Nicole Henry was born on March 17th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in a musical family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She pursued the arts from a young age, singing in school and church, and studying cello and ballet, ultimately graduating from the University of Miami. Her musical inspirations were Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan.
Launching her career as an entertainer was successful both as singer and actress. Early on Nicole appeared in commercial acting roles and voiceover assignments. Her passion for singing was recognized when the Miami New Times named her Best Solo Musician 2002.
In 2004, Henry released her debut recording, The Nearness of You, on Banister Records. Though she reached #1 in Japan with Teach Me Tonight and was named HMV Japan’s Best Vocal Jazz Album of 2005, her sophomore project didn’t arrive until four years later. The Very Thought Of You reached #7 on Billboard’s jazz chart. Followed by her 2009 Teach Me Tonight, 2011’s Embraceable and a live recording in Japan Set For The Season in 2012.
In 2013 Nicole released So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live with new renditions of Seventies hits and has since released a single and an EP. She has had the honor to perform the National Anthem at several sporting event, solo for the candlelight service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan and took home the Soul Train award for Best Traditional Jazz Performance. Vocalist Nicole Henry continues to perform, record and tour.
More Posts: vocal
Ina Ray Hutton was born Odessa Cowan on March 13, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois. She began dancing and singing in stage revues at the age of eight and by the age of 13, Odessa was considered so advanced that she skipped eighth grade and went straight to high school at Hyde Park High School.
By the time she was 18 years old, Odessa became Ina Ray Hutton for the stage and was already a seasoned performer, having starred in Gus Edwards’ revue Future Stars Troupe at the Palace Theater, Lew Leslie’s Clowns in Clover. On Broadway she performed in George White’s revues: Melody, Never Had An Education, and “Scandals”, and then went onto The Ziegfeld Follies.
In 1934, she was approached by Irving Mills and vaudeville agent Alex Hyde to lead an all-girl orchestra, The Melodears, featuring trumpeters Frances Klein and Mardell “Owen” Winstead, pianist Ruth Lowe Sandler, saxophonist Jane Cullum, guitarist Marian Gange,and trombonist Alyse Wells during its existence. Hutton and her Melodears were one of the first all-girl bands to be filmed for Paramount shorts, including Accent on Girls and Swing Hutton Swing, as well as Hollywood feature films.
The group disbanded in 1939 and the following year she led an all-male orchestra that was featured in the 1944 film Ever Since Venus. This group disbanded in 1949. During the 1950s, she returned to the all-girl format for a variety television program, The Ina Ray Hutton Show, which ran from 1951 to 1956 on Paramount Television Network’s flagship station KTLA in Los Angeles, California.
Vocalist and bandleader Ina Ray Hutton retired from music in 1968 and passed away in Ventura, California on February 19, 1984 of complications from diabetes, at the age of 67.
More Posts: vocal
Jacqui Dankworth was born on February 5, 1963 in Northampton, Northamptonshire, England to Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. She attended St. Christopher School in Hertfordshire and is an alumna and fellow of Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Her vocal talents led her to work as an actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and in West End Theatre. She played Cinderella in the musical Into the Woods and appeared the film Shoreditch, singing the song My Man by Billie Holiday.
In 2003, Jacqui released her first album, As the Sun Shines Down on Me on the Candid Records label. This album brought her to the attention of Michael Parkinson and BBC Radio 2, and she began appearing regularly on air throughout that year. She was featured on Courtney Pine’s album Devotion, and performed with Pine at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival.
She followed the success of As the Sun Shines Down on Me with the 2004 release, Detour Ahead. She has followed these two releases by recording Back to You, It Happens Quietly and Live To Love. Vocalist Jacqui Dankworth continues to perform, record and tour.
More Posts: vocal
Beverly Kenney was born on January 29, 1932 in Harrison, New Jersey and her life saw her working for Western Union as a telephone birthday singer. After moving to New York City in 1954, she recorded a demo with Tony Tamburello and by the end of the year she had moved to Miami, Florida where she landed a recurring engagement at the Black Magic Room. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey heard her and for several months she toured with the orchestra they co-led.
Moving back to New York, Beverly worked in clubs with George Shearing, Don Elliott and Kai Winding. After a short tour of the Midwest with Larry Sonn, she signed to Roost Records and released her first album in 1956. This recording, Beverly Kenney Sings for Johnny Smith with the quartet of the jazz guitarist Johnny Smith. The album was a success and as a result she secured a residency at the Birdland jazz club, where she was accompanied by the Lester Young Quintet. Her second release was Come Swing with Me with Jimmy Jones led an ensemble behind her for her third and final release for Roost in 1957.
She moved to Decca Records and released three further albums with them, including Beverly Kenney Sings For Playboys in 1958, Born to Be Blue and Like Yesterday in 1959. Beverly Kenney Sings For Playboys featured liner notes by Steve Allen, in which he praised her vocal style and stated, “A word to Playboys: I would not recommend this album as Music to Make the Romantic Approach By. You’re apt to get more interested in Beverly than the girl you’re trying to impress”.
Kenney was a critically acclaimed musician, but she saw little widespread acceptance, due at least in part to the burgeoning rock & roll movement. She had an intense personal dislike for this music, even going so far as to compose a song called “I Hate Rock and Roll”, which she performed on The Steve Allen Show in 1958.
On April 13, 1960, vocalist Beverly Kenney committed suicide with an overdose of alcohol and seconal. She was 28 years old. She remains a cult figure in Japan, where all of her albums have been reissued to CD and have remained in print on a relatively steady basis. Japan’s SSJ Records have released three collections of unreleased Beverly Kenney material between 2006 to 2009: Snuggled on Your Shoulder, Lonely and Blue and What Is There To Say?, culminating in a dozen albums.
More Posts: vocal
Barbara Carroll was born Barbara Carole Coppersmith on January 25, 1925 in Worcester, Massachusetts. She began her classical piano training at age eight, but by high school decided to become a jazz pianist. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music for a year, but left it as it conflicted with working for bands.
In 1947 Leonard Feather dubbed her “the first girl ever to play bebop piano”. The following year her trio, which featured guitarist Chuck Wayne and Clyde Lombardi on bass, worked briefly with Benny Goodman. Personnel changes would occur later with Charlie Byrd replacing Wayne and Joe Shulman replaced Lombardi. After Byrd’s departure, Carroll decided to have it be a drums, bass, and piano trio.
The 1950s saw Barbara and her trio working on Me and Juliet by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Then the decade saw her career ebb due to changing musical tastes and personal concerns. However, by 1972 she revived her career due to a renewed interest in her work. In 1975 she worked on an A&M recording session with Rita Coolidge and by 1978 she was touring with Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson. In the following two decades she became known as a cabaret performer.
She has recorded for DRG, Venus, Harbinger and Birdland record labels, with her latest of eight albums, Barbara Carroll Plays At Birdland, released in 2016. Pianist Barbara Carroll has received a MAC Lifetime Achievement Award and the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award, and she continues to perform and record.