Six-time GRAMMY® Award-nominee Nnenna Freelon has earned a well-deserved reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer. On the eve of two major project launches - The Clothesline Muse, marking Nnenna's stage-acting debut, and Georgia On My Mind: Ray Charles Tribute for a multi-week run in Las Vegas - this vivacious vocalist has been busy! Appearing at the Democratic National Convention’s Media Day on Sept. 1, 2012, Freelon continues her international reach bringing attention to two of her passions—the art of jazz and the importance of education.
“Freelon…sang with exquisite musicality and an unerring sense of swing.” – Los Angeles Time
“Freelon continues to grow and deepen as a vocalist…but still with a crystalline, impeccably tuned voice, with often imaginative, percolating, funk-based backing from her combo.” – Daily Variety
Six-time GRAMMY® Award-nominee Nnenna Freelon has earned a well-deserved reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer. Recently, Nnenna Freelon triumphed in two productions: first, with Opera Superstar Jessye Norman and the Indie phenom band The Roots in composer Laura Karpman’s undertaking of Langston Hughes’ “Ask Your Mama” at The Hollywood Bowl and, second, in SRO-shows at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival with the Duke Ellington-inspired “Dreaming The Duke” with classical star Harolyn Blackwell and pop-jazz-crossover pianist Mike Garson. The versatile songstress quickly followed that with notable turns with a featured song on TV’s # 1 cable hit Mad Men and with The World Famous Count Basie Orchestra to celebrate their new Mack Avenue recording on which she can be heard.
Freelon’s seventh Concord Records release, Homefree, is available April 2010! A mix of tunes that Freelon identifies as “feeling at home in your own skin,” Homefree bubbles with the energy and creativeness that are hallmarks of Freelon’s recordings.
With her recent TV appearance on In Performance At The White House to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, TV called again for her voice in the Emmy-winning show “Mad Men.”
That voice is to be heard on recording once again in 2010: Concord Records will release a new recording by Freelon – her first brand new recording in four years! In 2009, Freelon made a Special Guest appearance on Mack Avenue’s recording of The Count Basie Orchestra while in 2008 Concord released two Freelon-centered recordings, the first entitled “Better Than Anything: The Quintessential Nnenna Freelon” celebrating her ever-expanding appeal and artistry; and the second recording “The Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All Stars,” featuring Freelon in spectacular duets and group performances with Terrence Blanchard and James Moody.
At the 43rd annual GRAMMY Awards telecast from Los Angeles, she inspired an enthusiastic standing ovation from 20,000 music-industry insiders and celebrities when she took to the stage. Prior to that stirring appearance, Freelon’s performances for the legendary Julie Andrews at the Society of Singers’ “Ella Awards,” Variety’s The Children’s Charity (as a featured vocalist at the Stephen Sondheim Tribute at Carnegie Hall), Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and at the most famous jazz festivals around the globe have all been rousing successes. No wonder—for anyone who has heard and seen Freelon sing knows she is a skillful interpreter of even the most familiar chestnuts. This reputation has brought her another command performance: headline spot for ActionAID, the International AIDS fundraiser with Sir Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, and many others attending.
On her Grammy-nominated (for Best Jazz Vocal Performance) release, “Blueprint Of A Lady: Sketches of Billie Holiday” (2005), Freelon paid tribute to the quintessential jazz vocalist Billie Holiday. As inventive as ever, Freelon turned these Holiday-associated songs and fulfilled Billie Holiday’s message to all artists: “No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way with music or it isn’t music.” With her own band, and with Ronald K. Brown & his dance troupe EVIDENCE, Freelon turned this into a multi-media music and dance offering unlike any show previously seen! Freelon is a winner of both the Billie Holiday Award from the prestigious Academie du Jazz and the Eubie Blake Award from the Cultural Crossroads Center in New York City.
On her fifth Concord Records release, “Live” (2003), Nnenna Freelon brought all of her alluring talents to bear. The result is a beguiling and intimate achievement. Recorded at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on February 21 and 22, 2003, “Live” marked a decade-long recording career for Freelon, as well as 20-years on the road.
