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The first female vocalist signed by Blue Note Records in 1972, has never strayed far from her jazz roots. A former singer with the Count Basie Orchestra, "she swings with ease and authority, has a mastery of space an timing. . .[and] every phrase she utters has a delightfully improvisatory feel,' notes critic Richard Chon. She has the ability to highlight the dramatic possibilities of the simplest lyric. Her sassy, humorous onstage presence is as entertaining as her singing
Second only to James Brown and George Clinton in terms of the use her classic ‘70s tracks on modern soul, dance and hiphop tunes; Marlena was also recently introduced to a younger generation with the use of her California Soul track on a Kentucky Fried Chicken TV ad as well as Coca Cola sampling her voice singing ‘I wish I could fly’ in a recent TV ad. Her 6 piece band features respected Blue Note solo artist Nathan Haines amongst others.
In a world of cookie-cutter crooners and by the numbers, scat-happy jazz singers, Marlena Shaw is a true original and one of the most charismatic and versatile vocalists on the scene today. Shaw's scintillating performances blur the lines which separate jazz, soul, rock, pop and R&B. Her extroverted stage presence gives her an edge over other vocalists, and clearly, singing live before an audience is where she feels most comfortable. She has been rewarded for her diversity with scores of enthusiastic admirers.
In 1966, she recorded "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy'' for Cadet Records, and the single sold very well for an unknown singer. The single's success, a rare vocal version of the tune, prompted executives at Cadet to encourage her to record a whole album for the label in 1967. The diversity of styles, including blues, jazz and pop standards, is reflected in the album's title, Out of Different Bags. Through her accountant, she was brought to the attention of bandleader Count Basie, and she ended up singing with the Basie band for four years.
Shaw recorded five albums and several singles for Blue Note, and critics likened her singing style to Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. In 1977, Shaw recorded the album that is closest to the soul fraternities hearts, namely 'Sweet Beginnings' on Columbia. This album contained, arguably, Shaws finest moment 'Yu Ma/ Go Away Little Boy'. This was a medley, partly, containing the old Goffin and Carole King standard. It also contained the track 'Look At Me, Look At You'. Popular on the U.K. rare groove scene.
At her club shows, Shaw continues to dazzle audiences with her intoxicating blend of straight ahead jazz, soul, pop and classic R&B, but her recordings will also satisfy fans of traditional jazz who have no prejudices about blues and R&B.
Regardless of the material performed Marlena Shaw has never strayed far from her jazz roots. Wherever Shaw has gone she has taken her unique highly electric style with her. It is this highly individual, polished style that makes Marlena Shaw a true Jazz treasure.
"You know as soon as the first words of Marlena Shaw's opening cut reach your ears that you are in the company of a masterful interpreter of song. ...You are captivated by her charms, by her musical intelligence ... an astonishingly versatile artist W. ROYAL STOKES / THE JAZZ SCENE
"...It was a tour de force carried off with skill, wit and personality, and it drew in the audience. The result was a rare, radiant intimacy that bespoke Shaw's extraordinary talent." KIRBY KEAN / PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER
"Shaw's voice is a lumonous instrument in the Ella Fitzgelald /Sarah Vaughn mold; and her command of it was quite breathtaking.." ROBERT NESTI