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Allie Larson: email@example.com
At just 21 years old, Nikki has topped both jazz and pop charts, performed with orchestras and big bands, and sold out festivals and major theatres around the world; in 2010, she sang to 3.2 billion people – half the world’s population – at the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games.
She has worked with luminaries such as Herbie Hancock, Phil Ramone, Will.i.am, Wyclef Jean, and Elton John, and now, under the guidance of her greatest fan and mentor, Quincy Jones, Nikki is ready to introduce her own captivating new sound. Get ready to be amazed by her inimitable voice as she arrives at the unique crossroad where jazz meets pop, delivering sizzling songs that blend retro charm with a contemporary sound helmed by Rob Kleiner, the man behind exciting music by Cee-lo Green and Flo-Rida.
Nikki’s second studio album, Little Secret, to be released later this summer, combines pop-song structures with sophisticated harmonies, club-ready beats with punchy big-band horns, and earworm hooks with scat-singing solos. It’s all held together by her powerful delivery, as well as a newfound sass. Jazz aficionados and pop lovers alike will find themselves irresistibly lured in.
Nikki was bitten by the jazz bug at an early age, and there was no denying her prodigious gifts: by 11, in 2005, she was singing guest spots in clubs, and the next year, she wowed 100,000 people onstage at the jazz festival in her hometown, Montreal. She could reproduce the trickiest scatting performances of her heroine, Ella Fitzgerald, with dead-on pitch and articulation, adding her own youthful verve. In 2008, she released her first album, Ella … of Thee I Swing; as a CD and DVD package, it went Gold, was nominated for two Juno Awards (making her the youngest multiple-Juno nominee in history), and served as a remarkable calling-card. By 14, she had performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic, Washington, D.C.’s National Symphony Orchestra, and Herbie Hancock – not to mention pop stars Will.i.am and Wyclef Jean.
On her first studio album, Nikki (Decca, 2010), she spread her wings, penning some of her own tunes with help from Canadian indie hero Ron Sexsmith and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jesse Harris. Produced by 14-time Grammy-winner Phil Ramone, Nikki ranged in style from the sashaying swing of “I Got Rhythm” to the stately sweep of the quadruple-platinum single “I Believe,” and in Canada, it hit #1 on the jazz chart and #6 in pop and was nominated for the Vocal Jazz Album of the year. Audiences far and wide caught on too: the album went gold in France as well as in Canada, and in the U.S., it debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart for new artists. iTunes worldwide declared it the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, and Nikki followed it up with her second DVD, Live in Montreal – also certified gold in Canada.
For Little Secret, Nikki has drawn on the impeccable taste and crossover wisdom of her co-manager Quincy Jones, who has been bridging gaps between jazz and pop since the ‘60s. She had brought jazz into a pop context before, performing with Hancock in 2011 for the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute to Barbra Streisand, and singing at a Los Angeles tribute to Carole King with a big band conducted by Jones himself.
In the studio with Rob Kleiner, Nikki brought together the immediacy of her pop work with the depth of her jazz. Her approach is epitomized by the track “Something New,” which cheekily adapts the hooks from Jones’s “Soul Bossa Nova” and Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” to a strutting groove, and features the full breadth of Nikki’s vocals, from a soulful roar to a kittenish growl. Elsewhere, she stirs familiar elements together in surprising ways: “Blessed with Your Curse,” for instance, builds a soulful, breakbeat-led song on a scatted riff; “Enough of You” is a dynamic kiss-off track with angelic harmonies, and the title-track, “Little Secret” refashions the exuberant rhythm from Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” as the basis for a sly, prowling number.
Her slower songs are equally compelling, and “People Are Strange,” one of the album’s three covers, re-envisions The Doors’ classic as a mysterious orchestral ballad. She drew inspiration for her version from the bullies she faced in high school; Nikki supports Bullying Awareness Week, in addition to being an ambassador for the Montreal Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Wish Foundation, and MusiCounts.
Nikki calls Little Secret “a mix of Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Ray Charles, and Quincy – mixed with me.” She describes the two years she’s spent honing her new sound as a time that allowed her “to separate from the kid to the adult and the artist that I am now.” This former prodigy is well on her way to fulfilling her extraordinary promise.