Primary Instrument: Vocal
Sandra Booker - Jazz vocalist
Sandra Booker is undoubtedly one of the new masters in the jazz genre. Highly respected for her virtuosic scat ability, impeccable timing, crystalline tone and bold musical individuality, Booker is in a league of her own. A native of the world’s greatest jazz city New Orleans, she sings in a style reminiscent of one who speaks in a native tongue revealing her deep Southern roots in jazz as well as gospel (Negro spirituals), rhythm and blues and Caribbean and Brazilian influences while demonstrating her classical training through precise intonation and uncompromising technical agility.
She has collaborated and performed with some of the great veterans and emerging stars of jazz including Billy Higgins, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Lalo Schifrin, WDR Big Band, Nils Landgren, Harry Connick, Jr., Mike Melvoin, Billy Mitchell, Willie Jones, III, Phil Upchurch, Ernie Watts, Barbara Morrison, Gerald Wiggins, Thania Sanz, Black Note, Patrice Rushen, Tamir Hendelman, John Leftwich, Wolfgang Haffner, Dan Lutz, Dale Fielder, Roberto Miranda, Larry Koonse, Pepesito Reyes and Ryan Cross.
As a little girl in New Orleans, growing up near the corner of St. Roch and Florida avenues, Sandra Booker sang whenever storms passed. Her grandmother and other family members took comfort in her voice. After graduating from Warren Easton High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Booker moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a jazz vocalist. The daughter of a longshoreman dad, who died when she was young, and a pre-school teacher mom, Booker cultivated eclectic musical tastes early on. She was among the few students at Warren Easton in the early 1980s with an active interest in opera, the symphony and polka. Her NOCCA classmates included Harry Connick Jr. and Delfeayo Marsalis. I was focused on being a classical singer, she said. But once I got turned on to jazz as a performer and not just a listener, I was hooked.
A student of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA), she received the 2005-2006 John P. Herrick and Julian “Cannonball” Adderly Memorial Scholarships and the 2006-2007 John Densmore Music Scholarship. In 2005, as a member of Team Vico, a non-profit organization that produces musical recordings for children with autism; they received a Los Angeles Music Award for Best Children’s Album. Booker’s voice has been featured on radio and television for commercial’s ranging from Coca Cola to Ralph Lauren. She is a member of the Garrett Morris (Saturday Night Live) Gumbo Creole Players comedy troupe based in Los Angeles.
Currently she is recording three new projects scheduled for release in fall 2007 for her label Jersey Boy Music that includes a Christmas CD. Booker has not limited herself solely to the performance of music for performance sake but to music as a means of promoting peace, understanding and reconciliation. In 2005, she established the Underground Jazz Movement with fellow musicians Jacques Lesure, Edwin Livingston. Dale Fielder and Thomas White to explore the historical repertoire of New Orleans’ jazz in a minimalist style (no piano) while incorporating female slave narratives and Afro-American poetry.
She is also the president of the Booker Group, parent company of When Love Happens™ that specializes in media, music and apparel to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia to legal interracial marriage and celebrate the interracial community in the United States.
She hasn't released an album of her own in more than a decade because I really didn't have anything to sing about. Katrina changed that: She's writing a musical theater piece about the 8th Ward that incorporates gospel and elements of spiritualist churches. She is currently back home in New Orleans to perform for the first time in 10 years.
Her set will feature standards from the Great American Songbook, rendered with a twist.
I regard Rodgers & Hammerstein, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins and Billy Strayhorn as my heroes. I want to keep the American songbook alive, not in the tradition of the 20th century, but in the tradition of the 21st century. I'm always looking for ways to incorporate elements of the spiritualist church, gospel and the rhythms of the Caribbean into my music, because those are the things I find exciting.
She's also inspired by her cousin James Booker. It's amazing the impact this man had on so many people. I've been researching his contributions to New Orleans music and culture. It's like learning about myself in a way.