Jazz rules for singer Jackie Ryan 

Bay Area jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan doesn’t seem too daunted by the fact that she has had no formal education in music.

“I don’t know that I would sing the same if I had been trained,” says the deep-voiced singer, who appears at Yoshi’s in San Francisco — her first time at the venue in The City — this week.

Ryan, who was born and raised in San Rafael in a musical household (her mother sang songs from her native Mexico, and her Irish dad, a baritone, sang classical, and both sang in the church choir), admits that jazz students know music’s technical language better than she does, but they don’t get to perform live very much.

“You learn so much doing that,” says Ryan, whose critically acclaimed 2013 album, “Listen Here,” her eighth, was produced by Southern California-based bassist John Clayton.

Yet her concert today, featuring Bay Area musicians Charles McNeal on saxophone, John Burr on piano, Gary Brown on bass and Akira Tana on drums, won’t focus solely on music from the new recording.

“Half the show will be new material, to give my fans something new,” says Ryan, who played at the SFJAZZ Center in the fall.

Ryan, who began singing at age 2, knew it was all she was ever going to do. She purposely didn’t take typing in high school so she wouldn’t have a career option outside music.

But she didn’t start out in jazz. Originally singing R&B with a band, touring and traveling extensively, she found herself in crisis at age 22, with a serious vocal cord condition that more or less blew her voice out.

She stopped singing for about two years and delved into other art forms. When she started up again, with a huskier range and the blessing of her doctors, she turned to jazz.

It wasn’t a difficult decision. She says she had an epiphany moment upon hearing Betty Carter sing “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” on the radio, and successfully auditioned for a gig when her brother knew a drummer in a jazz band that was seeking a vocalist.

Since then, she has sung across the world, always keeping a positive attitude even as the jazz scene, she says, “gets harder” and clubs have shut down. Yet salons are keeping the music alive, and there’s no shortage of wonderful songs Ryan wants to sing.

When recording a new album, she may get a little overwhelmed trying to choose what to do from a list of hundreds of tunes she likes, admitting, “Sometimes I can go schlocky.” Yet the process of creating a record isn’t hard. She says, “I don’t think of it as work. That’s what you do when you want to make art.”


Jackie Ryan

Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $21 to $25

Contact: (415) 655-5600, www.yoshis.com

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Leslie Katz

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