Born: February 5, 1963 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Daughter of the legendary jazz musician and composer Sir John Dankworth and International singing star Dame Cleo Laine, Jacqui Dankworth was brought up either on the road or by a succession of Spanish nannies. To Jacqui the positives of the entertainment world attracted more than the negatives repelled. There was never any question that she wouldn’t follow her parents into show business . The only surprise was into which area she choose to go.
Jacqui Dankworth’s first forays onto the stage were as an actress, and a successful one at that. For many years Jacqui worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and John Dexter's Company playing a multitude of critically acclaimed roles. Soon the plays turned into musicals and before long Jacqui was playing leading parts in the West End. But the singing bug had hit, and Jacqui left the lights of the London stage to focus on her own recording career.
The first thing Jacqui did was tour with brother Alec Dankworth's quintet, visiting Hawaii, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Jacqui then appeared as everything but the soldier in a staged performance of Stravinsky's “The Soldier's Tale” at the Purcell Room, London, and worked with award winning jazz composer/saxophonist Tim Garland on a song cycle - ‘Songs Of Love And Liberty’, alongside singers Norma Winstone and Christine Tobin. In early 1998 Jacqui was invited to be the guest vocalist on a major world tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Occasionally time allowed her to venture into the studio to record - her first work being a newly commissioned jazz reworking of A. E. Housman poetry, as a guest artist with the New Perspectives Ensemble. The album was voted Record of the Year in The Times.
By 1999 her reputation was spreading and Jacqui was asked to perform new arrangements of Gershwin classics with the BBC Big Band at The Barbican, London and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Her next audio project was with the group “Field of Blue”. A simple acoustic band performing mostly original compositions. “Field Of Blue” toured extensively around the UK and Europe playing to packed houses and raising Jacqui’s profile as a major singing talent. Field of Blue recorded two albums, an eponymous CD in 1999 and the second, “Still” which was released in 2000 on Black Box records, both to wide acclaim.
Reviews were positive once again for the 2001 Black Box release with James Pearson, “For All We Know”, including, from the Sunday Times, ‘one of our finest singers regardless of category’. Jacqui happily appeared as a featured singer on Gerard Presencer's Linn album, The Optimist, and she recorded a track for the Nick Drake tribute album released on Hannibal Records as well as performing at the Barbican, London as part of the Nick Drake Tribute concert.
As a side project, Jacqui formed the three-part harmony group The Passion, with two other great singers Liane Carroll and Sara Colman. The truly unique group released an album in 2002 called “One Good Reason”, featuring the fabulous piano work of Liane Carroll and intricate, soulful three part harmonies of contemporary and original repertoire that features the individual and combined talent of three of the top vocalists/lyricists in the country.
In 2002 she appeared with composer Tunde Jegede in a concert and educational project for Wingfield Arts and more recently Jacqui has sung the titles on the cult hit film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (starring Martine McCutcheon), the theme tune for two series of Coming Alive on BBC Radio 4 and guested on Gloria Hunniford's Open House on Channel 5, and Esther on BBC2.
In 2003 Jacqui released her first major crossover album “As The Sun Shines Down On Me”. This album brought her to the attention of Michael Parkinson and Radio 2 and Jacqui appeared regularly on air throughout the year. With it’s mixture of contemporary songs, Jacqui’s own compositions and some beautifully re-arranged Standards this record set the path on which Jacqui has decided to follow, building up a very loyal fanbase and taking her live show out of the Jazz Clubs and into major Theatres all over the UK and Ireland. More guest appearances followed, Jacqui was featured on Courtney Pine’s album ‘Devotion’ which was released on 6th October 2003 to great acclaim. Tied in with the release Jacqui performed alongside Courtney at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of the London Jazz Festival.
This new found attention brought her a guest appearance in the film ‘Shoreditch’, starring Joeley Richardson and Shane Ritchie. Jacqui opens the feature with the opening shot singing the classic Billie Holiday number ‘My Man’ and later sings ‘Body and Soul’ as a featured track.
Jacqui followed the success of “As The Sun Shines Down On Me” with the 2004 release “Detour Ahead”. Again this only added further to her popularity and another UK tour confirmed Jacqui as “one of the finest singers of her generation”. Touring around the World and appearing at special concerts with her parents gave Jacqui a break from recording for a couple of years, but in 2008 she announced a new management team, recording contract, and band. The material from the forthcoming album was pre-viewed to rapturous applause during a three night residency at Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho, London where Jacqui also announced another UK Tour. The album 'Back To You' is due for release due for release in September 2009 and will be accompanied by a theatre and festival tour of Europe.