True Blue Jazz First Thursdays kick off with Denise King

May 25, 2023

International recording and touring artist Denise King will kick off the True Blue Jazz First Thursdays series at 7 p.m., June 1, at Nassau Valley Vineyards, Lewes.

True Blue Jazz organizers are delighted to bring back this dear friend to their bandstand just before she departs for her summer European tour.

Years ago, a shy girl from Philadelphia was sweeping her front stoop one day and sweetly singing "Summertime” when a guitarist/writer from Philadelphia International Records walked by and heard her. He was so impressed that he auditioned and hired her, and the rest is history. That was the beginning of a singing career that would wow people in Brazil, France, Africa, Japan, Turkey and numerous other places around the world.

Though King had no formal vocal instruction, it’s apparent that she was born to sing. At age 12, she was introduced to jazz by an uncle who had an extensive collection of LP jazz records. Her studies involved hours of listening to the jazz greats, both vocalists and instrumentalists. King borrowed phrasing styles from Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. She gained an appreciation for lyrics from Lil Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McCrae and Nina Simone. The early gigs were difficult because she was painfully stage shy.

But with the help of Sam Reed, sax man and leader of the legendary Uptown Theater Orchestra, King overcame her stage fright. Her early experiences involved sharing the stage with legends including Butch Ballard, Arthur Harper, Sam Dougherty, Cecil Payne, Jymie Merritt, Bootsie Barnes and Lex Humphries. They taught her the importance of having something to say every time she stepped up to the microphone.

King is a passionate singer who has a way of pulling audiences into her performances. Listening to her warm tones, impeccable phrasing and the absolute control she has of her voice is mesmerizing. A keeper of the flame, she holds the preservation and presentation of the traditional style of jazz singing close to her heart. With no gimmicks and no pyrotechnics, she maintains an intense focus on the melody and the lyrical content. It is this philosophy that finds her in Paris, Italy, Israel, Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, Dubai and all points in between, acting as ambassador for the nostalgic sounds of jazz.

Master pianist Aaron Graves will join King as her musical director. Philly jazz royalty personified, Graves is a celebrated artist. Renowned as pianist, composer, arranger, conductor and bandleader, his work has spanned concert halls, Broadway, film and television scores, and performance venues across the U.S. and internationally. Graves will be joined by a stellar ensemble of Philadelphia jazz musicians: Nimrod Speaks on bass, Khary Shaheed on drums and Bill Murray on sax.

Tickets are $30. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for drinks and dinner service. A la carte dinner is available from Mermaid’s Kitchen. 

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