I saw Jacqui Dankworth at the Goosfest concert at Cranage Hall, Holmes Chapel, on Sunday night.
I bought the tickets purely on the strength of her parents’ talent. I particularly love Cleo Laine but last saw her, John Dankworth and bassist son Alec Dankworth perform 10 years ago at Buxton Opera House. I reasoned that two such magnificent jazz gods could not fail to have an exceptionally talented daughter. So this Sunday I completed my set of Dankworths by taking my seat on the second row in an intimate venue.
Jacqui wore blue satin, white spangles, fish nets and red courts which she occasionally clicked and stamped in time with the music. She has a shy demeanour and a physical awkwardness rarely seen in someone so beautiful. I have seen articles in the press claiming Jacqui did not particularly enjoy being the daughter of Dame Cleo. However, she adored her father Sir John. Johnny died 6th January 2010 and whenever Jacqui mentioned him, which she did frequently, her loss was palpable. I identified with her immediately when she credited her darling Daddy with the composition and arrangements of some of her songs. I loved my father like that, too.
Amazingly, Jacqui, her brother Alec and their mother Cleo Laine famously performed hours after Sir John’s death. His death was announced just before the finale of the concert. They were sure it was what he would have wanted.
The power of Jacqui’s voice is effortless yet visible. I saw her stomach muscles contract and watched as she pushed the sound from her pelvic floor. Sometimes her arms, like pistons, pulled the liquid gold from her. This may sound far from effortless, but there was nothing self-conscious about it. It was like watching a completely natural force. Her mellow notes were gorgeous, stylistically innovative and almost as moving as those of her great mother.
Jacqui is married to her piano player/composer/vocalist and musical director Charlie Wood. There was an obvious mutual devotion between them on stage and the duets they shared sizzled with emotion. The other members of the band were also excellent musicians.
I was struck by Ms. Dankworth’s generosity in claiming applause for soloists and despite her regularly naming her band members, I am afraid I have forgotten the bassist, guitarists and drummers names.
After the show we bought Jacqui’s latest CD, “It Happens Quietly” I asked Charlie how his fabulous mother-in law was doing. He told me she was approaching her 85th birthday but they had seen her the previous evening and she was in good health. When Jacqui arrived at the back of the room to sign CDs, I was momentarily starstruck. She is so beautiful with those trade-mark white teeth shining from a gloriously wide smile. I stuttered as I tried to compliment her on the evening. But like her mother, 10 years ago, Jacqui put me at my ease and asked me how far I’d travelled and other pleasantries showing no signs of rushing or needing to be elsewhere. I know she trained in an earlier career as a Shakespearean actress, but her warmth and humility were utterly real. I was convinced.
As we drove home, I said to my husband, Nick, “I didn’t dare tell her how like her mother she is.” Her mannerisms and diction on stage and off were unmistakably related to Cleo and fortunately for us, the talent was evidently from the same stable too, but there’s a tenderness and vulnerability in Jacqui Dankworth which is quite different from anyone I’ve ever seen and loved.
Links with photos of this amazing Jazz family: