Canada's Diana Panton is an adept, Juno Award-winning jazz vocalist and educator with a bent toward delicate, heartfelt readings of standards. A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Panton grew up listening to classical music and was first introduced to jazz when her father played her an Ella Fitzgerald album. Along with singing, she studied clarinet and violin in high school. It wasn't until her senior year, however, that her voice teacher encouraged her to audition for the local youth-based ensemble the Hamilton All-Star Jazz Band.
Accepted into the band, Panton's vocal career took off as she was able to tour Europe and perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. It was also while singing with the Hamilton jazz band that she met multi-instrumentalist (and future collaborator) Don Thompson, who encouraged her to attend the prestigious jazz workshop at the Banff Center for the Arts, where he was a faculty member. The workshop proved yet another formative experience for Panton, who received tutelage from such luminaries as Norma Winstone, Jay Clayton, and Sheila Jordan.
Despite her early success in music, Panton chose to study French in college, a passion born out of an elementary-school immersion experience. She holds undergraduate and master's degrees in French literature from McMaster University, studied art at Parsons Paris, and has taught at the university level in both France and Canada. Along with singing professionally, she has taught French, art, and drama at Westdale Secondary School in her hometown of Hamilton.
As a singer, Panton made her debut in 2005 with the intimate trio album ...yesterday perhaps, featuring Thompson along with guitarist Reg Schwager. She followed up with 2007's If the Moon Turns Green, which also included Thompson and earned Panton her first Juno Award nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album. She then repeated the feat, earning her second Juno Award nomination for 2009's Pink, which also featured Thompson and Schwager, as well as trumpeter Guido Basso. Panton's 2011 album, To Brazil with Love, found her paying homage to the Brazilian bossa nova tradition and featured appearances from percussionists Maninho Costa and Silas Silva. The following year she delivered the holiday-themed Christmas Kiss.
In 2013 she released RED, a companion album to Pink. The album garnered Panton her first Juno Award win for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Two years later she released her first-ever children's album, I Believe in Little Things. Rather than change her sophisticated jazz style, Panton simply found songs with lyrics she deemed appropriate for children. The album debuted at number eight on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. ~ Matt Collar