Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Slack’s mainstay Heather Bambrick is making pop gestures

Jazz crooner's latest project is a bit of a departure

Heather Bambrick packs a punch on jazz tunes. Now, she's branching out. Credit: Courtesy of Heather Bambrick

East Coast jazz singer Heather Bambrick is a sonic antidote to Lady Gaga’s heavy production and Britney Spears’ heavier breathing; cool, clean and packed with personality, Bambrick goes from seductive cooing to full-throated belting without digital voice doctoring or pantyless limo rides.

Her first album, 2004’s It’s About Time, snagged Bambrick two nominations and one win at the National Jazz Awards and helped land her a show on Toronto’s Jazz FM. The follow-up CD, Those Were the Days, was picked up by stations across the globe and cemented Bambrick’s reputation as one of Canada’s premier jazz talents.

Bambrick’s latest project is a trio called the V-Girls. It is a bit of a departure. Along with bandmates Elana Harte and Kim Sheppard, Bambrick has been rocking out with original tunes and exploring new genres of music.

“It’s completely different for me in terms of what I usually do,” she says. “It’s not jazz; it’s rock and country and pop and roots music all thrown into one big bag. Plus, I get to be drummer in this gig!”

The three began playing together four years ago as a one-off for Pride, which led to further gigs at Slack’s on Church St. Frequent appearances at the club have garnered a solid fan base — as well as a firmer grasp of playing drums while singing.

“It was hard at first,” says Bambrick. “People would come up and tell me I looked constipated onstage, but really I was just concentrating on playing and singing at the same time. It’s easier now. I don’t look as constipated anymore.”

It’s been quite a journey for the curly-haired chanteuse from Newfoundland who couldn’t even afford the airfare to audition for the University of Toronto’s venerated jazz program.

“I was so broke,” Bambrick laughs. “I sent an audio cassette tape for the audition, but I didn’t think I’d be accepted.”

John Thomas, the director of U of T’s Jazz Choir must have liked what he heard. Thomas was heading out for the St John’s Jazz Festival that summer and stopped by to audition Bambrick personally. She made the cut, relocated to the Big Smoke that fall and never looked back.

“There’s just such a vibrant jazz community here,” says Bambrick. “Oddly enough, St John’s, Newfoundland, is not the jazz mecca of North America.”