eventually, her singing career took precedence and acting was put to one side, but she is once again looking towards acting. "I've just got an agent again, in the last few months. It was quite hard, coming back after I hadn't done anything for a while, but we'll see how it goes."

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