Everyone always told me that my Dad had a wonderful singing voice, they said he sounded just like Nat King Cole but I never even heard my father's voice and yet, they say I sing as he did... as a young singer, I had already sung My Funny Valentine so many times I lost count, the band was not happy with me but (the late) Roosevelt Jackson, my Dad-friend and longtime music mentor finally smiled with approval and said okay, now, rehearsal is over and with that, I realized that I had broken through to where I needed to be as an artist.
For years I listened to Joe Williams' recordings, and when I met him in Holland, I met another Dad-friend and mentor who was the first big name to invite me to take the stage. It was at Catalina's Bar & Grill when laryngitis prevented him from continuing the gig, he asked me "Did you bring your voice?" the same night I met another great jazz voice and actor Bill Henderson... and it was Shirley Horn whose advice and guidance to me on recording and the business of music, that I cherish to this day and am still mesmerized by her artistry when I perform... When bassist Keter Betts played "All Blues" as I sang it -- his doublebass and my voice -- was an unforgettable experience... As pianist, John Malachi played "If You Could See Me Now" on his grand Bosendorfer for me in the basement of his home, I knew I was in heaven.
God touched my spirit with rhythm, melody, and lyrics, and finely tunes me -- His instrument-daily.
A chance to hear and meet Little Jimmy Scott at FACES of all places -- a northwest DC club -- was thrilling... shaking Oscar Peterson's hand in a Kennedy Center greenroom where he warmed up, while on my way to meeting a jazz icon, Ella Fitzgerald in another greenroom is still surreal. Due to her failing eyesight no flash pictures were taken out of respect... Sitting with the great Sarah Vaughan in her dressing room at Blues Alley was monumental... and hanging out with Freddie Cole and his trio at Anton's on Pennsylvania Avenue was big fun.
Backstage with Nancy Wilson at the Cater Barron or in the dressing room at Blues Alley was sublime... but hanging out with her manager at the time, one energetic Sparky Tavares -- who incidentally was Nat King Cole's personal valet back in the day-- was always a firsthand education and mindblower at the same time... meeting Mr. Max Roach was way too cool for words... opening for Billy Eckstine was one of those chance, unbelievable... opening for Ahmad Jamal and Roy Ayers at Fort Dupont was unbelievable, too... traveling with Ronnie Wells through Europe was life-changing.... A hotel elevator ride with Marian McPartland, Dorothy Donegan and B.B. King was breathtaking... talking and laughing with Etta Jones still makes me smile... and recording my first effort "For the Love of It" with Calvin Jones was incredible.
Consistently, I entertain audiences and keep in mind that this jazz music I perform is only accomplished by the encouragement and guidance of those mentioned ancestors in whose footsteps I walk and my current mentor(s) and all of you who continue to support me as I carry the light forward...