Vocalist Janice Borla has made it her artistic mission to use her voice as a true jazz instrument. She regards herself as a “vocal instrumentalist,” relishing the challenge of performing instrumentally-conceived compositions by contemporary jazz composers and participating fully in the collaborative, interactive process of jazz improvisation.
To this task she brings a vocal instrument that has been praised for its beauty and technical agility. Paula Edelstein (Sounds of Timeless Jazz): “Exquisite voice…a passionate, excellently-trained multi-range vocal improviser.” Jazz critics have applauded her risk-taking approach. Scott Yanow (AllMusic Guide): “…A true jazz singer…who constantly takes chances and stretches herself.” Esteemed jazz journalist Owen Cordle: “Borla sets a high standard for the traditional art of scat singing and employing the voice as an ensemble instrument or solo horn…She’s emotionally satisfying and technically superb, with bull’s-eye intonation and a solid tone throughout her range.”
Janice’s current CD Agents of Change, named “The #1 Jazz CD of the Year” by WBEZ-FM Chicago Public Radio, has enjoyed wide critical acclaim and extensive international radio airplay. Christopher Loudon (Jazz Times) describes her as “a one-woman jazz tornado” and praises the album as “...eight breathtaking musical canvases, each a perceptively executed masterpiece... Genius. Pure genius.” Gary Walker (WBGO, NY): “Fresh and inventive... This CD knocks me out.” Bob Protzman (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): "A stunning singer with a lustrous voice and the technique, imagination and daring of the best improvising instrumentalists."
The native Chicagoan began her music training on keyboard at age 8 and her vocal training at age 12. She earned a B.A. in Music from Barat College (Lake Forest, IL), augmenting her undergraduate vocal training at Northwestern University. While attending the University of Illinois for graduate study, she was a member of the Ineluctable Modality, a 12-voice touring chamber ensemble that performed avant-garde “new music” by such contemporary composers as Mauricio Kagel, Morgan Powell and Iannis Xenakis. This is also where she enjoyed her first jazz experience as vocalist with the U of I jazz bands.
Since then Janice has performed with such jazz talents as Clark Terry, Bunky Green, Charlie Haden, Bobby Watson, Gary Bartz, Bobby Shew and numerous others. Recent performances include Chicago’s Jazz Showcase, The Iridium in New York City, the Soroptimist Women in Jazz Festival in Fort Bragg, California and the Chicago Jazz Festival. Her debut album Whatever We Imagine (Sea Breeze) was rated four stars by Leonard Feather (Los Angeles Times), and Chuck Berg (Jazz Times) proclaimed her “a ‘singer’s singer’ and one of contemporary music’s major vocal talents.” Her CD Lunar Octave (DMP) was critically acclaimed as “a definite must hear/must have CD” (JAM Magazine); Neil Tesser (USA Today, Playboy): “Borla takes risks with her material and with her approach to jazz singing in general…focusing attention on her intelligence and musicianship (which) distinguish her from many of her contemporaries.”
For the past twenty years Janice has played a leading role in vocal jazz education. She designed and implemented a vocal jazz curriculum at the Saskatchewan School of the Arts in Canada, and founded the Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp and “Hot Jazz – 6 Cool Nites” Concert Series, cited by Jazziz Magazine as “one of the most innovative and dynamic summer jazz educational programs in the country.” The annual summer event has been featured on “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer” (PBS), HDNET-TV, WGN-TV, WTTW Channel 11 Chicago and WBEZ-FM Chicago Public Radio’s “Performance Space.”
She has performed as guest artist and clinician at high schools, colleges and festivals throughout the U.S. Canada and Europe and has written articles on vocal jazz for the Jazz Educators Journal, the IAJE Illinois Unit Newsletter and Downbeat Magazine, including that magazine’s first vocal transcription and the first written by a woman.
Vocal Jazz Camp
The Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp was founded in 1989 to provide an educational and nurturing environment for aspiring jazz vocalists in an intensified, week long course of study and skills development conducted by a staff of professional jazz artists. The camp has been cited by Jazziz Magazine as "...one of the most innovative and dynamic summer jazz educational programs in the country." [Learn more]