It has certainly been a heady decade for Freelon. In addition to six GRAMMY nominations, Freelon also made her feature film debut in the Mel Gibson hit, What Women Want, and sang a remake of Sinatra’s classic, “Fly Me To The Moon” for The Visit, starring Billy Dee Williams. She has twice been nominated for the “Lady of Soul” Soul Train Award. What’s more, Freelon has performed and toured with a veritable who’s who in jazz, from Ray Charles and Ellis Marsalis to Al Jarreau and George Benson, among many others.
Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Freelon received her undergraduate degree from Simmons College in Boston. Her parents and singing in the church gave the singer her first exposure to the arts – especially to the art of jazz. Her father’s playing Count Basie recordings and her mother’s active involvement in their church led Freelon to an appreciation of all music and she eventually pursued as a career in jazz. All the while, Freelon has cherished and held dear her two most important lifetime roles – wife and mother. Her husband Phil Freelon is an award-winning architect with his North Carolina-based firm The Freelon Group. As a mother of three, Freelon has led by example – follow your dreams, dedicate yourself, and work hard in all you do.
Freelon explored the roles of vocalist, entertainer, composer, educator, arranger, and producer. “We continue to evolve—artists have hungry minds and hearts, so we’re always working on the next thing—but I felt it was just time to stop, take a breath, and enjoy! I’ve grown a lot, both musically and spiritually, on this journey. Before, many things were ‘first’ experiences, but now I’m going back to some of the same festivals and clubs, and realizing I am happy and content where I am. It’s great to see all the awards and career milestones building up,” she admits, “but it’s even nicer to realize people are coming to the shows and saying, ‘I saw you back in ’95!’ I’ve made a lot of friends on the road.”
An accomplished singer, composer, producer, and arranger (as well as budding actress), Freelon has dedicated herself to educating young people, both musicians and non-musicians. She toured the United States for four years as the National Spokesperson for Partners In Education. Her master classes and workshops, from “Sound Sculpture” to the ground-breaking “Babysong,” teach adults and children that you too can change the world – even one person at a time – but it takes dedication and perseverance, the substance of Nnenna’s educational activities. The messages in Nnenna’s activities go far beyond technique. Her messages reach into the very soul of the person listening, encouraging and motivating them toward constructive change and the creation positive energy.
With her anthem “One Child At A Time” found on her “Soulcall” recording, Freelon took on the task of fund-raising and bringing greater attention to the needs of children in education through mentoring and the arts. It has become one of the most sought-after songs for its lyrics to its music and has been used by countless organizations including local, regional and national groups such as the United Way.
Earning consistently rave reviews from even the toughest of jazz critics and with her global fan base growing, Freelon is far from done, however. In fact, as she enters a new recording decade, one thing is certain—Nnenna Freelon is a true original!
Better Than Anything: The Quintessential Nnenna Freelon (2008 Concord)
Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All Stars (2008 Concord)
Blueprint Of A Lady: Sketches Of Billie Holiday (2005 Concord)
LIVE (2003 Concord)
Tales of Wonder (2002 Concord)
Soulcall (2001 Concord)
Maiden Voyage (1998 Concord)
Shaking Free (1996 Concord)
Listen (1994 Columbia)
Heritage (1993 Columbia)
Nnenna Freelon (1992 Columbia)
Guest Appearances And Collaborations
What Women Want (certified GOLD)
Voices Of Concord Jazz: Live At Montreaux
Church: Songs Of Soul & Inspiration (certified GOLD)
A Great Night In Harlem
NPR Jazz Christmas With Marian McPartland And Friends
A Concord Jazz Christmas 2
Nnenna Freelon, Harolyn Blackwell, and Mike Garson –Dreaming the Duke
Nnenna Freelon and Evidence –Blueprint of a Lady
Nancy Wilson, Nnenna Freelon, and Rachael Price
Nnenna Freelon and The Count Basie Orchestra
T.S. Monk – Monk On Monk
Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra feat. Lew Tabackin – Carnegie Hall Concert
Yusef Lateef – Heart Vision
Quotes and Reviews - Nnenna Freelon
"Freelon makes each song...such a personal statement that they all seem fresh and new."
The Hollywood Reporter
"...Nnenna Freelon really stood out...one of the best vocalists in jazz, wrung every emotion out of her numbers..."
"Nnenna Freelon possesses that rarest of qualities... her phrasing is original, sometimes surprising, and often sweetly eccentric."
