IT may be the best start a performer could have to be brought up in the unconventional, music-soaked world of jazz royalty.
But with singer and actress Jacqui Dankworth’s latest gig, she is hoping to pass on a love of jazz to a new generation of youngsters with Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s Jazz Toons and Screen Classics.
“I think any way of getting youngsters into jazz is a great idea. Hopefully there will be lots of kids there who will know the tunes and enjoy hearing the music done in a different way,” said Jacqui.
The performer paints an idyllic picture of her early home life with her mother, singer Cleo Laine and her dad, Johnny Dankworth, both composer and band leader.
She and her brother Alex spoke fluent Spanish by the age of eight thanks to Spanish nannies looking after them while their parents were on tour. Summertime meant heading along to the music camps run in her parents’ fields by Jacqui’s aunt, Avril Dankworth.
Jacqui recalled: “There was usually some project going on, dad composing something and my mum was usually practising something.
“And in the early days, musicians used to be floating around in the garden.
“We talked a lot about music, there was always music playing in the house and we often talked about plays and films. My dad was an avid crossword puzzle guy or would be doing DIY – he tried his hand at it, though I remember him putting a drill through a water pipe which wasn’t great! He was interested in everything.”
Jacqui’s own move towards performing started at school.
“Being born around music helped but my parents just said ‘Be happy in what you do’.
“I think they might have been relieved if I had become a scientist or a therapist because music is such an insecure profession,” she laughed.
“But I remember seeing Judi Dench playing The Comedy Of Errors – a musical version – when I was at school.
“And we had a great drama teacher. I just immersed myself in plays when I was at school.
“So when I got to drama school it was great. I had a wonderful time there, actually.”
Before Jacqui joined her then husband Harvey Durocher in band Harvey And The Wallbangers, she followed a classic drama route.
“I did lots of touring theatre – there was a lovely touring production of Uncle Vanya – and I also went to India with a company from the Haymarket Theatre.
“Then I auditioned for something and got into the Royal Shakespeare Company – they called it a small-scale tour, but it was pretty big, it lasted about a year.
“We were doing Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant Of Venice and it came into the West End with Fiona Shaw and Nigel Terry and lots of great actors. It was an exciting time.”
A role in West End musical Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim was later followed by Jacqui appearing in Sophisticated Ladies, a celebration of the music of Duke Ellington.
A roll call of the work Jacqui has done in the past year shows the range of projects she likes to embrace. From playing brothelkeeper Rosa in the second series of big-budget TV drama The Borgias, to joining the opera world in an adaptation of Alban Berg’s American Lulu – cast as a lesbian nightclub singer betrayed by anti-heroine Lulu, Jacqui also appeared in the film of Les Miserables, headlined the series Jazz Divas at the Cadogan Hall in London and has released her own album Live To Love.
“It probably took the best part of a year to sort out, but it’s going well,” said the singer.
But keen to embrace every new challenge, maybe it’s no surprise Jacqui struggles to pinpoint career highlights.
She agrees that recording album It Happens Quietly with her dad before his death was one.
“It was a highlight in an emotional sense, though I wished I had done it earlier so he could have heard it, but on a personal level that was lovely.
“But all of it has been wonderful,” she revealed.
“I’ve been so lucky, I’ve never been out of work.”
Jacqui is enjoying working on numbers from the Toons and screen classics.
“I like the song from Beauty And The Beast at the moment, but I’m learning them all.
“It’s tough, it’s another challenge – but I will go at it with aplomb,” Jacqui laughed.
Jacqui is special guest with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra for family show Jazz Toons And Screen Classics at Eden Court tonight (Friday).
List of tunes from which each night’s programme will be selected:
Aladdin: A Whole New World
Beauty & The Beast
Disney Suite (with songs from 101 Dalmations, Aristocats and Jungle Book)
Rocky: I’m Gonna Fly
James Bond theme
The Lion King: Circle of Life
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Star Trek theme
Tarzan: Jungle Jazz
Top Cat, Superman, Spiderman, Star Wars and Batman medley