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Carmen Lundy has recently performed at the World Stage in Los Angeles honoring the legacy of Billy Higgins.
Lundy began her professional career in Miami, FL as a jazz vocalist and composer when there were very few young, gifted and aspiring jazz vocalists on the horizon. Over four decades later, Ms. Lundy is celebrated throughout the world for her vocal artistry and is highly regarded for her jazz innovation.
A native of Miami, Florida, Carmen Lundy's path to being one of today's most talented, respected and sophisticated jazz singers began at age six, with her first piano lessons. She was deeply inspired by her mother who was then lead singer in the gospel group, The Apostolic Singers. Ms. Lundy attended The University of Miami as an Opera major, but soon discovered that jazz was where her talent really shone. While working steadily in the Miami Jazz scene, she graduated with a degree in Studio Music and Jazz - one of the first singers to do so. Lundy then moved to New York City in the spring of '78 and immediately began working in jazz circles throughout the Tri-State area, and from Harlem to Greenwich Village, quickly impressing the notoriously critical jazz cognoscenti and audiences alike. Esteemed critic Gary Giddins stated (in 1983), "Jazz singing stopped regenerating itself about 20 years ago, and it's not hard to see why, so it's with some trepidation that I call your attention to an authentic young jazz singer named Carmen Lundy - she's got it all." Armed with a devoted following and critical kudos, the uncompromising Ms. Lundy continued to make waves, not just in North America, but in Asia and throughout the UK and Europe.
Currently on the Afrasia Productions label, Carmen will be releasing her 14th album on September 23, 2014. Almost two years in the making, it consists of new original songs by Lundy, and a few very special collaborations. The album features legendary artists - specialists on their respective instruments - including Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, Randy Brecker, Mayra Casales, Ada Rovatti, Warren Wolf, Bennie Maupin, harpist Carol Robbins, and Simphiwe Dana, a stunning South African vocalist and composer, among others.
“I wrote the music with specific players in mind for each respective instrument,” says Lundy. “My producer and label co-owner Elisabeth Oei encouraged me to reach out to those musicians whose music I have loved and have been inspired by; some of whom I had worked with but never recorded with. I consider these artists specialists on their instruments. These are players who bring a distinctive sound to everything they play and add another layer of individuality to my original music.”
Patrice Rushen, for example, is featured on nearly every track on “Soul To Soul” because of the deep musical connection Carmen felt with her. “I could hear her sound in my music,” says Lundy, “Patrice creates these beautiful sonic palettes from which I could soar freely through the music. This project would not be as special to me if it were not for her incredible contribution.”
Carmen’s core rhythm section members Darryl Hall and Jamison Ross, “Soul To Soul” invites the listener on an intriguing journey. Whether the source of inspiration comes from time spent in Sardinia, Italy (“Soul To Soul” and “Sardegna”) or from her hometown of Miami in the songs “Kindred Spirits” and “Grateful” – “It’s important to acknowledge and remember where you come from and all those who provide unwavering moral support” says Lundy; from the beauty of Mary Lou Williams’ “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory” - “Geri Allen and I have spent many years performing the works of this great pianist,” Lundy remarks, “I could not miss the chance to have yet another of the great pianists/composers of our time be a part of this musical journey”; to the sexy bossa nova beat of “Everything I Need”, the moods and moments of “Soul To Soul” are genre-bending and traverse many borders, both literally and figuratively.
Of special note is the story of the track “Grace,” the result of a meeting with South African vocalist Simphiwe Dana. At the time of the meeting – which coincided with tour dates Lundy and Dana had in Johannesburg and Los Angeles – Lundy was in the process of writing the song on guitar and had been haunted by it for months. She then played the track for Dana who immediately began to sing the melody in her native tongue, and whose contribution to the track on the CD adds yet another dimension to the journey of “Soul To Soul.”
The highly regarded 2012 release “Changes” (Afrasia Productions) is on several ‘Top 10 Albums of 2012’ lists, and continues to garner both critical and popular acclaim. Said James Nadal of All About Jazz, “With her release of Changes, veteran singer Carmen Lundy rises to that proverbial summit to enjoy the rarefied air of the chosen few.”
Grammy Winner for Best Jazz Vocal Album of 2011 - Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project - features the Carmen Lundy composition “Show Me A Sign”, with Ms. Lundy’s original performance from the album “Solamente” reinvented on the arrangement.
