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Bansko Jazz 2011 – Jackie Ryan

May 3, 2011 by · No comments

Interview by Dessislava Berndt with the singer Jackie Ryan

Jazz Festival Bansko

The International Jazz Festival in Bansko is one of the biggest summer musical events in Bulgaria and one of the foremost international cultural happenings on the Balkans.

Since its foundation in 1998 the festival has been held every year from August 8th to 13th in the small town of Bansko. The concerts are free for the public.

Traditionally, the programme features styles and groups representing almost all jazz trends. During the festival week jazz is also played on various smaller stages in the large resort complexes and restaurants.

Today we would like to present you the jazz singer Jackie Ryan that will participate this summer in the XIV International Jazz Festival in Bansko.

“Extraordinary — a world-class talent!”
Don Heckman, jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times

“One of the finest singers to perform at Ronnie’s since Shirley Horn.”
The London Evening Standard

“Jackie Ryan reconfirms her place among the all-time greats.”
Jazz Times critic Christopher Loudon

Jackie, what does music mean to you?

Ah, that is a good question! It is a celebration of life and a celebration of love, of emotion, of pain and joy. It is a beautiful way to connect with others the feelings we all have in common. Music has a way of calming a baby’s cry, of making people want to jump up and dance, of bringing back a memory.


Music is very powerful. And to be a musician is a great honor and a great responsibility, because we must keep out music ‘on purpose’. It must always be, I do believe, for the service of other; to heal the soul of the listener. And in order to do that, we as musicians must always keep our art strong and focused. And, above all, full of love.

Your mother is Mexican and your father Irish. How has the environment affected your personality and your music?

The fact that my parents were Irish and Mexican affected me, of course, in many ways. My mother would sing to us little Mexican lullabies all day. She was always singing. She was pure love and the culture she is from is very warm and open emotionally.

And my father comes from a long line of singers as well. He had a powerful, classically trained voice and sang in many languages. So they were very different in their approach, but both had a lot of influence on me. Also, I had an Irish grandpa that rocked me and sang Irish lullabies to me. So singing is very much a big thing in both of these cultures. And it affected me greatly while growing up in a very wonderful way. To have singing around all the time was a very natural thing.

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Jackie Ryan, Photo: Lisa Tanner

Is 2011 going to be your first time at the International Jazz Festival Bansko?

Yes, 2011 is my first time at the Jazz Festival Bansko. I am very much looking forward to it as I have never been to this part of the world. So this is all the more exciting for me. Photos of Bansko look absolutely stunning!

What do you know about Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people?

I only know what I have read and I am so excited about coming! It seems to be such a beautiful country! I am very interested in history and I love to travel. I hope we have time to do some sightseeing. I want to see so much of Bulgaria! I know there is an enormous amount of sites, Roman amphitheaters, ancient floor mosaics, medieval art, The Holy Trinity Church in Bansko, The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Thracian art. All of this rich history really interests me.

Jackie Ryan Band

But I also hope to meet new friends and see what life is like in Modern Bulgaria. I find Bulgarian music very heartfelt. I am excited to think of meeting people and just getting to know them. I hope we have plenty of time for that!

For you, what was the most surprising experience working with different musicians?

Every time I work with a new musician it is a little bit of a happy surprise in a great way – because every musician has a way of playing and communicating that is unique. No two musicians play the same. So it is always great in this way. This is what makes jazz the creative music that it is.

Jackie Ryan and Cyrus Chestnut

What are you dreaming about?

What am I dreaming about? I dream that the world can someday be free of fighting and pain. I dream that if each of us makes an effort in our daily lives to be kind and compassionate, we can all help the world reach this place. That is all any of us can do. One at a time, we can make love our strongest intention. We, as musicians, do it through music. But we all have the power to create this within ourselves. Every one you touch with love passes on that gift to the next person. We can all have an effect on the world.

JackieRyan_Lisa Tanner
Jackie Ryan, Photo: Lisa Tanner

What is the greatest satisfaction for you as an artist and your biggest challenge?

