Born: Nov. 2, 1967
by Thom Jurek
One of the few male jazz singers from around the baby boom generation, Kurt Elling is an anomaly simply by profession. Given the depth and broad vision of his recordings and performance style, Elling is in a league of his own. Planning a career in the academic world, he discovered jazz and took to it naturally. Deeply influenced by singer and poet Mark Murphy, Elling began to develop his idiosyncratic scat style in the smaller clubs of Chicago (primarily at the Green Mill, sharing the stage with legends Von Freeman and Ed Peterson) and then throughout the Midwest. An Elling show can contain ranting beat poetry, dramatic and poignant readings of Rilke, and hard-swinging scat. After sending a demo to Blue Note, Elling signed to the label and issued Close Your Eyes in 1995. He began to get attention from the jazz press, not only for his talent and original style, but also for his choice in sidemen, which included Laurence Hobgood and Paul Wertico for a time. His ultra-hip persona prevailed on 1996's Messenger, which was tougher and leaner than its predecessor, and along with hard touring and a taste for the theatrical and outrageous, Elling won over not only critics but jazz audiences from coast to coast. Elling was married that same year and chose, depending on your point of view, either to revise his hipster image or broaden his traditional base with a collection of standard ballads and love songs entitled This Time It's Love. The album won numerous awards in magazines and was nominated for a Grammy. Endless touring and guest appearances resulted in Blue Note issuing Live in Chicago from three sets at the Green Mill, and 2001 resulted in Flirting with Twilight, his most ambitious and satisfying recording — he opened the disc by singing a Charlie Haden bass solo. Man in the Air and Nightmoves followed in 2003 and 2007, respectively. In 2009, as part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series of concerts, Elling released the live album Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman.
by Marisa Brown
Born and raised in Turin, Italy, to music-loving parents (who had actually first met at a jazz concert), Roberta Gambarini grew up listening to her father's record collection constantly. Her first vocal inspiration was Louis Armstrong, but she soon discovered Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Billie Holiday, as well as blues artists like Mahalia Jackson and Bessie Smith. At age 12 she began playing the clarinet, but realizing the versatility and talents of her clear alto, she moved to voice, singing and performing in clubs by the time she was 17. The next year she decided to move to Milan to pursue her career more seriously, and a third-place finish at a national jazz radio competition brought her enough exposure to jump-start her career, sending her around Europe performing at festivals and with other artists, including Hammond organist Emmanuel Bex in 1997. In 1998 Gambarini received a scholarship to study for two years at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and soon after arriving she competed, and eventually finished third, in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition behind Teri Thornton and Jane Monheit. Though Gambarini did not receive a recording contract from this accomplishment (unlike Monheit), it did give her enough performing opportunities that she decided to leave Boston and move to New York, where she could focus better on her music and the scene. In 2006, after years of working and becoming a kind of cult favorite in the New York jazz world, though she was still rejected by every label she pitched her album to, Gambarini started Groovin' High in order to release her American debut, Easy to Love. A collection of standards, the record impressed critics enough to garner the singer a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album, alongside Diana Krall and Nancy Wilson, among others.
Born: Oct. 23, 1956
by Scott Yanow
Dianne Reeves has been one of the top singers in jazz ever since the late '80s. A logical successor to Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae (although even she can not reach the impossible heights of Ella and Sarah Vaughan), Reeves is a superior interpreter of lyrics and a skilled scat singer. She was a talented vocalist with an attractive voice even as a teenager when she sang and recorded with her high school band. She was encouraged by Clark Terry, who had her perform with him while she a college student at the University of Colorado.There have been many times when Reeves has explored music beyond jazz. She did session work in Los Angeles starting in 1976, toured with Caldera, worked with Sergio Mendes in 1981, and toured with Harry Belafonte during 1983-1986. Reeves began recording as a leader in 1982 and became a regular at major jazz festivals. Her earlier recordings tended to be quite eclectic and many of her live performances have included original African-inspired folk music (which is often autobiographical), world music, and pop.However, after signing with Blue Note in 1987, and particularly since 1994, Reeves has found her place in jazz, recording several classic albums along the way, most notably I Remember, The Grand Encounter, The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan, and A Little Moonlight. In 2005, she appeared onscreen singing '50s standards in the George Clooney film Good Night, and Good Luck. When You Know was released in 2008. Reeves is at her best performing swinging jazz live. And her musical introduction of her band (which can be lengthy, witty, and full of inspired scatting) is sometimes nearly as memorable as the music. She is always capable of greatness.
