September 2022 - Chelsey Green
With performances often described as passionate, vivacious, electrifying, and innovative, Billboard-charting international recording artist Chelsey Green brings the vibrancy of violin and viola playing and unique, rich vocals to worldwide audiences in a whole new way.
A native of Houston, Texas, Dr. Chelsey Green was born into a family of jazz and funk musicians and started her performance career as a violinist at age 5. Dr. Green went on to receive a scholarship for classical viola studies at The University of Texas at Austin where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. Continuing her studies, she received a Master’s degree from The Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Maryland College Park. In August 2017, Dr. Green was appointed Associate Professor in the String Department at the prestigious Berklee College of Music and recently served as Acting Chair for the Spring 2021 term.
Dr. Chelsey Green and her ensemble, The Green Project, tear down stereotypes of the violin and viola by fusing traditional classical technique with popular favorites and enticing original songs in various genres– including R&B, Pop, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Alternative, Hip Hop, Gospel and more! Chelsey Green and The Green Project have released 5 studio projects independently and performed live shows, jazz festivals, masterclasses and educational workshops across America and in several countries throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Japan and the Caribbean.
August 2022 - Geri Allen
The serious-minded, soft-spoken pianist and composer, who died of cancer in 2017 at age 60, was humble
enough that she might have been surprised at her induction into the DownBeat Hall of Fame.
“Geri didn’t really know how people felt about her,” said drummer/ composer Carrington, a frequent collaborator. “That’s why we have to acknowledge our genius players while they’re here.”
Friends and fellow musicians interviewed for this article said she would have been overjoyed by the honor, however.
“She was, like Betty Carter, a musician’s musician,” said Ora Harris, Allen’s long time manager, who also managed Carter. "Musicians adored Geri. She never knew how much she was loved. I would tell her all the time how revered she was."
Allen long ago secured her reputation as a piano powerhouse with dazzling technique, a post-bop composer ho, while steeped in jazz tradition, was also a restless, profoundly creative experimentalist.
“ One of the more eclectic pianists in jazz history, she blurred distinctions between jazz and what has come to be called creative or serious music (with a poverty of expression). She could groove, or not; swing, or not; play any style, from classical to bop to free and atonal. Her original investigations of rhythm — for example, “Drummer’s Song,” or “The Dancer” (featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut) — were wildly inventive. She could take diverse source material, even a Christmas carol like “Angels We Have Heard On High,” and make something startlingly new from it. And when she played standards, Allen never sounded more like her own unique self, and no one else.
July 2022 - Esther Phillips
One of the premiere R&B vocalists of the 1950s through the 1980s, 'Little Esther' Phillips possessed both great talent and even greater demons. When she was an adolescent, her parents divorced, and she was forced to divide her time between her father in Houston and her mother in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Although she was brought up singing in church, she was hesitant to enter a talent contest at a local blues club, but her sister insisted and Esther complied. The young dynamo wowed the club owner, bluesman Johnny Otis, and he immediately signed her to his roster of performers. Esther would record on Otis's record label, and perform in his revue. Otis gave her the moniker 'Little Esther' that would follow her throughout her career.
Esther Phillips' voice had a unique nasal sound that delighted audiences with its distinct phrasing and exacting diction. She scored many R&B hits in the early 1950s, but soon became disillusioned with Johnny Otis, finally walking out when he refused her request for a salary increase. Through the remainder of the decade, Esther recorded for various record companies without success. She returned to Houston to live with her father at this time, and to deal with the greatest challenge in her young life -- her drug dependency. Apparently, the stress of life on the road with hardened blues performers, and her insecurities had led her to indulge in heroin as an escape.
After rebounding from her dark days, Esther worked small nightclubs in the southwest, and was spotted by rising star Kenny Rogers, who loved her sound. He arranged a recording contract for her, and she released a hit country and western album. She dropped the adjective 'Little' from her name then. Soon after she signed with Atlantic records and released a series of records with only modest success. They dropped her in 1967, and her drug dependency deepened.
After a stint in a rehab hospital, Atlantic re-signed Esther, and soon released a live album consider to be among her best. The label attempted to squeeze Esther into a pop singer mold, but she wasn't comfortable in the role, so again they cut her free from her contract. In 1971 jazz maestro Creed Taylor signed her to his Kudu label, and this is where Esther's best work can be found. Soon she was singing in high-profile venues along with big-name talent, and international jazz festivals. In 1975, she scored her biggest hit single since her early days with Johnny Otis with the early disco track 'What A Difference A Day Makes,' a remake of a Dinah Washington standard.
