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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 12, No. 10 July 2007

La Nikki

by Caroline Pelletier / July 31, 2007

There’s a reason we’re all talking about Nikki Yanofsky. It’s not everyday a 13-year-old can scat like Ella and belt out jazz classics with such heart and soul that make divas twice her age envious. She is also someone who can learn ‘Airmail Special’ in less than 48 hours, though she concedes, “it was hard, but I did it.” Right now, her schedule is booked with concerts, festivals and recordings.

“Honestly, I introduced jazz to myself; I actually introduced my parents to jazz,” laughs Nikki. How does a thirteen year old get into jazz anyway? The answer is iTunes. Nikki explains how a simple web search for “jazz” became a three-year love affair. She first got a gig playing with the Porn Flakes at Club Soda and has since appeared on numerous television shows, performed at Montreal’s Jazz Festival and was included in the 15-track compilation “We Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady Of Song” alongside the likes of Diana Krall, Stevie Wonder and Etta James. “I was very honoured and excited. It was such a good experience,” she says with wonder. And to top it off, her debut album is out this September.

Comprised of covers with one exception, “Daddy’s Girl”, the album will feature tributes to Nikki’s idols, such artists as Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald and Chaka Kahn. “I’ve been working on it pretty hard and I think it’s actually finished now,” she adds. Just when you think you’ve got her pegged as a child prodigy with a single talent, you discover that Nikki also plays the piano and is co-writing a song with “Daddy’s Girl” composer Elan Kunin called “Purple Hair”. “It’s really funny. I like songs with morals, and the moral to this one is not to judge people from the outside.”

Nikki’s summer has already been busy with jazz fests in Toronto, CD signings, and appearances at the Ottawa and Montreal Jazz Fests before heading to the Saint-Sauveur Fest with Oliver Jones later in August. Sounds crazy? She says with relief that it’s less hectic than during the school year and she can “actually relax.” She insists, however, that her parents schedule the music around her regular activities and make sure she does not miss out on being a regular kid. In between festivals, she plans on water-skiing at her cottage with friends.

It would be a mistake to judge Nikki’s enthusiasm as naïve. “I think that for right now, I’m just a regular kid, but as I get older and perhaps if people looked up to me, I’d use my “fame” to do good in the world,” she said, accentuating the fact that fame should be in quotes. “I really believe in helping Africa and global warming and stuff.” Ask her if she’s nervous in performance and she’ll tell you with blunt assurance, “no. Not at all.” Ask her if this is the career for her and her teenage tone dissipates into a serious one as she answers, “absolutely. Hopefully I can continue doing it for the rest of my life.” n

(c) La Scena Musicale