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
Layla Angulo was born on March 12, 1976 in Seattle, Washington into a long line of artists and musicians, and started playing the piano at age 6, the saxophone at age 10 and began performing in jazz clubs while high school. After graduation, she played in various funk, jazz, pop, and salsa groups. She performed as the horn section leader of various salsa bands around the Northwest and developed the idea to write her own music soon after.
By her early 20’s, Layla was living in Santiago de Compostela, Spain where she began building her Latin jazz career, performing her new music with Spanish and Cuban musicians. Following this stint in Europe she returned to the States, she recorded Live at the Triple Door in 2005 with a thirteen piece orchestra and performing original music. This jumped her career, garnered her two Honorable Mentions awards in the International Songwriting Competition and catapulted Costa Rican singer, Carlos Cascante, who became the singer for the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
Her sophomore project and her first studio recording was titled Mientras where she wrote for her voice and enlisted a line up of all-star musicians including Oscar Stagnaro, Arturo O’Farrill, and Orlando “Maraca” Valle. Her third release TriAngulo combines the talents of New York’s top salsa, bachata and merengue musicians.
Angulo, who professionally goes by Layla, moved to New York City and toured with reggaeton superstar Don Omar, has toured with Tito Puente Jr., Beyonce’s horn players the Sugarhorns and played with many other Grammy award winning artists.
She is one of the only female saxophone players/singers/band directors in the world of Latin music today. Saxophonist, composer, singer and band director has won several songwriting competitions and continues to perform, record and tour.
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
John Richard Handy III was born on February 3, 1933 in Dallas, Texas and first came to prominence while working with Charles Mingus in the 1950s. By the 1960s, he was leading several groups, among them a quintet with violinist Michael White, Jerry Hahn on guitar, Don Thompson on bass, and drummer Terry Clarke. This group’s performance at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival was recorded and released as an album and he received Grammy nominations for jazz performance of Spanish Lady and jazz composition for If Only We Knew.
As an educator Handy has taught music history and performance at San Francisco State University, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and other schools.
The 1980s saw John working on the Mel Martin project Bebop & Beyond, recording tribute albums to Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. He has recorded some eighteen albums as a leader for Roulette, Columbia, Impulse!, Warner, MPS, Milestone, Koch Int’l and Boulevard record labels. He has had one compilation released of selections from In The Vernacular and No Coast Jazz, and and has recorded two albums with Brass Fever, as well as, five albums during his time with Mingus.
Alto saxophonist John Handy, who also plays tenor and baritone saxophone, saxello, clarinet, oboe and sings, continues to perform and record.