Soon restless, Esther left Kudu records for another label in 1977, but was never able to duplicate her success. Depression and insecurity again hounded her and she again turned to heroin, and this time alcohol. She released a few records on small independent labels with little success or notice. The years of addiction had taken a huge toll on 'Little Esther' Phillips and she succumbed to liver and kidney failure in Los Angeles in August of 1984.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: firstname.lastname@example.org
June 2022 - Carmen McRae
If there was ever an award for the “coolest” jazz vocalist it would have always gone to Carmen McRae.
Eight years younger than her idol, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae was a contemporary of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Ella and Sarah were already well established by the time Carmen came onto the scene, but it wasn’t long before Carmen was considered their artistic equal, although she never achieved their wide popularity. She never had a huge hit nor did she ever receive a Grammy. But, on the other hand, she never made a bad record nor compromised her high standards.
Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan inspired awe with their vocal prowess. Ella – with her perfect pitch and unerring sense of time – could reproduce any instrumental jazz riff, and Sarah – with her multi-octave range and ultra-flexible voice – could change octave and color on a single note. Carmen, however, could bring a tear to the eye or a lump to the throat, with her reading of a lyric. That was her great talent. She combined the ability to project the emotional connotations of a song with a musical intelligence that was derived in part from her knowledge of the piano. She perfected a style musicians called singing “behind the beat.”
May 2022 - Diunna Greenleaf & Trudy Lynn
For May we have chosen two artists who we feel keep the tradition of Blues music alive today. They are two Blues women from Houston, Texas, Diunna Greenleaf and Trudy Lynn. Both have new CD's worth your adding to your collection and both remind you of the value of this important African-American music genre.
Diunna Greenleaf, the leader of Blue Mercy, is a native Texan (Houston) who has a background steeped in gospel music. Influenced by the likes of Koko Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Rosetta Thorpe, Sam Cooke, Charles Brown and her own parents Ben & Mary Ella Greenleaf (Gospel). She has developed "Diunna's Style of Blues" in the same tradition as so many other great Texas blues men and women. She combines intricate patches of jazz, gospel and heartfelt soul to create a kind blues that takes one on an emotional roller coaster ride.
Diunna was nominated for the "Koko Taylor Award-Traditional Blues Female" and "Traditional Blues Album-Trying To Hold On" at the 2012 Blues Music Awards. She was the winner of the "Koko Taylor Award-Traditional Blues Female" in 2014 and 2017. Her latest CD "Trying To Hold On" reached #1 on XM/Sirius Radio Bluesville Chart, #1 on French Blues charts, #1 on Living Blues charts for the month of December 2012, and reached the top of Blues charts in UK, Australia and USA.
May 2022 - Trudy Lynn
Born Lee Audrey Nelms in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Trudy Lynn comes from strong musical stock: the late Al “TNT” Braggs, one of Houston’s most electrifying R&B vocalists and a prolific songwriter for Bobby “Blue” Bland, was her cousin.
In 1965 after graduating from high school, Lee Audrey went to Lufkin, Texas, north of Houston, for the summer. Her cousin took her out to a white venue, the Cinderella Club, where she made sure the club owner knew she could sing. When called upon to fill in for their regular singer, Lee Audrey needed a stage name. It was there that she saw the name ‘Trudy’ amidst the other writings on the wall and decided that’s what she wanted to be called. Performers Gloria Lynne and Barbara Lynn also inspired her new name.
Her acclaimed Royal Oaks Blues Café (2013) reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart. Everything Comes with a Price (2015), I’ll Sing the Blues For You (2016) and Blues Keep Knockin’ (2018) followed, all recorded at Houston’s famous Red Shack Recording Studio and co-produced by Krase and Rock Romano.
A twelve-time Blues Music Award nominee, Lynn received two career-defining awards in 2019: the Living Legend Blues Award from the Houston Blues Society and the Jus’ Blues Music Foundation’s Willie Mitchell Lifetime Artist Award. Now, as her seventy-fifth birthday approaches, Ms. Trudy Lynn celebrates and asserts her position as Golden Girl, the title of her latest album, slated for March 18, 2022 release on Nola Blue Records.