Urban Network Magazine
"She is a scattin' ball of fire... "
The New York Times
"For creamy vocal beauty, Nnenna Frelelonâ€™s carefully wrought renditions of "I Remember" and "Children Will Listen" stood out (in the Carnegie Hall Tribute to Stephen Sondheim)."
The Washington Post
Friday, May 28, 2010
Kindred spirits: Dianne Reeves, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter
Show: Wednesday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. http:/
"Homefree" isn't always as relaxed as its title suggests, but the performances certainly radiate a lived-in quality, and for good reason. Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon is a seasoned pro when it comes to freshening classic pop tunes, and "Homefree" offers many examples of her sure-footed artistry.
The performances pose real challenges. For starters, there's a brisk, octave-leaping interpretation of "The Lamp Is Low" that somehow manages to be at once dreamy and daring. Immediately afterward Freelon turns to "West Side Story" for inspiration, imbuing "I Feel Pretty" with elements of swing, blues and drama that personalize the performance.
"The Very Thought of You," the album's most spacious and soulful interpretation, follows, warmly enhanced by tenor saxophonist Ira Wiggins. Among the contemporary twists are a rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" that features rapper Pierce Freelon, the singer's 20-year-old son, and "Cell Phone Blues," an original lament that should delight concertgoers for years to come. Yet none of these novel touches is more enjoyable than Freelon's take on "Smile," which is firmly underpinned by bassists Wayne Batchelor and John Brown.
Collaborating with longtime colleagues and recruits from her home state of North Carolina, Freelon is in excellent company throughout, obviously inspired by the colorful arrangements fashioned by drummer Kinah Ayah and others.
-- Mike Joyce
New York Times
Heading into her encore at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on Tuesday night, Nnenna Freelon gave her audience the illusion of a choice. “Are you guys feeling frisky or sentimental?” she asked. Frisky, came the reply. Well, all right, then: the band struck up a light-funk groove, and Ms. Freelon plunged into one last song, parsing lyrics with syncopation. “Dreeeaam,” she sang, “beside me. In-the-mid-night-glow. The lamp. Is low.”
She was working with “The Lamp Is Low,” a songbook standard of murmuring ardor, and the opening track of her new album, “Homefree” (Concord). Here as on the album it suggested a showpiece, scaled for attention-grabbing. Its message was sentimental but its delivery frisky, so that the general mood fell somewhere in between. Ms. Freelon was on firm footing there, projecting clearly, hitting her notes and her mark.
A jazz singer of unstinting vivacity, Ms. Freelon draws on some of the sturdier pillars of her craft — Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, even Lena Horne, to whom she dedicated a brief version of “Stormy Weather” — without resorting to outright emulation. (Her most transparent debt is to Vaughan, in the caprice of her phrasing; she also knows how to borrow the dryly suggestive intonation of Billie Holiday.) She has a strong, supple voice, and she controls it well, often stretching out a note and slowly intensifying its effect, adding tension or vibrato, before clipping it off at the end.
She did something like this a few times during Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” ending one phrase on an elongated “me,” but with her lips nearly closed, so that the word buzzed through a clenched jaw. Later she ad-libbed a phrase, “more than you know,” finishing the last syllable with her mouth contorted in a grin, so that it sounded restless and pinched. These were decisions calibrated for drama, effectively. But drama isn’t the same thing as emotional expressiveness, which Ms. Freelon manages only rarely.
Her take on “The Very Thought of You” was stately but distant. “You and the Night and the Music” involved a kind of sultry performance art, as Ms. Freelon moved her arms like a voguing hieroglyph. And “Smile,” by Charlie Chaplin, was drained of pathos, reworked into a blithe polyrhythmic romp.
Her longtime band — the pianist Brandon McCune, the bassist Wayne Batchelor, the drummer Adonis Rose and the percussionist Beverly Botsford — backed her with crisp precision, giving each arrangement small but gratifying twists. What could they really accomplish, though, with “Cell Phone Blues,” an original full of corny double-entendre (“I’m a rollover kind of mama,” “Free on nights and weekends”)?
At least that tune was frisky. “America the Beautiful,” reconceived as a modal dirge, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” featuring a walk-on by Ms. Freelon’s son, the rapper Pierce Freelon, came back-to-back in the final stretch, as on the album. They were momentum-killers, weighed down by their earnest sense of purpose. Had Ms. Freelon then included “noble” among her possible options, the crowd would have known what to do.