Born: March 11, 1954
by All About Jazz
”If you want to know what real jazz singing can be (but rarely is), listen to Judy Niemack...She is a musician in the truest sense, having mastered her instrument (a beautiful one), and her chosen language and crafted her own style” --Dan Morgenstern
Throughout her career, Judy Niemack has accomplished a great deal as a singer, educator, lyricist, composer, and inspiration to younger jazz vocalists. Yet with all that she has done thus far, one gets the impression that the best is yet to come. “I love standards and have performed them all of my life but this is a new era and it is time to create new music,” she says. “I’m open to all forms of vocal improv and I’m very interested in mastering the art of music and pushing the art form forward to new places.”
Born and raised in Pasadena, California, Judy gained experience singing in her church choir. She first heard jazz through her mother’s Nancy Wilson records, and discovered that she could easily sing harmonies when she and her sister sang background vocals behind her brother, who played guitar and sang lead. As a child and as a teenager, she sang in a wide variety of settings including musical theatre, rock bands, with folk music groups, and in a jazz vocal quartet.
Judy studied classical singing but the turning point in her young career was when she met the great tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh, who followed in the footsteps of his teacher pianist Lennie Tristano by becoming an important jazz educator. “I became Warne’s first vocal student. He treated me like a horn player. He assigned me solos by Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge and others to learn. I learned about improvising from him. He called it instant composition.” Judy attended Pasadena City College where she had lessons with alto saxophonist Gary Foster, and studied classical singing at the New England Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute Of Music. When she returned to the Los Angeles area, she continued studying with Marsh and, after moving to New York in 1977, her first important gig was performing at the Village Vanguard for a week with Marsh. She made her recording debut, leading the first of her ten CDs, By Heart for the Sea Breeze label, which documented her association with the saxophonist.
“During that period, I was strictly an improviser, with no thought given to entertaining or paying attention to the audience. But eventually I started focusing on the lyrics, and how to communicate with them, and then I grew as a singer.” Starting in the late 1970s, Judy became a talented composer, and a lyricist who wrote words to such pieces as Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud,” Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso,” Bill Evans’ “Interplay,” Richie Powell’s “Time” and Duke Jordan’s “Jordu,” and songs by the likes of Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Dexter Gordon, Gigi Gryce, Elmo Hope, Kenny Dorham, Curtis Fuller, Bob Brookmeyer, Idrees Sulieman, Richie Beirach, Don Grolnick, Steve Slagle, Mike Stern, Johnny Griffin and many others. One of the driving forces behind her writing is the desire to have lyrics that are more modern and relevant than many that are part of the famous but overly familiar songs of the 1930s and ‘40s.
Due to her beautiful voice, fearless improvising, impressive musicianship and versatility, Judy Niemack has since worked with many of the who’s who of jazz including pianists Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Jim McNeely, Steve Kuhn, Kirk Lightsey and Kirk Nurock, saxophonists Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and James Moody, the great harmonica player Toots Thielemans, flugelhornist Clark Terry, bassists Ray Drummond and Eddie Gomez, drummers Billy Higgins, Joey Baron, Billy Hart and Adam Nussbaum, the New York Voices, the WDR Big Band, and guitarist Jeanfrancois Prins, Judy’s husband who has worked with her since 1992.
Judy Niemack starting teaching jazz singing and improvising in the late 1970s. She has since become one of the most influential educators in jazz, and a pioneer of vocal jazz education in Europe. She taught vocal jazz at the New School For Jazz, William Patterson University, Long Island University, and New York City College and has been part of the staff at the Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp since 1990. After moving to Europe, she joined the jazz faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium in 1993, and two years later became the first Professor of Vocal Jazz in Germany. She also teaches at the Musikene Conservatory in San Sebastian, Spain, has taught at conservatories in Holland and Belgium, and leads workshops throughout Europe and the world
“Our generation is probably the first to pass on information to younger singers willingly and very openly. What I love about teaching is being surrounded by music all day long, every day. I love being with singers and helping out younger vocalists, leading people onto the path towards where they want to go.” Judy’s vocal improvisation method book and CD “Hear It And Sing It! ��” Exploring Modal Jazz” was published by Second Floor Music in 2004, and her “Pro-Vocal Jazz Standards” was published by Hal Leonard in 2008.
As a performer, Judy has thus far recorded ten albums as a leader including her debut My Heart, Blue Bop (Freelance) with Cedar Walton, Long As You’re Living (Freelance), Heart’s Desire (Stash) which is a set of duets with pianist Kenny Barron, Straight Up (Freelance), duets with pianist Mal Waldron called Mingus, Monk and Mal (Freelance), Night And The Music (Freelance), About Time (Sony Jazz) with Lee Konitz and Jeanfrancois Prins, What’s Going On (Temps), and Blue Nights (Blujazz) with Gary Bartz and Jim McNeely. She has also recorded an upcoming CD for Blujazz centering on Summer themes called “Sun Dance”.
“Blue Nights shows off my mainstream traditional side. I recorded it to share a modern take on some of my favorite songs, which I have long loved. And my next CD, Sun Dance, celebrates my favorite season: Summer. Meanwhile I'm working on a recording for Artistshare, about singing something completely new; a project with all of my own lyrics.” Judy Niemack looks forward to the future with optimism and enthusiasm. “I have a new book and CD coming out - “Exploring Blues”, which includes performances not only by me, but also by Sheila Jordan, Mark Murphy and Darmon Meader. I think it will help to raise the bar in vocal jazz education. In general, I hope to continue doing what I’m doing: performing, teaching, writing lyrics, working on new collaborations, and always creating new and interesting music.”
Whatever the future holds, one can be certain that Judy Niemack’s future projects will be inventive, stimulating and full of joyful surprises.
Born: July 06, 1970
by Jason Ankeny
German jazz vocalist Roger Cicero interpreted the sound and spirit of the swing era for contemporary audiences, upholding the family traditions established by his father, renowned jazz pianist Eugene Cicero. Born in West Berlin, Cicero grew up surrounded by jazz and its practitioners, and at age 11 made his professional debut in support of singer Helen Vita. He later studied voice, piano, and guitar at the Hohner Conservatory, and from 1989 to 1992 served as a regular member of the Eugene Cicero Trio while moonlighting with the German youth jazz orchestra Bundesjugenjazzorchester. After his father's 1997 death, Cicero joined the groups Jazzkantine and Soulonge, making his recorded debut on the latter's 2003 release The Essence of a Live Event. That same year, he founded the Roger Cicero Quartet as well as an 11-member big band, both of them adherents to traditional jazz idioms but with lyrics in their leader's native German tongue. After releasing the 2006 album Good Morning Midnight in collaboration with pianist Julia Hülsmann, Cicero issued his solo debut, Männersachen, later that same year. Buoyed by the hit single "Ich Atme Ein," the LP reached number three on the German charts.
Born: November 16, 1964
by William Ruhlmann
Singer/pianist Diana Krall got her musical education when she was growing up in Nanaimo, British Columbia, from the classical piano lessons she began at age four and in her high school jazz band, but mostly from her father, a stride piano player with an extensive record collection. "I think Dad has every recording Fats Waller ever made," she said, "and I tried to learn them all." Krall attended the Berklee College of Music on a music scholarship in the early '80s, then moved to Los Angeles, where she lived for three years before moving to Toronto. By 1990, she was based in New York, performing with a trio and singing. After releasing her first album on Justin Time Records, Krall was signed to GRP for her second, Only Trust Your Heart and transferred to its Impulse! division for her third, a Nat King Cole Trio tribute album called All for You. Love Scenes followed in 1997, and in late 1998, she issued the seasonal Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. When I Look in Your Eyes followed in 1999. Whatever reknown Krall had earned over the years for her work exploded with this album, which became an international best-seller and earned her a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. It also was the first jazz album to be nominated for Album of the Year in 25 years. Krall's crossover success followed her as she performed in Lilith Fair the following year ,and her songs cropped up everywhere from episodes of Sex in the City to films like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In 2001 she released The Look of Love featuring charts by legendary arranger Claus Ogerman best known for working with bossa nova innovator Antonio Carlos Jobim in the '60s. The album topped the Billboard charts and went quintuple platinum in Canada, the first by a Canadian jazz artist to do so. The Look of Love also helped Krall win three Junos in 2002, taking home awards for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. In 2003, Krall married iconic British rock musician Elvis Costello. A year later, she issued The Girl in the Other Room. Covering a few standards, this album also included original material — some co-written by Costello — for the first time in her career. Returning to the large ensemble standards approach of her previous album, Krall released From This Moment On in 2006. In 2009, she teamed once again with The Look of Love arranger Ogerman for the bossa nova-themed Quiet Nights.
Born: June 28, 1963
by Scott Yanow
A fine Los Angeles-based jazz singer, Tierney Sutton has a lot of potential for the future. She grew up in Milwaukee and attended Boston University and Wesleyan, where she gained a degree in Russian language and literature. At Wesleyan, Sutton became involved in singing jazz and after graduating she went to Berklee for a few semesters, studying under Jerry Bergonzi. In 1994 she moved to Los Angeles and has since become a fixture in the area's jazz scene. Sutton, who teaches voice at USC, often leads her own group, sings with Buddy Childers and Dave MacKay, and has guested with the Les Brown Orchestra. Sutton's debut CD was for the A Music label in 1998; she has also recorded with Childers, and issued Unsung Heroes in the spring of 2000. The next record, Blue in Green, was a tribute to pianist Bill Evans that offered several songs that he had either recorded or collaborated on. Another record of standards, Something Cool, followed in 2002 and offered several different genres including country and show tunes. She followed up with three more fine records for Telarc, 2004's Dancing in the Dark, 2005's I'm with the Band, and 2007's On the Other Side. Both I'm with the Band and On the Other Side recieved Grammy nominations and helped raise Sutton's profile nationally. In 2009, Sutton — a practicing believer in the Baha'i faith — returned with Desire. Although the album includes Sutton's interpretations of jazz standards, it also features several recited passages from The Hidden Words of Bah’u’llah, a sacred Baha'i text.
Born: March 24, 1956
by Stacia Proefrock
Patricia Barber's unique style and unusual voice made her an easy target for critics in the early days of her career. Her piano playing and singing, while inventive, never ventured close enough to the avant-garde to earn her artistic license, and her insistence on writing her own material and adapting songs from the pop world made her difficult to categorize. A tireless performer who refused to conform to more conventional vocal jazz idioms, she worked her way up through the Chicago jazz scene slowly, almost reluctantly, after having spent several years in Iowa attending college and performing with local groups. The daughter of Floyd "Shim" Barber and a blues vocalist, she had all but rejected the idea of becoming a jazz musician, but found herself drawn to the performing world after college. When she returned to Chicago, she was trashed by the local critics, and only after winning a five-day-a-week gig at the intimate Gold Star Sardine Bar and releasing her first album on her own Floyd label (1989's Split) did the tide begin to turn for her. She signed a contract with Verve and released A Distortion of Love in 1992, which brought her some positive critical attention and earned her a more national audience, but the big-label experience was trying for Barber and she sought a place where she could have more creative control. Her next two albums were issued by the tiny local label Premonition (1994's Café Blue and 1998's Modern Cool). Premonition was purchased by Blue Note in 1998, and the label put some marketing muscle behind Barber, helping to bolster the international reputation she had already begun to earn. Blue Note released Companion in 1999 — intended to act as her introduction to a wider audience, the album reprised much of her popular material and was recorded live at Chicago's Green Mill, a historic jazz club where Barber had been performing weekly for several years. 2000's Night Club took her back into a studio setting, but still featured many of the inventive interpretations that had distinguished her work in the past. Barber issued her edgy, critically acclaimed Verse on the Blue Note label in 2002. She won a Guggenheim in March of 2003 to create a song cycle based on Ovid's Metamorphses. Her concert set Live: A Fortnight in Paris was issued on the label in 2004, consisting of five originals, five covers, and two brand new songs. Mythologies followed in 2006. A year later, the anthology The Premonition Years: 1992-2002 appeared detailing most of Barber's early releases. In 2008, Barber took a break from her original material and delivered the jazz standards studio album The Cole Porter Mix.
