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Nnenna Freelon


Six-time GRAMMY® Award-nominee Nnenna Freelon has earned a well-deserved reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer. In 2009, Nnenna Freelon triumphed in two productions: first, Freelon paired 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 a third stunning turn, this time with The World Famous Count Basie Orchestra to celebrate their new Mack Avenue recording on which she can be heard.

Most recently, Freelon could be heard returning to television: the Emmy-Award winning show Mad Men featured Freelon’s voice on their Oct. 11, 2009 episode and Freelon made a touching appearance with trumpet-legend Clark Terry on In Performance At The White House to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. 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.

Concord Records released two Freelon-centered recordings in 2008, 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.

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.

Born and raised in Cambridge, MA, educated in Boston at Simmons College, Freelon grew up on the sounds of music in the church and of jazz, especially big band music, courtesy of her father. Recently Freelon has teamed up with the World Famous Count Basie Orchestra, creating new music, new arrangements, and a new standard of big band vocalizing founded on musical genius, sensitive melodic renderings, and powerhouse swing. Freelon tips her hat to the fantastic vocalists who have performed with the orchestra, including Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn, adding to the scintillating Basie sounds in the new material designed and arranged for her unique style.

Freelon is renowned leader in the education and healthcare fields, has served as National Spokesperson for Partners in Education, and conducts workshops, clinics, and master classes. Her workshops, from “Sound Sculpture” to the groundbreaking “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 Freelon’s educational activities. The messages in Freelon’s activities go far beyond technique; they reach into the very soul of the person listening and encourage, in fact motivate, them toward constructive change and the creation of positive energy.

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