In 1986, she invited you to ‘Step Right Up’, asked ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’ in 1985 and now Jaki Graham is back ‘For Sentimental Reasons’.
Bursting onto the 1980’s pop scene with a succession of hit singles and albums, including two duets with former Lynx frontman David Grant, she secured her place in music history, achieving worldwide fame in the process.
In the video below, Jaki discusses her early career up to her performance with the BBC's Big Band at Birmingham Town Hall in 2009.
I first came across her music when a girlfriend leant me a copy of the ‘Breaking Away’ (1986) album, telling me she thought I’d love it. I did, and subsequently bought my own vinyl copy (dating myself there) along with ‘Heaven Knows’ (1985) and ‘From Now On’ (1989). Even today, those three albums are among the few albums always loaded onto my iPod or phone.
I was also lucky enough to see her perform live, about six years ago while cruising on Ocean Village. Her highly entertaining show included an element of audience participation where a volunteer from the audience was picked to duet with her in the place of David Grant, which proved very entertaining.
So, already being a bona-fide fan, I was excited to hear that on the 15th October, she would be releasing her first album for 14 years, titled ‘For Sentimental Reasons’ and even more so when I got the opportunity to meet the lady herself to discuss this and her career to date.
What immediately strikes you on meeting Jaki is how warm and friendly she is as well as her enthusiastic passion for music. In fact, it’s hard not to smile when talking to her, so infectious is her personality. She clearly loves music but is very humble when discussing her own talent and place in pop history.
This is all the more amazing when you consider she has achieved international fame, reaching Number 1 in the USA with her cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” and selling out Japanese tour tickets in only 20 minutes. Jaki even found herself listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the first female solo artist to have 6 consecutive Top 10/20 hits which was unheard of for a black British female at that time.
Recently, she was given her own star on Birmingham’s Walk of Fame in recognition of her success and achievements.
The genesis for her new album, followed a performance in her home town of Birmingham with the BBC’s Big Band in 2009. Featuring special arrangements of Gershwin songs, the concert proved so successful, it was followed a year later with another show, this time showcasing Duke Ellington’s back catalogue.
A year later she was touring with Sir Cliff Richard on his Soulicious UK Arena Tour and in June this year, her new solo album was officially announced.
In the video below, she discusses the inspiration behind the new album.
‘For Sentimental Reasons’ shows her versatility as a performer by moving away from the pop tracks which made her famous and breathing new life into well known and cherished classics from the writing talents of, among others, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.
While many of the tracks have been re-recorded and interpreted countless times, the arrangements here still manage to make them seem fresh.
With the uptempo “Summertime”, it actually took me a while to realise it was the same song I had heard countless times before, so unique was her interpretation.
The saxophones so evident in her original 80’s recordings are also back, accompanied by a variety of subtle musical styles crossed with the jazz base on which the tracks were originally created.
The whole album breathes fresh life into timeless classics and should appeal to fans of her earlier work, jazz and blues lovers, or those wanting to try something a little different from the commercially driven fare dominating today’s charts.
In the video below, Jaki discusses the new album.
Personally, I’m hoping we won’t have to wait another 14 years for her next release. Although I love the 80’s hits which made her famous, I’ve discovered a new side to one of my favourite performers and it’s left me wanting more.
“For Sentimental Reasons” is released by Cherry Red Records on October 15th and is available online and in stores.