Born: March 5, 1937
Carol Sloane was born to Claudia and Frank Morvan on March 5, 1937, in Providence, Rhode Island, the older of two daughters, but she never lived in that city. Instead, she spent her happy childhood in the small town of Smithfield, just a few short miles north of the city. Her parents worked steadily through the years of World War II in the textile mill near their home.
Carol was the lucky member of a large family of cousins, aunts and uncles who all possessed natural singing voices. Only one uncle ever received formal musical education, and he played the tenor sax. Carol and Ed DrewIn 1951, her Uncle Joe arranged an audition for her with a society dance band led by Ed Drew, and she began singing the stock arrangements of popular hits of the day each Wednesday and Saturday night at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet Ballroom, located in Cranston, Rhode Island.
In 1955, Carol married a Providence disc jockey named Charlie Jefferds, and almost immediately, the couple found themselves at Fort Carson, Colorado where Charlie endured the rigors of basic training followed by a one-year obligatory tour of duty in Germany. They returned to the US in January 1958, and were amicably divorced in that year.
Carol continued to sing in small bars and clubs until she met the road manager of the Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra, which was touring the amusement park ballrooms in the southern New England area. She auditioned for Larry Elgart, who then asked her to come to New York with his band. The brothers had recently split the organization, Les taking the territory west of Chicago, Larry to handle everything east of Chicago. Larry Elgart suggested she change her name to Carol Sloane.
The “road years” with the Larry Elgart band continued until 1960, when the road simply became too boring and too difficult for her. After two years on the road, she was still unknown, and there were no singing engagements to be had. She took various secretarial jobs booked through Manhattan temp agencies. She continued her working relationship with the former road manager of the Elgart band, who had become an agent in the office of the legendary Willard Alexander. This man, Bob Bonis, arranged for Carol to sing at a jazz festival in Pittsburgh in 1960, at which time she met Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.
Jon Hendricks asked Carol if she could learn the LH&R book in order to be prepared to take Annie Ross' place if that ever became necessary. Carol agreed to study the group's exacting material, and continued her secretarial gigs. Then, one night in early 1961, when attending a performance of LH&R at the Village Vanguard, Jon asked Carol to sing a couple of tunes on her own, after which the legendary proprietor Max Gordon asked her if she'd like to sing at the club the following August as opening act for Oscar Peterson. In her own words, “I stammered an acceptance, and walked five feet off the ground on the way home”.
Another auspicious move was quietly being made for Carol in 1961, without her knowledge: Jon Hendricks made a very persuasive argument to the producers that Carol should be included in that year's Newport Jazz Festival as part of the “New Stars” program. On the afternoon of that presentation, Carol had the use of the Ike Isaacs Trio which backed LH&R. The pianist, Gildo Mahones, didn't know the verse to the Rodgers & Hart song “Little Girl Blue” so Carol blithely suggested she would sing it a cappella, and did so. The New York press unanimously praised the young woman's talent, exceptional intonation and pitch, and she was also heard by a representative of Columbia Records. Her first album,”Out of the Blue” was recorded a few short months later, with arrangements by the legendary Bill Finegan, and an orchestra boasting Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer among the soloists.