April 2022 - Nnenna Freelon
Multi GRAMMY® Award nominee NNENNA FREELON is known worldwide as a compelling and captivating live performer. A veteran performer, she toured the world with many great jazz artists, including Ray Charles, Ellis Marsalis, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Take 6, and others. She's performed at The White House, headlining the Asia Pacific Economic Summit for hundreds of Presidents, Premiers, and Heads of State. Freelon received accolades and acclaim for her outstanding artistry, dedication to education, and breakout theatrical productions as a singer/actress/producer and composer. In her efforts to find her voice amidst the challenge of losing her husband, Nnenna has begun to emerge with new ways to share her feelings in her new recording entitled Time Traveler.
March 2022 - Dinah Washington (1924-1963)
by Richard S. Ginell
Dinah Washington was at once one of the most beloved and controversial singers of the mid-20th century -- beloved to her fans, devotees, and fellow singers; controversial to critics who still accuse her of selling out her art to commerce and bad taste. Her principal sin, apparently, was to cultivate a distinctive vocal style that was at home in all kinds of music, be it R&B, blues, jazz, middle of the road pop -- and she probably would have made a fine gospel or country singer had she the time. Hers was a gritty, salty, high-pitched voice, marked by absolute clarity of diction and clipped, bluesy phrasing. Washington's personal life was turbulent, with seven marriages behind her, and her interpretations showed it, for she displayed a tough, totally unsentimental, yet still gripping hold on the universal subject of lost love. She has had a huge influence on R&B and jazz singers who have followed in her wake, notably Nancy Wilson, Esther Phillips, and Diane Schuur, and her music is abundantly available nowadays via the huge seven-volume series The Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury.
February 2022 - Samara Joy
“My friends were all into jazz and started sharing their favorite recordings with me to check out. The turning point was when I heard both Sarah Vaughan’s version of ‘Lover Man’ and Tadd Dameron’s recordings featuring trumpeter Fats Navarro. I was hooked.”
From this point, she began to pursue her jazz studies with an intense passion, eventually being named the Ella Fitzgerald Scholar and entering and winning the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.
Although having only recently celebrated her 21st birthday, Samara has already performed in many of the great jazz venues in NYC, including Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, The Blue Note, and Mezzrow, in addition to working with jazz greats such as Christian McBride, Pasquale Grasso, Kirk Lightsey, Cyrus Chestnut, and NEA Jazz Master Dr. Barry Harris.
Samara's self-titled debut recording is slated for release on July 9 through Whirlwind Recordings. It presents her backed by the trio of guitarist Pasquale Grasso, bassist Ari Roland, and drummer Kenny Washington. Within the album's liner notes, veteran writer Will Friedwald comments that Samara Joy is “a fantastic collection of highly original new arrangements, beautifully sung by a rising talent, and a very impressive first album. People are forever using the word 'timeless' as if it were the greatest praise ever, but in a way, Samara’s voice and her music seem to belong to all time, like she’s connected to the entire history of jazz all at once - as if she were existing in every era simultaneously, she sounds both classic and contemporary.”
Winning the Vaughan award was transformational for Joy. “I was suddenly on the jazz radar. It’s still bizarre to think of how fast things have progressed.” Since then, Joy has dug deep to discover her jazz roots, without losing sight of the innate simplicity that makes her sound shine. Her first album announces the arrival of a young artist destined for greatness.
January 2022 - Cyrille Aimee
Improvisation is not just a technique for Grammy nominated artist Cyrille Aimée, it’s a way of life. The acclaimed vocalist ventured from singing on street corners in Europe to dazzling audiences at the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals; from sneaking out to sing in gypsy encampments in her native France to acting on Broadway; from braving the notoriously tough audiences at New York’s Apollo Theatre to being called a “rising star in the galaxy of jazz singers” by The New York Times.
Among countless accolades, Aimée won the Montreux Jazz Festival Vocal Competition and the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition. As an actress, Aimée co-starred with Bernadette Peters in a Stephen Sondheim tribute at New York’s City Center which inspired her to dig deeper into Sondheim's repertoire, resulting in her fourth and most recent album, Move On: A Sondheim Adventure.