With a performance career spanning more than four decades, June Garber is established as one of Canada’s leading jazz vocalists. What is less known is that her career as a jazz vocalist is only half her story.
June began her singing career soon after arriving in Canada from her native South Africa in 1975, joining a Toronto-based band as a back-up singer. She later formed her own 8-piece band, self-producing shows that were primarily contemporary songs but also included songs from the South African musical, Ipi Tombi. The band enjoyed huge success with long engagements in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Toronto, as well as single performances in cities across Canada and the U.S. Seeking a break from the rigours of touring, June later turned to the stage, her other love, acting with leading theatre companies and some of Canada’s best actors.
After a long hiatus for personal reasons that began in the late 80s, June began to sing jazz in 2003 and soon established herself as a much-loved and accomplished jazz vocalist in Toronto. Her first two albums, Smile (2005) and Here’s to You (2008) featured jazz standards backed by some of Canada’s finest musicians.
In 2016, she released This I Know, an album weaving a tapestry of emotions – love, joy, pain, sadness – presented in rarely done jazz songs and two original pieces. A touch of South African jazz and street music harkens back to the land of June’s birth.
In September 2021, June released her fourth album – Off the Carousel. Her new album interprets tunes, some known and others not so familiar, that reflect on her life’s journey on roads both rough and smooth. With this album, June shows her versatility – perhaps a glance back to her early singing career – with a track list that does not confine itself to the jazz genre.
June has toured and performed as a singer in major centres in Canada and the United States and in Cuba, the Caribbean, Mexico, South Africa and Australia. She has performed at jazz festivals throughout North America and with big bands in Toronto and Sarasota, Florida.
In 2022, June moved to Australia with her husband. She now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and is performing in local venues and jazz festivals.
Every song that she chooses to sing connects to a base truth within – so there is never any artifice. Her voice reflects each emotional shift that the writer intended, whether swinging with an up-tempo jazz song or telling a story with a soulful ballad. The stagecraft she learned in her earlier career as an actor is still evident in her singing performances today.
Of course, that’s the miracle of June Garber; her instinct for capturing and delivering the details of a story and the nuances of emotions – the combination of sensuous luxury, effortless precision, characterful interpretation and the warmth of empathy. – Raul DaGama