Photos - Nnenna Freelon
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Outreach Programs- Nnenna Freelon
In the classroom: Designed for a maximum of 25 students in a classroom setting.
Song writing 101
How do we tap our creativity? Where do discipline, self-esteem, collaboration come from,
The House of Song
Nnenna (occasionally conducted with pianist) For singers and non-singers alike, this clinic challenges the ideas of what is possible within the
framework of a song: ex
Rock Music: Teaching Geology through Music
Educational Performances: typically designed for 100 or more students in small or large auditorium setting.
Concert with Conversation
The Art of Accompaniment
Special presentation: Speaking Engagements and Lectures
Nnenna and Phil Freelon
What do music and architecture have in common? Phil and Nnenna Freelon, husband and wife, explore the creative process and its role
in how we take vision and make it reality. They discuss and off er their views on collaborations, design, and inspiration in creating.
Creativity and Family
How does creativity affect the family and relationships? Phil and Nnenna Freelon share the milestones in their journey together in raising
a family and growing their careers, navigating the waters of life in art and business. Part-motivation, part-inspiration, this presentation shows the
humor, dedication, and perseverance that help construct a desired life.
Living Your Improvisational Life
Residency: Single to multi-day residencies
I am the Song: Songwriting (middle school - adult)
Be Bop to Hip Hop
No Business Like Show Business!
Special Projects - Nnenna Freelon
In the traditions of great collaborations, including those such as Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass; Nnenna and Earl will perform in a duo format, sharing the stage to lay bare the most beautiful and timeless lyrics and melodies from the past and present.
Celebrating the music of Ray Charles, featuring Take 6, Nnenna Freelon, Clint Holmes, and Kirk Whalum.
Blueprint of a Lady
Nnenna Freelon, with Ronald K. Brown and EVIDENCE (dance company) and Romare Bearden, brings to light the most unique celebration and collaboration of Billie Holiday's music, life and legacy. A story of truiumph and redemption, the lady's music echoes through time in Freelon's interpretations capturing holiday's heart and spirit in body, mind, and music!!
To Ella Fitzgerald and Nelson Riddle
With Mike Berkowitz conducting, Nnenna performs the charts Nelson Riddle wrote for Ella and brings the touching, expressive joy and magic to thiis Symphony Celebration!
From her own hit 'If I Had You' in the feature film "What Women Want" to 'Bridges' by Milton Nascimento, Nnenna Freelon takes the symphony audience on a tour around the world by way of the Great American and through the Great International composers!
More Info About Nnenna Freelon
Concord Music Group
68-39 Harrow Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Phone: 718 459 2117 Fax: 718 459 2133 Email: Mike.Wilpizeski@concordmusicgroup.com
Ed Keane Associates
1140 Saratoga St
Boston, MA 02128
Phone: 617-846-0067 Email: email@example.com
Concord Music Group
Phone: (310) 385-4455 Website
Awards - Nnenna Freelon
2010 Women of Substance Award
Bennett College for Women
2007 Spirit of Hayti Award
For significant contribution to the arts and eduction.
2005 Grammy Award Nominee
Best Jazz Vocal Performance - "Blueprint of a Lady"
2004 Women of Note
2003 Outstanding Artistry
"Airmen of Note", United States Air Force Band
2000 Grammy Award Nominee
Best Jazz Vocal Performance - "Soulcall"
2000 Grammy Award Nominee
Best Jazz Arrangement with Accompanying Vocal - "Soulcall"
2001 Trailblazer Award
International Women in Jazz
2001 California Partner's in Education Award
2001 Walter J. Norflett Artist of the Year
Durham Council for the Arts
2001 Artist Award
National Inventor's Hall of Fame
1998 Grammy Award Nominee
Best Jazz Vocal Performance - "Maiden Voyage"
1996 Lady of Soul Nominee
Soul Train Awards
1999 Honoray Doctor of Music
Elizabeth City State University
1996 Grammy Award Nominee
Best Jazz Vocal Performance - "Shaking Free"
1996 Lady of Soul Nominee
Soul Train Awards
1993 Best Jazz Vocal
1993 Billie Holiday Award
Academie du Jazz (France)
1993 Eubie Black Award
Culturual Crossroads Center
1992 Grammy Award Nominee
Best Jazz Arrangement with Accompanying Vocal - "Nnenna Freelon"