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John LaBelle

Canadian John LaBelle is carving out a successful career for himself as a vocalist-a career that had its genesis when he began listening to Sinatra records as a boy at home in Montreal. And plenty of what makes ol’ Blue Eyes special has rubbed off on this 30-year-old singer-composer, whose release on Jazz Inspiration, Don’t Say No, has him swinging in front of a big band, having fun with a program of his own tunes arranged with an infectious, jazzy vibe.

“As a teen, some of my best memories were listening to Frank’s records in my room,” he recalled, noting that he wore out the grooves on the live Reprise recording of Sinatra with Count Basie in Las Vegas.

It’s no wonder, then, that LaBelle developed a burning desire to perform himself, but he was plagued with self-doubt during those early years, as well as with a voice that wasn’t quite mature. “It wasn’t until I started turning into a young man-around 21 or 22-that I started to hear things in my singing that caused me to think I had a chance.”

His debut came at a Montreal jazz club where he worked as a bartender. The pianist called him up to the bandstand to sing and LaBelle obliged, scared to death and singing “A Foggy Day” on automatic pilot. “The crowd enjoyed it,” he recalled, “and I had a

good time, although I was in a complete daze. From then on, I was hooked

and I started trying to get gigs around Montreal.”

LaBelle’s goals include getting good management and representation, more gigs in Europe and doing the festival circuit. “I want to work with some of the better accompanists in the world, as well as continuing to record-perhaps with strings,” he said. “Above all, I want to always be able to say that “I’m proud of what I’m doing.”

Originally Published