Born: December 29 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Her voice is smoky with a tart twist of lemon. Her style has been described as both recognizably traditional yet unmistakably contemporary, as she puts her personal stamp on a smart repertoire that spans over nine decades. “Scratch her witty tough-girl-from Jersey patter,” wrote The Washington Post, “and you’ll find a sensitive artist (but not frail) with a wide-ranging boldly colored voice and an open ear for off-beat material.”
MARY FOSTER CONKLIN has appeared in theatres, jazz clubs, cabarets and even fire escapes in the metropolitan New York area and throughout the United States and Canada. A New Jersey native who came to New York to pursue theatre work, her transformation from actor to jazz singer began when she joined drummer/composer Art Lillard’s 15-piece Heavenly Band and her song selections naturally shifted from show tunes to blues, Latin and bebop. As a leader, her sets are a mix of contemporary material and standards, with an emphasis on the lesser known treasures of the Great American Songbook. In New York, Conklin’s talents have earned her a place on the stages of The Blue Note, The Iridium, Nuyorican Poets Café, Sweet Rhythm, The Metropolitan Room and the Triad Theatre. She can also be seen from time to time singing off various fire escapes as The Lady in the Red Dress with the Renegade Cabaret.
On the West Coast she has performed in San Francisco at The Plush Room, as well as the In House Jazz Series, The Vic, the Gardenia and the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. She has appeared in Chicago at the Cultural Center and in Florida at the Royal Room. Ms. Conklin was awarded the 2010 MAC Award for Jazz Vocalist by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, and has been praised by The New York Times as “a highly creative singer whose style blends cabaret and jazz so thoroughly as to defy any easy categorization.” Her debut CD, Crazy Eyes, was listed as one of the ten best CDs of 1998 by In Theatre Magazine, and won the 1999 Bistro Award presented by Backstage Magazine for Outstanding Recording. Her second recording, You’d Be Paradise, was released in September 2001 to critical acclaim, worldwide airplay and was a jazz bestseller for two years on www.CDBaby.com.
Several years ago, what began as a simple quest for some lesser known Matt Dennis material (she recorded “Everything Happens to Me” on her second CD) quickly became an all-out obsession. She began her search at the Library of Congress, then teamed up with Los Angeles singer/songwriter Mark Winkler to present a bi-coastal tribute to the music of Matt Dennis and Bobby Troup. Her latest recording, Blues For Breakfast - Remembering Matt Dennis (Rhombus Records) is a collection of songs by the late Matt Dennis, best known for his hits “Angel Eyes” and “Violets for your Furs”. The award winning CD has been hailed by the press as ”delightfully dramatic” (Jazz Times) “a work of art and heart” (powerlineblog.com), and “an overdue reminder of the honored place of Matt Dennis in American music” (Jazz Society of Oregon). She can also be heard on Art Lillard’s latest recording “Reasons to Be Thankful”, on Summit Records.