A still emerging jazz singer and standards interpreter extraordinaire who delivers emotional transcendence like the legends whose L.A. studios she’s been recording in, Newfoundland born, Alberta raised Patrice Jegou’s back story is as fascinating, compelling and eclectic as the repertoire and arrangements on her second album If It Ain’t Love.
Although with a family of amateur musicians, music was in her DNA, Patrice’s earliest passions and pursuits were dedicated to figure skating. She first graced the ice at age seven and was pro by 18. She worked as a coach in New Zealand and later skated in an ice show that was part of a touring circus in Mexico. While on that tour, a fellow skater heard her singing backstage and said the words that changed the course of her life: “You should take voice lessons.”
Putting the same kind of intensity into her vocal development as she did her skating, Patrice went full throttle, earning a total of three degrees, including a Ph.D in classical vocal performance at Rutgers University. Focusing on classical and opera, she entered international vocal competitions and won one in Peru.
Jazz entered her life via her husband, physician/musician (and If It Ain’t Love’s executive producer) Yinka Oyelese, who encouraged her to broaden her horizons. After years of aiming for note for note perfection, she found liberation and fresh creativity in singing jazz standards. We can hear her bold embrace of that freedom as she strolls, darts, weaves and soars through the wild expanse of styles and moods on the generous 16 track collection. The journey begins with sparks flying off her imaginative scat-along with Take 6’s Mark Kibble and Alvin Chea on a brash, Manhattan Transfer-esque a capella romp through “Lover Come Back To Me.” She wraps by bringing a dreamy, solemn grace to “It Might Be You,” a lush yet gentle duet for vocal and piano featuring Mike Lang, who also arranged and produced the track.
Those opening and closing tracks are just two examples of Patrice’s keen, effortless ability to go from moments of soaring vocal transcendence to intimacy so hushed it breaks your heart. Four songs perfectly illustrate this dual dynamic. She brings rousing majesty to the powerful gospel dynamic of The Crusaders’ “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today” and a torchy intensity to “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” one of four tunes featuring the eminently swinging L.A. based Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
As you listen, compare the timbre and intensity of those vocals to the ones she brings to two other low key and lovely duets with Lang, the softly melancholy post-breakup classic “Where Do You Start?” and the slightly more obscure Randy Newman gem “Losing You.” Other highlights bursting forth somewhere between these mood swings are a sassy, percussive, bass driven spin through Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” (featuring Tata Vega), the soulful sunshine of the finger-snap filled “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” (featuring the full force of Take 6) and “Remembrances,” a dreamy, caressing bossa duet with Javier Almaraz that pays homage to Stan Getz.
For this ambitious project, which took three years, Patrice utilized the talents of five major arrangers, including Lang, Kibble, Jorge Calandrelli (Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett), John Clayton, and David Paich from Toto. It was recorded at the legendary Capitol Studios, United Recording, and East West Studios in Hollywood where Sinatra, Streisand, Sam Smith and Imagine Dragons recorded their biggest hits. If It Ain’t Love was mixed by legendary engineers Don Murray and Al Schmitt.
Yet for all that firepower behind her, and all the beautiful legendary vocal spirits surrounding her in those sacred spaces, this project is all about Patrice, an artist of tremendous talents and endless vision who stands center stage, engaging our attention song after song. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.