My greatest satisfaction is that I have made people feel touched by the music I sing. When people come up and say I have moved them, or made them remember something, and they have great emotion about it, I feel very good. I believe that’s what I am supposed to be doing so that is very satisfying.

My biggest challenge is just that I feel that I must always keep the standards very high. This is not a real challenge actually, but it is something that I am always aware of. I think every musician feels this. It is a great responsibility. And we as musicians must never sell out or do anything that doesn’t feel correct in our souls. Even if it means it may not pay as much as selling out would do.

Jackie Ryan and Cyrus Chestnut

What is the most important thing that people should know about you?

The most important thing that I would like people to know about me, is that when they hear my singing – that is who I am. I do believe every musician sounds like the person they are inside. My voice is my soul.

Would you please tell us something about your current and future projects?

I have gotten a lot of wonderful response from my last two CDs being Nr. 1 on the jazz charts. The last one, “Doozy”, was Nr. 1 for 7 weeks and that really was very exciting. But I feel all the CDs I made were special in their own way. People ask me which my favorite is. That is so hard to say. I say it is like choosing which your favorite child is! I love them all.

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Jackie Ryan, Photo: Lisa Tanner

One of the first CDs I made was with the pianist I will be playing with, Larry Vuckovich. I am proud of that CD, as it has a lot of soul. It was early on, about ten years ago, but it has a fresh approach, too. Larry is a wonderful pianist and a very soulful player who believes in jazz being heartfelt, too.

For the future I want to do 2 CDs soon. One will be Latin, as those are my roots from my mother. And I love her Latin music.
I am still working on the other; hopefully early next year it will be out.

Jackie Ryan
Jackie Ryan

Where can your albums be bought from?

My albums can be bought from Internet sites like and iTunes. I will be selling CDs in person as well. You can also write directly to my website to purchase.

Thanks so much for the interview. I really look forward to singing in your beautiful country and meeting the beautiful people there!

Among the many jazz greats Jackie has sung, recorded or toured with: Clark Terry (at the Monterey Jazz Festival), Toots Thielemans, Barry Harris, Cyrus Chestnut, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, Red Holloway, Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt, Ernie Watts, Roy McCurdy, Benny Green (at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival), Amina Figarova, Mike Wofford, Larry Vuckovich, Jon Mayer and Jon Hendricks.

Jackie Ryan has a three and a half octave range voice. Her mother, who was Mexican, crooned Spanish folk songs to her when she was a child and her father, who is Irish, is a classically-trained baritone who sang in several languages.

Jackie’s CD “You And The Night And The Music,” released in 2007, was No.1 nationwide on JAZZWEEK’s industry standard chart and charted for eight and 1/2 months (34 weeks)!

Jackie’s CD “This Heart Of Mine” (featuring Toots Thielemans and two-time Grammy Award winner, Ernie Watts) won unanimous praise from top jazz magazines, JAZZ TIMES, JAZZ IMPROV, JAZZIZ, received a ‘4 STAR’ rating (“excellent”) from DOWNBEAT, and reached No. 5 nationwide on JAZZ WEEK’s jazz chart.

Her newest CD “Doozy” was the No.1 Jazz CD nationwide for seven weeks on Jazzweek. It garnered 4 stars from Downbeat and AllMusiGuide and received unanimous rave reviews from the jazz critics. Doozy is a double CD recorded at Tony Bennett’s studio right after her Lincoln Center performance. It features Jackie performing with Cyrus Chestnut and is backed by some of New York’s hottest names in jazz: Eric Alexander on sax, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Carl Allen on drums, Ray Drummond on bass, and on guitar — Brazilian virtuoso Romero Lubambo.

Club/Concert Dates 2011

Friday April 1, 2011
Philadelphia PA

Saturday April 2, 2011
Philadelphia PA

Friday, May 7, 2001
415 North Fourth Avenue
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Friday May 27, 2011
Issaquah WA

Saturday May 28, 2011
Issaquah WA

Monday, August 8, 2011
With the Larry Vuckovich trio
Bansko, Bulgaria

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