Classically-trained singer Naomi Taylor is working to grow the jazz culture in the Bahamas with her vintage sound. Taylor, who spent much of her music career singing classical and choral music under the direction of Cleophas Adderley. She’s now working on a new album focusing on another musical voyage — an album of Bossa Nova music. Caribbean Journal talked to Taylor about her musical transition, jazz in the Bahamas, and the influence of the Caribbean.
How did you get into jazz?
I got into jazz about five years ago. Before that, I was singing classical, locally here, and just loved the music. I met a wonderful guy and musician by the name of Adrian D’Aguilar, who was a Bahamian, someone I grew up with. So I started, first, learning the tunes and going through the music, and he had a band called Jazz Etc., and I sang with that band, and still do sing with them. So it’s just been a journey from there.
What is the jazz culture like in the Bahamas?
It’s catching on now, it’s growing. I think we’ve made some inroads, and begun introducing it to the Bahamian people. So we find that, when we first started doing it, the audience was small, and the music — you know, it’s an infectious kind of music. So it just caught on, and now we have a good following of jazz lovers, so we’re really happy about that.
Talk about the transition from classical to jazz.
It was difficult, because classical is so structured, and classical you don’t deviate. In jazz, jazz is a music that says, “Do what you feel, when you feel like it — express yourself.” So it was quite different, because I had to come out of that very structured environment, and go into this exposed environment, so it was a challenge — and i’s still a work in progress for me.
Who are some of your jazz inspirations?
I love Shirley Horne, I absolutely love Ella, of course, Ella and Sarah [Vaughan]. They’re constants when it comes to jazz. Billie Holliday as well. The Diana Kralls and modern persons now that are singing jazz, I love them as well. I listen to them all.
Does Bahamian and Caribbean culture influence your jazz sound?
Oh yeah. You can hear the Caribbean beats coming out in the music, even when they swing — you can hear that backdrop, definitely.