Primary Instrument: Vocal
Jazz Vocalist extraordinaire, artist and teacher Betty Shirley has come full circle in her life and is now reaping the benefits of her hard-earned endeavors. The Times Picayune declares “…her range and command of the stage make Shirley’s a voice that should be heard round the world.”
Blessed with all the range and tonal control one might expect from a first-class Jazz singer, Shirley can scat, propel, coax and hang on to a note. She improvises with unerring instincts and delivers exactly what a song needs, spinning notes like silk. Michael ‘Mr. Jazz’ Gourrier (of WRIR-FM, Richmond Virginia) says about Betty, “One of the top female vocalists on the New Orleans scene. sensitive, sassy, coy and a great interpreter.”
Betty Shirley says, “most of my singing is a natural expression, the voice is an instrument and to be able to sing illuminates the entire world, it has given me a chance to express my sincere devotion to this music.” Shirley’s extensive repertoire ranges from original compositions, Jazz (modern and traditional), and Blues to R&B, and Bossa Nova. Lucy Galliher, Musician and former East Coast Editor - Jazz Now Magazine writes “… her songs are alive, mixing vocalizing, talking and scanting into a wonderful blend of colors…”
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Shirley spent her childhood in Chicago, and “ran off” to study music and art in New York City at the age of 16. Betty Shirley honed her skills on the New York scene making use of Jazz Mobile, and performing in such clubs as Birdland, Green Street Café and the Village Gate. In the early 1990’s she followed her muse and settled in the great Jazz city of New Orleans where she has continued to perform at such clubs as Snug Harbor, Royal Sonesta and Donna’s.
She has sung with some of the best Jazz musicians in the world: Ellis Marsalis, Art Blakey Jr., Benny Green and Bross Townsend, to name a few and her tours have included Europe and Brazil. Her credits include the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Pensacola Jazz Festival, Essence Fest and the Women in Jazz Series.
Betty Shirley most recent award was being named and honored as a 2007 Jazz All-star by New Orleans Magazine. Her other awards received included Best Jazz Vocalist, Gambit Magazine's Big Easy Awards and Duke Ellington Concerts Award.
As a recording artist, Shirley has 3 critically acclaimed CDs to her credit as a leader. Unveiled (1995), Betty Shirley Sings (with the Chuck Chaplin Trio, 2002), and Close Your Eyes (released March 2007). Unveiled was described by Offbeat Magazine as “ not another album of tired standards. Shirley works the songs into new forms and lets them fly into unaccustomed orbits.” Her latest work “Close Your Eyes,” was completed just at the time Hurricane Katrina was rolling in. Other collaborations include working with pianist Betty List to write the lyrics for the song Jazz Waltz that appears on the CD Unveiled.
“… rich, husky voice can take on the melodic meandering of Billie Holiday or the passionate power of a Sarah Vaughn” - Lagniappe, The Times Picayune
“One of the top female vocalists on the New Orleans scene sensitive, sassy, coy and a great interpreter.” -Michael ‘Mr. Jazz’ Gourrier of WRIR-FM, Richmond Virginia
“… Her songs are alive, mixing vocalizing, talking and scanting into a wonderful blend of colors…” - Notes from the Apple By Lucy Galliher, Musician and former East Coast Editor - Jazz Now Magazine
“…her range and command of the stage make Shirley’s a voice that should be heard round the world’ - Lagniappe, The Times Picayune
“If the festival had a surprise artist, it’s Shirley. With her stunningly beautiful honey toned voice, she offered a glowing set of smooth straight-ahead jazz” - Clearwater Times
Close Your Eyes
Personnel: Betty Shirley: vocals
Richard Moten: bass #1-14; Kirk Branch: piano #3-6, 8, 10-14; Karl Budo: drums #3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12; Wayne Mereau: drums #1, 2, 7, 9; Chuck Chaplan: piano #1, 2, 7, 9; Percy Williams: percussion #1, 2, 7, 9; Matthew Freaky: guitar # 1, 2, 7, 9; Herman LeBeaux: drums #11, 13, 14
Betty Shirley Sings (with the Chuck Chaplin Trio
Personnel: Betty Shirley: vocals with The Chuck Chaplin Trio
Personnel: Betty Shirley: vocals
Lawrence Sieberth: piano, synthesizer; John Vidacovich: percussion; Bill Huntington: bass
Eric Taub: sax #1, 3, 4, 9, 12; Jamil Sharif: trumpet #1, 4, 10; Steve Masakowski: guitar #5, 8; Matt Perrine: tuba #4; Mark Mullins: trombone #4; Wendell Tilly: slide guitar #5; guitar #12; Hector Gallardo: percussion #8
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