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December 2022 - Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur, a leading contemporary jazz vocalist, is renowned for her eclectic brilliance. Nicknamed "Deedles" as a child, she developed her rich vocal style while steeped in traditional American jazz from an early age. Schuur's influences include the iconic Dinah Washington, whose impact shaped her captivating approach, described by Jazziz Magazine as moving from "little-girl innocence to bawdy-mama blues in a hair's breadth, but always at the service of the song." As an accomplished pianist, she accompanies herself during performances with her small group, big band, or symphony orchestra.

In her newest album, "Running On Faith," Schuur pays homage to artists she deeply admires, creating new versions of their songs. This project, co-produced by Schuur and Grammy-winning saxophonist Ernie Watts, showcases her versatility across blues, straight-ahead jazz, gospel, and more. Throughout her career spanning over 50 years, Schuur has earned accolades, including three Grammy Awards and nominations for her exceptional albums and performances. As a blind artist since birth, Schuur's extraordinary musical journey began with playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her boundless talent and passion have solidified this Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival Jazz Master’s status as an iconic figure in jazz.

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November 2022 - Lea DeLaria

LEA DELARIA seems to have achieved overnight stardom with her two time, SAG Award winning, stand-out role as ‘Carrie ‘Big Boo’ Black’ in the Netflix hit series “Orange is the New Black.” However, DeLaria’s multi- faceted career as a comedian, actress and jazz musician, has in fact, spanned decades. 

Lea holds the distinction of being the first openly gay comic on television in America which led to countless Television and Film roles portraying Police Lieutenants, PE Teachers and the Lesbian who inappropriately hits on straight women. Selected TV credits: “Broad City,” “Baroness Von Sketch,” “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” “Awkward,” “Clarence,” “Californication,” “The Oblongs,” “One Live to Live,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Will and Grace,” “Friends” & “Matlock.” Selected Film credits: Cars 3, Support The Girls, First Wives Club, Dear Dumb Diary, Edge of Seventeen. 

She’s received Obie & Theater World Awards, and a Drama Desk nomination for her portrayal as ‘Hildy’ in the Public Theatre’s revival of On The Town, an Ovation nomination for The Boys From Syracuse, and has played both Eddie & Dr. Scott in the gender-bending Broadway musical The Rocky Horror Show. 

Lea was the featured vocalist at the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, and has performed in some of the most prestigious houses in the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl, The Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House. 

Lea has five records on the Warner Jazz and Classics label and her book "Lea's Book of Rules for the World" is in its third printing at Bantam Doubleday and Dell. 

Her sixth record, House Of David delaria+bowie=jazz, was released in the Summer of 2015 to critical acclaim.


October 2022 - Nina Simone

"I'll tell you what

freedom is to me:

no fear."

She was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century, an icon of American music. She was the consummate musical storyteller, a griot as she would come to learn, who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through a magnificent body of works. She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment. She was who the world would come to know as Nina Simone.

When Nina Simone died on April 21, 2003, she left a timeless treasure trove of musical magic spanning over four decades from her first hit, the 1959 Top 10 classic “I Loves You Porgy,” to “A Single Woman,” the title cut from her one and only 1993 Elektra album. While thirty-three years separate those recordings, the element of honest emotion is the glue that binds the two together – it is that approach to every piece of work that became Nina’s uncompromising musical trademark.

By the end of her life, Nina was enjoying an unprecedented degree of recognition. Her music was enjoyed by the masses due to the CD revolution, discovery on the Internet, and exposure through movies and television. Nina had sold over one million CDs in the last decade of her life, making her a global catalog best-seller.

In her autobiography, Nina Simone writes that her function as an artist is “…to make people feel on a deep level. It’s difficult to describe because it’s not something you can analyze; to get near what it’s about you have to play it. And when you’ve caught it, when you’ve got the audience hooked, you always know because it’s like electricity hanging in the air.” It was that very electricity that made her such an important artist to so many and it will be that electricity that continues to turn on new people all over the world for years to come.


September 2022 - Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Grammy and Tony Award-winning jazz powerhouse, has cemented her place among the top vocalists in the industry. With a career spanning four decades, she fearlessly reimagines jazz classics while adding her unique touch to standards. Bridgewater's musical journey has embraced various genres, from her early days with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band to collaborations with jazz icons like Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie. Her self-produced albums, including the Grammy-winning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Dear Ella, showcase her visionary artistry.

Beyond her musical achievements, Bridgewater's impact extends to humanitarian efforts as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Recognized with esteemed honors such as the NEA Jazz Masters Fellows Award, the Doris Duke Artist Award, and the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival Jazz Master Award she continues to make a lasting impact in the jazz world and beyond. With her captivating performances and unwavering dedication, Dee Dee Bridgewater's presence in the jazz scene remains timeless and influential.


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:

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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.

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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)

Artist Biography

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 WilsonEsther Phillips, and Diane Schuur, and her music is abundantly available nowadays via the huge seven-volume series The Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury.

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February 2022 - Big Mama Thornton

For Black History Month we are showcasing legendary blues and R&B singer, Big Mama Thornton.  She history by being the first to record "Hound Dog" in 1952, which became her biggest hit. As her career faced challenges in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, where she played clubs and recorded for various labels, including Arhoolie Records. Thornton's success extended to Europe when she toured with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1965, gaining recognition as one of the few female blues singers to achieve success across the Atlantic. Her recordings during this time showcased collaborations with notable blues musicians, including Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters.


During her career, Thornton released albums that featured her unique interpretations of blues and gospel classics. In the late 1960s, her composition "Ball and Chain" gained renewed popularity through Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company's rendition at the Monterey Pop Festival. Despite facing a changing music landscape, Thornton's talent and powerful voice remained influential. She continued to perform, record, and tour, maintaining her status as a significant figure in the blues genre. Thornton's impact on music history remains indelible, leaving a lasting legacy as a trailblazer in the world of blues and R&B.


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.

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