All that jazz

Being raised in a small town in northern B.C., having five siblings and watching parents who always sang Christmas carols can do wonders. Whitehorse jazz singer Rebekah Bell cannot say exactly where she gets her vocal and instrumental talents from.

Being raised in a small town in northern B.C., having five siblings and watching parents who always sang Christmas carols can do wonders.

Whitehorse jazz singer Rebekah Bell cannot say exactly where she gets her vocal and instrumental talents from, but they might stem from all the above.

“Having four older brothers makes you a lot of things I’m sure. It helped me really want to be independent,” she said.

As a child, she thought every family sang. Her parents would always be invited by churches in Fort Saint John to join choirs and perform duets.

“He sang the stink out of Holy Night,” she said of her father.

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Her father won a singing contest in his late teens and won a prestigious award to train in Europe. He couldn’t claim the prize because his father passed away at the same time.

She’s now picking up from where her father left off, launching a debut jazz album with a pianist who once opened for Stevie Wonder.

She carved her path at a young age. At six, she took piano lessons but didn’t learn much because the notes were numbered. She taught herself how to play piano “by ear,” she said.

At 10, she picked up a flute and joined a band. In high school, she nabbed the lead part in the musical Oklahoma and ended up being the only teen performing for a college choir in town.

In Grade 9, she knew she wanted to be a music teacher, so she took formal piano lessons the following year to prepare for her audition into the music program of the University of Victoria. When she tried out, she had “the small fish in a big pond syndrome,” she said.

Bell ended up graduating with honours. Now, she teaches music at Porter Creek Secondary School.

Aside from teaching, she’s been performing for 13 years with the Big Band, who play large group jazz in the Yukon.

The sultry, raspy voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Holly Cole, and Nancy Wilson captivated Bell since childhood. One can hear how their feminine, sassy depth influenced Bell’s style in her album, To Watch Over Me.

The 14 songs on the album are all covers of classic jazz songs, such as Billie Holiday’s God Bless the Child, Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Nat King Cole’s Blame it On My Youth.

The diversity of her song choices are what give the album a “good vibe feeling,” she said. It’s a cocktail of ballads, swing, blues, up-tempo tunes and even the Beatles – with a jazz spin on Oh! Darling.

Coupling Bell’s silky voice and harmonic flute talents with veteran jazz musician Bob Murphy’s sleek piano, the songs sound like originals.

Not like Bell didn’t already have a full plate – aside from teaching and performing, she swims, jogs, plays tennis, bikes, gardens, photographs and reads – like a typical Yukoner, she said.

Adding the album to her to-do list, Bell has been deprived of sleep since she committed to the project in January. But she’s learned a lot.

“I didn’t even know what a producer is,” she said.

But now she has the mentorship of two stellar musicians under her belt, as both her producer, Joani Taylor, and Murphy were nominated for Junos.

Together with Doug Stephenson on bass and Buff Allen on drums, the Vancouver-based band had a riot with Bell when they recorded the album in a mere three days. Their high energy, chemistry and professionalism allowed them to record each song in only one or two takes.

“We did everything live off the floor, but that’s how they used to do it when it was great music,” she said, adding that she also wanted to challenge herself.

Bell will be performing at the Old Fire Hall with the band on July 4. Tickets are available at the venue, but are already 60 per cent sold, she said.

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read