Carmen Souza was born in Lisbon, Spain on May 20, 1981 of Cape Verdean heritage speaking Creole, the Cape Verde dialect and Portuguese. In her teens she sang professionally in a Lusophone Gospel Choir. Musicians like Luis Morais, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Diana Krall were some of her inspirations. Theo Pas’cal, her producer and mentor and one of the best bass players in Portugal, discovered her talent and introduced her to jazz, fusion and other contemporary sounds that markedly influenced her musical development.
Working with Theo in 2003, two years later Carmen released to critical acclaim her debut album Ess ê nha Cabo Verde that combined Creole, African and Cape Verde rhythms like Batuke, Morna, and Cola djon with her jazz contemporary influences. The album led to her international breakthrough performance at the WOMAD at Reading Festival of the same year.
Her sophomore album Verdade she co-produced and is featured on Wurlitzer and guitar. She returned in 2010 with the impressive Protegid (Protected) that continued to push the limits of what constitutes the Cape Verdean music, world music and jazz. The expressive voice, versatile style of vocalist Carmen Souza continues to perform, record and tour.
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Monette Moore was born May 19, 1902 in Gainesville, Texas but was raised in Kansas City, Missouri. She taught herself piano in her teens and worked as a theater pianist in Kansas City in the early Twenties. In 1923–24 she recorded for Paramount Records in New York City and Chicago, in addition working Dallas and Oklahoma City and eventually settling in New York City.
Monette played with Charlie Johnson’s ensemble at Smalls Paradise and recorded with him in 1927–28. Her output from 1923–27 amounts to 44 tunes, some recorded under the name Susie Smith. Her sidemen included Tommy Ladnier, Jimmy O’Bryan, Jimmy Blythe, Bob Fuller, Rex Stewart, Bubber Miley, Lou Hooper and Elmer Snowden.
In the 1930s, Moore recorded with Fats Waller, filled in for Ethel Waters as an understudy, and in 1937 sang with Zinky Cohn in Chicago. She would perform at her own club, Monette’s Place, in New York City in 1933. Around 1940 she sang in New York with Sidney Bechet and Sammy Price, then moved to Los Angeles in 1942, performing often in nightclubs. She appeared in James P. Johnson’s revue Sugar Hill in 1949 and in numerous films in minor roles.
Monette recorded again from 1945-47, performed with the Young Men of New Orleans at Disneyland in 1961–62. Vocalist and pianist Monette Moore passed away of a heart attack on October 21, 1962 in Garden Grove, California.
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Venissa Santi was born on May 10, 1978 in Ithaca, New York. As a child she grew up listening to the sounds of Ravel, Celia Cruz and Michael Jackson as well as theatrical productions and jazz. But it was her grandfather, Cuban composer Jacobo Ros Capablanca, who instilled in her a connection to her roots through his compositions and a life-long passion for music. So after completing high school, she moved to Philadelphia, where she enrolled at the University of the Arts and majored in Jazz Vocal Performance.
After graduation, she became actively involved in Philadelphia’s Latin community and music scene and began her career as a vocal instructor with the Asociación de Músicos Latino Americanos, better known as AMLA. Over time she performed with a variety of Latin, jazz and World music groups. It was from the support and encouragement of this community that inspired Venissa to embark on the first of four life changing visits to Cuba, where she conducted research and studied Afro Cuban song, dance and percussion.
It was while under the tutelage of Master Gregorio “El Goyo” Hernandez and master dancers from Yoruba Andabo, Arturo Clave y Guaganco, Afro-Cuba de Matanzas and Irosso Oba, that she reconnected with her relatives in Cuba. Santi began to compose the soundtrack of her life’s journey thus far, resulting in an audacious new sound that defies borders, language and categorization.
In 2008 Venissa won the Pew Fellowship for Folk and Traditional Arts. 2009 saw her signed to Sunnyside Records, releasing Bienvenida, and has been praised by Ruben Blades and pianist Danilo Perez. Vocalist Venissa Santi has released her sophomore project Big Stuff and is currently performing at venues and festivals and preparing new material for her next project.
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Monty Waters was born on April 14, 1938 in Modesto, California. He received his first musical training from his aunt and first played in the church. After college, he was a member of a rhythm & blues band and in the late 1950s he worked with musicians like B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Little Richard and James Brown on tour.
In San Francisco Monty played with King Pleasure and initiated in the early 1960s a “Late Night Session” at Club Bop City. There he came into contact with musicians such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Red Garland and Dexter Gordon, who visited this club after their concerts. In addition, he and Pharoah Sanders, Dewey Redman and and Donald Garrett formed a big band.
By 1969 Waters had made a move to New York City and toured with Jon Hendricks. During the 1970s he participated in the Loft Jazz scene and recorded as a sideman with Billy Higgins, Joe Lee Wilson, Sam Rivers, and Ronnie Boykins. Like many other jazz musicians, he eventually left the States in the 1980s for Paris, where he worked with Chet Baker, Johnny Griffin and Sanders again.
Following Mal Waldron and Marty Cook to Munich, he continued to work with musicians such as Embryo, Gotz Tanferding, Hannes Beckmann, Titus Waldenfels, Suchredin Chronov and Joe Malinga. Saxophonist, flautist and singer Monty Waters passed away on December 23, 2008 in Munich, Germany.
Barbara Lea was born Barbara Ann LeCocq on April 10, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan. A musical family, her musical heritage is traceable to a great uncle, Alexandre Charles LeCocq, an important nineteenth-century composer of French light opera. Her father changed their surname to Leacock and she shortened it to Lea when she began working professionally.
Boston was a hotbed of jazz in the late 1940s and early 1950s, allowing Lea to sing with major instrumentalists including as Marian McPartland, Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Frankie Newton, Johnny Windhurst and George Wein. She worked with small dance bands there before majoring in music theory at Wellesley College on scholarship. She also sang in the college choir, worked on the campus radio station and newspaper, and arranged for and conducted the Madrigal Group and brass choir concerts.
Barbara’s professional career started upon graduation with her early recordings for Riverside and Prestige. They were met with immediate critical acclaim that led to her winning the DownBeat International Critics’ Poll as the Best New Singer of 1956. She appeared in small clubs in New York and throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada, as well as on radio and TV.
With the near-demise of classic pop in the early 60s, Lea turned to the legitimate theatre, performing an impressive list of leading and feature roles in everything from Shakespeare to Sondheim. Moving to the West Coast received her M.A. in drama at Cal State Northridge and then returned to New York and taught speech at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and acting at Hofstra University.
By the 1970s, with the resurgence of interest in show tunes and popular standards, Lea performed on NPR’s “American Popular Song with Alec Wilder & Friends”, appeared in two shows featuring the songs of Willard Robison and Lee Wiley, and received lengthy features in the New Yorker magazine. With her singing career was renewed she would consistently play the JVC, Kool and Newport Jazz Festivals as well as cabarets and concerts.
Jazz singer Barbara Lea, who also sang Dixieland, swing and cabaret, passed away on December 26, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
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