Anyone from the ages of 35 – 45 who love jazz, either loves the movie Mo’ Better Blues and or loves Clarke Bentancourt one of the leading ladies in the film. After the movie came out women were getting their hair cut like hers (myself included). Clarke was the quintessential beautiful, feminine, sensual and sexy woman who just wanted to showcase her talent of singing and to be loved. The actress behind Clarke is Chicago’s very own Cynda Williams.
Mo’ Better Blues was Williams’ break out role however her first love is singing. “After graduating from Ball State University, I went to New York with the intentions of becoming a Broadway star. I was a musical theatre person and that’s what I wanted to do. I really didn’t know much about movies; I wasn’t a movie watcher, I was too busy to sit down and watch a movie. I was always on stage, singing in church,” she says. “That is my joy and my number one thing (singing). When I did Mo’ Better Blues, it opened up both doors for me; the music side and the film side. But at the time, as much as I loved to sing, I was very hardcore about what I was going to sing. The way I was being pulled, the type of music I was pulled to sing, was not at all in my heart and not singing the kinds of things I wanted to sing or saying the kinds of things I wanted to say. So I preferred to sing on the local circuit or sing with bands, write and act (my bread and butter) and that is the road I took.”
Back in the early 1990’s when Jazz was on a high, especially with young people because of its fusion with the world of Hip-Hop, Williams says she wasn’t really in to the genre despite her experience in the film. “I was very much a church girl; that’s where I would spend all of my time. You wouldn’t find me in any clubs of any sort. I started going out dancing once I moved to Los Angeles but I wasn’t one to go to clubs and sing or listen to jazz because I was singing gospel in church so I wasn’t really a part of that scene at all.”
“Mo’ Better Blues was all an acting job,” Williams continues. “I didn’t know anything about jazz, never spent any time in clubs at all. So, it was strictly just feeling the vibe and pulling the energy. When I did the show I went to a few things. I wasn’t really a part of that world. And I really didn’t start getting into that until I was much older. I did some stuff in D.C. with a Jazz band. I hung out in D.C. Jazz singing and that was a lot of fun. So, I’m only now, starting to really get into that. Like I said for me it wasn’t age appropriate for me at the time. My work was very different. Although I always respected it and enjoyed it from afar but I was just in to my own thing.”