Quiana Lynell Wins Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition

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Monday November 27, 2017

From DownBeat Magazine

Quiana Lynell Wins Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition
By: Michael Barris

The finals of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition often emphasize jazz standards. The five promising jazz vocalists who vie for cash prizes and a recording contract at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark perform material from the Great American Songbook’“tunes that Vaughan herself infused with operatic richness over a career that lasted nearly a half century.

As Quiana Lynell, a Loyola University New Orleans adjunct music professor from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, returned to the stage to sing her last song as a finalist, she cheerfully announced: ‘I’m about to turn this [hall] into a juke joint, if you don’t mind.’

Indeed, after an afternoon of mostly lucid lyrics set to poignant harmonies and breathtaking melodies, the audience in NJPAC’s intimate Victoria Theater seemed ripe for a change of pace. Lynell then ripped through ‘Hip Shakin’ Mama,’ a 12-bar blues that one of her musical heroes, New Orleans soul icon Irma Thomas, had covered years ago. But Lynell didn’t simply grind out a blues; she painted a picture, shading and coloring the lyrics with strong vocal technique honed through her classical training. When the song concluded, she owned the room’“and was on her way to being No. 1 on the judges’ scorecards.

‘I am at home in the blues,’ Lynell told DownBeat after capturing the $5,000 first prize cash award and an offer to record for the Concord label. ‘The foundation of jazz is the blues. Just play the blues and you will be all right.’

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