Born: September 20, 1950 Primary Instrument: Vocal
E. J. Decker grew up the youngest in a musical household: his mother played piano; his father was a big band singer who sang briefly with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. His dad often played Big Band records at home, teaching E. J. the unique qualities of the various bands, and how they swung.
He also taught his number-three son how to sing at an early age. At the same time, E. J.'s older brothers were playing '50s and '60s rock, R&B and jazz without stop. In his teens, E. J. caught many of the great artists playing live in New York area clubs and concerts: Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Brown, Jr., Jimmy Smith, Alberta Hunter, Leon Russell, Richie Havens, Tom Rush, the original Dave Brubeck Qrt., Genya Ravan, Tom Paxton, the Jefferson Airplane and Sammy Davis, Jr. He learned much from all of them, stole much from most of them--and began finding his own voice.
E. J. sang lead in rock bands and R&B groups for many years, and spent others on the folk music circuit, playing festivals ballrooms and cafés along the West Coast. During these years, he also acted often in theater and on television, appearing regularly during the 1980s on NBC's now-departed soap opera, Texas.
Back in New York, E. J. came home to his father's music, mixing it with the sounds he'd heard along the way. There, that lush baritone voice serves him well. E. J. glides easily from jazz through standards to rock to folk to '50s R&B and blues--he may well be the strongest, purest male interpreter of ballads of this generation--all while maintaining a consistency of sound and feel that marks it immediately as an E. J. Decker piece.
Reviewers and fans alike maintain, he definitely has his own sound. Given his background and approach, it's no surprise that E. J.'s style was once described as biker Gershwin.
Over the years, E. J. has had the good fortune to sing with such great players as Randy Sandke, David Lahm, Manny Duran, Dena DeRose, Bob Kindred, Joe Vincent Tranchina, Ratzo B. Harris, Eric Lewis, Dave Hofstra, Dena DeRose, Eric McPherson, Peggy Stern, Les Kurtz, Sean Smith, and the late Terri Thornton, among many others.
His songwriting skills stand to the fore as well, as seen in his beautiful composition, (We're) Strangers Now, which appears on his While The City Sleeps... album.
Recently, E. J. fronted a nonet for the Jersey Jazz Giants Tribute concert, honoring New Jersey natives Count Basie, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. E. J. has sung in most of the jazz venues of New York, including: both the uptown and midtown Birdlands, J's, The Garage, Creole, The Cornelia St. Cafe, Cleopatra's Needle, The Squire, The Triad, Enzo's Jazz, The Savoy, The Bacchus Room, Chez Suzette, The Redeye Grill, Sweet Rhythm and Zinno's, among others. He is also one of the very few vocalists ever to be booked into that legendarily singer-averse Columbia Univ.-area jazz haunt, Augie's--which now lives on as the jazz club, Smoke.
E. J. is a member of Actors' Equity Association and is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
E. J. served as president of the New York Chapter of The Jazz Vocal Coalition--a national organization, centered in Los Angeles--that during its five-year lifespan had a clear impact on raising the visibility and profile of singers, both within the jazz community, and within the music industry overall.
Since 2005, E. J. has both produced and sung in The Heart of Jazz--a part of The September Concert for 9/11 (below)--where different numbers of jazz musicians, now totaling 120, have gathered on September 11th each of the last three years, to play their emotions about the attack on the World Trade Center and its aftermath here in NYC.
Begun in 2002, and held each year since, The September Concert is a non-profit organization which commemorates the horror visited upon New York City on September 11, 2001 by placing free music that day each year in parks, shops, office buildings, clubs and restaurants across New York's five boroughs. It brings together every genre imaginable, including amateurs and professionals, both to honor those we've lost and to celebrate Life and our shared Humanity, by utilizing the full healing properties of music.
This year's event will be held in two parts: The Twilight program (featuring 20 top artists) at The Sugar Bar (on W. 72nd St., bet. Bdwy & West End Ave., NYC) from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm, and The Evening program (which features over 30 top musicians) at Creole (on Third Ave., cor. of E. 118th St., NYC) from 8:00 pm until midnight. Both programs, in keeping with the traditions of The September Concert, are free, so there is no cover for either program.
**** 4 stars / ... a strong voice touched by that of Billy Eckstine
His presentation is lush, and his songs have a tinge of brash elegance. Decker has a way of presenting his tunes using dynamic flair, and he commands attention through his direct and forceful delivery. He seems to prefer singing lesser-exposed standards, and he displays a bold stroke of authority on each of them ... a solid entertainer.
Craig Turner, WPNE 89.3 FM:
... right from the first song, title cut, I knew I had a winner in my hands ... After repeated listens, I put this CD in the 'must have' category. It is one of those CDs that always puts you in a good mood.
Jazz Improv Magazine:
One is first struck by Mr. Decker's rich baritone voice ... His tone is resonant, his articulation immaculate. Mr. Decker's vocal inflection shows a clear understanding of the lyrics for each of his selections ... Similarly, he evidences a rich and far-reaching vocabulary of jazz and jazz influences. It is obvious, from the tune selection upward, that Mr. Decker is aware of the roots of this idiom.
While The City Sleeps...
Tracks: While The City Sleeps; Magnet; Tenderly; It's Just A Matter of Tine; (We're) Strangers Now; Since I Met You Baby; How To Handle A Woman; Anything You Wanna Do (I Wanna Do With You); Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?; I Could Have Told You; Sea Cruise; You Don't Know Me.
E. J. Decker: Vocals, producer, arranger
Randy Sandke: Trumpet
Bob Kindred: Tenor Sax
Les Kurtz: Piano
Dave Hofstra: Bass
Tom Melito: Drums
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