In the 1960's, Carol Sloane sang in major clubs such as Mr. Kelly's in Chicago where she opened for Jackie Mason and the Smothers Brothers; at the hungry I in San Francisco where she opened for Bill Cosby, Godfrey Cambridge and Richard Pryor; she also opened for Phyllis Diller, Stiller and Meara and Jackie Vernon at the Blue Angel in New York; she appeared regularly on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and became a regular member of the radio cast on Arthur Godfrey's CBS weekly program. She continued to record and make club and concert appearances during this decade until the Beatles and rock 'n roll began to consume the popular culture, forcing some jazz venues to the edge of ruin. Carol in Raleigh In 1969, Carol accepted an offer to sing in a club in Raleigh, North Carolina, found the atmosphere in that city very much less hectic than New York, with an audience eager to hear and support jazz artists. She relocated to the south at the beginning of 1970.
Carol worked both as a singer and a legal secretary for the next several years, eventually returning to New York to begin a turbulent relationship with a legendary jazz pianist, Jimmy Rowles. Jimmy's reputation as a master accompanist and soloist was solid and undisputed, but his alcoholism made their situation often stormy. He did, however, pull himself together long enough to play for Ella Fitzgerald when Tommy Flanagan left after almost twenty years of accompanying the great singer. Jimmy's tenure was much shorter: only two years at the outside. He then decided to return to Los Angeles, and did so at the end of 1980. Carol also left New York, this time returning to her beloved New England.
She arrived in Boston in January, 1981, accepted a job in a prestigious law firm, and promptly threw away the idea of an “ordinary” life when a friend asked her to return to N.C. to help him in his new supper club recently opened in Chapel Hill. The venue was beautiful, comfortable and truly a perfect setting for any artist, and Carol booked her friends into the club: Shirley Horn, Joe Williams, George Shearing, Marian McPartland, Anita O'Day, Jackie & Roy, and of course, the great Carmen McRae. This club managed to last all of two years, a remarkable accomplishment. Carol also hosted a radio show at the NPR affiliate in Chapel Hill. In 1984, while singing in a Boston club, she met the man whom she would eventually marry.
Her marriage to Buck Spurr took place in November, 1986, and Carol has lived in the Boston area since that time. She recorded two albums for Contemporary in 1988 and 1989, then signed with Concord Jazz in 1991, recording six solo albums and touring Japan many times as part of the Concord-Fujitsu Festival. Carol stayed busy making her debut with the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Boston in 1998, then with the New York Pops Orchestra in 1999, and recorded a tribute album to Duke Ellington on the DRG label that same year. In March 2000, she began a second career in radio, hosting The Jazz Matinee, a four-hour jazz program, five days a week on WICN-FM, the NPR affiliate in Worcester, Mass. This jazz show took a full year's time to produce, until, in the spring of 2001, a heavy performance schedule made it necessary for Carol to leave WICN to resume touring and also record a new CD. In 2001, Carol signed a contract with the famous HighNote Jazz label which issued the first cd titled “I Never Went Away”. This has been followed by “Whisper Sweet”.
Carol's latest recording, “Dearest Duke”, is recently released in April of 2007 on the Arbors label. Featuring Brad Hatfield on piano and Ken Peplowski on tenor sax and clarinet, this cd contains 15 tunes of Ellington material plus Billy Strayhorn's “Day Dream”.
Ms. Sloane's favorite flower is the white rose.
Born: June 15, 1940
by Scott Yanow & Al Campbell
An adventurous singer with an intriguing sense of humor, Nancy King stretches and extends the bebop tradition. After high school, she worked in San Francisco with Pharoah Sanders, Pony Poindexter, and a variety of local players. Resettling in the Pacific Northwest, the underrated vocalist has had an underground reputation among jazz singers. King released her first album, Impending Bloom, in 1991, followed five years later by Straight Into Your Heart. She also recorded two live dates, Moon Ray and Live at Jazz Standard, with pianist Fred Hersch; the latter was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2006.