Monday, June 15, 2009

Jazz singer Nancy King was born June 15, 1940. She’s been called everything from a “Cult figure” and an “uncompromising artist,” (Earshot Jazz) to “the greatest living jazz singer,” (Herb Ellis). As one of the few improvisers in vocal jazz to master the vocabulary, Nancy King has “indefatigable scat chops and a remarkably elastic range.” (The Oregonian)

Nancy came to the San Francisco jazz scene of the early 1960’s from Springfield, Oregon. It was at the legendary Jazz Workshop that she met Sonny King, her future mate, and joined his band. The first recording to feature Nancy King was “First Date”, an outing with saxophonist Steve Wolfe on the Inner City label. Joining them in the studio were Ray Brown, Jack Sheldon, Frank Strazzeri and Nick Ceroli. The record’s release was celebrated at Michael’s Pub in New York City, where the great pianist Bill Evans stopped in to play a few tunes.

Nancy’s collaborations with Glen Moore, together as “King and Moore” they have recorded three albums on the Justice label beginning with “Impending Bloom” in 1991. That CD and the following release, “Potato Radio”, earned five star reviews from Downbeat Magazine. “Cliff Dance” was released in 1994.

During the mid-90’s Nancy and Steve Christofferson were on the faculties of the Stanford University Jazz Workshop, Bud Shank’s Centrum Jazz Workshop and Jazz Camp West, and performed at festivals in France, the U.S., Israel and Canada. In 1997 Mons Records released “Straight Into Your Heart”, recorded in Holland and featuring Nancy and Steve with the fifty-one piece Metropole Orchestra.

In 1998 Nancy was reunited with Ray Brown on his cd “Some Of My Best Friends Are Singers” (Telarc) which also featured vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kevin Mahogany, Marlena Shaw, Etta Jones and Diana Krall. The recording peaked at #1 on the Gavin Jazz Chart in January 1999. She toured Europe with the Ray Brown Trio in March. In early 2000 Stellar Records released “Dream Lands”, a compilation of duet recordings with Steve Christofferson commissioned by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. In 2001 Nancy was inducted into the Oregon Jazz Society’s Hall of Fame.

Her major and recent outing, was at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s elegant small hall, The Allen Room, that features the glittering backdrop of Central Park and the intimate atmosphere of a cozy club. It added up to the perfect environment for an evening of what might have been the most exquisite vocal pairing of the year, Kurt Elling and Nancy King.

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