Carmen has had several Top Ten albums on JazzWeek (“Jazz and the New Songbook-Live at The Madrid”, “Come Home”, and “Changes”) and a #3 spot on Billboard’s Jazz Chart for 23 weeks with her debut album “Good Morning Kiss”. Among her other awards and recognitions, especially rewarding was Miami-Dade's County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners proclaiming January 25th "Carmen Lundy Day”, along with handing Ms. Lundy the keys to the City of Miami.
Having recorded more than thirteen albums as a leader, Carmen’s far-reaching discography also includes performances and recordings with such musicians as brother and bassist Curtis Lundy, Ray Barretto, Kenny Barron, Bruce Hornsby, Mulgrew Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kip Hanrahan, Courtney Pine, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, Marian McPartland, Regina Carter, Steve Turre, Geri Allen, Robert Glasper, Patrice Rushen and the late Kenny Kirkland. Ms. Lundy’s 2005 release, the hugely successful “Jazz and The New Songbook-Live at The Madrid”, features some of the jazz world’s best known musicians paying tribute to Ms. Lundy.
Carmen Lundy’s work as a vocalist and composer has been critically acclaimed by The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Washington Post, Jazz Times, Jazziz, Downbeat and Vanity Fair among many others, as well as numerous foreign publications. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times writes “Carmen Lundy, as beautiful inside as out, has accomplished the near impossible for a jazz singer by maintaining a solid, successful, three-decade career while focusing largely on original, self-penned material.” And Don Heckman of The Los Angeles Times – “Carmen Lundy shows off her own, mature songbook. Her performance was the product of talent that has ripened fully. Lundy’s far-ranging, fluidly mobile voice roved through and around the melodies, and her innate sense of theatricality illuminated every layer of drama in her story-driven songs.”
As a composer, Ms. Lundy’s catalogue numbers over 100 published songs, one of the few jazz vocalists in history to accomplish such a distinction, and has led to the first publication of the Carmen Lundy Songbook (2007). Her songs have been recorded by such artists as Kenny Barron ("Quiet Times"), Ernie Watts ("At The End Of My Rope"), and Straight Ahead ("Never Gonna Let You Go"). Officially endorsed by Neumann microphones, Carmen Lundy continues to compose and expand her vast catalogue.
Her own recordings consist of 1985’s “Good Morning Kiss” (CLR/Afrasia Productions), “Moment To Moment” (Arabesque/Afrasia Productions), “Night And Day” (CBS/SONY and re-issued by Afrasia in 2011), “Old Devil Moon” (JVC), “Self Portrait” (JVC), “Something To Believe In” and “This Is Carmen Lundy” (both for Justin Time), “Jazz and The New Songbook – Live at The Madrid” (2-disc set and DVD, Afrasia Productions), “Come Home” (Afrasia), “Solamente” and the 2012 release “Changes” (Afrasia Productions). Her newest recording “Soul To Soul” is almost 2 years in the making, and will be released in the Fall of 2014 on Afrasia Productions.
Teaching, too, is an important activity for Ms Lundy; she's given Master Classes in Australia, Denmark, Russia, Japan, Switzerland, New York, Washington, D.C., Northern California, Los Angeles and other cities around the world. Since its inception in 1998, Lundy has and continues to participate in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Program at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as Resident Clinician and guest artist. She has also worked with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as guest artist and clinician.
Ms. Lundy is also a gifted actress active in theatre. "Acting," as she told Dr. Billy Taylor in 2006, "helps me to get more comfortable and acquainted with the art of performance." She performed the lead role as Billie Holiday in the Off-Off Broadway play "They Were All Gardenias" by Lawrence Holder, as well as the lead role in the Broadway show, Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Ladies," and she made her television debut as the star of the CBS Pilot-Special "Shangri-La Plaza" in the role of Geneva, after which she relocated to Los Angeles, where she currently resides.
In addition to her recordings, Carmen Lundy has also composed and arranged for the Sonoton Music Library, the largest independent production music library in the world. Her music has been featured on such TV shows as “Mad Men”, “The L Word”, “Boardwalk Empire”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “Baby Story”, and many others; as well as Feature Films and Documentaries including “9/11 – A Remembrance”.
Carmen Lundy is also a celebrated mixed media artist and painter, and her works have been exhibited in New York at The Jazz Gallery in Soho, at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, and at a month-long exhibition at the Madrid Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. www.carmenlundy.com
Special thank you to Chip Schutzman at Miles High Productions for collaborating with us and making this interview possible.
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