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Barbara Lea

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Born: April 10, 1929    Primary Instrument: Vocalist

Barbara Lea was born Barbara Ann Le Cocq in Detroit, Michigan, on April 10, 1929. Her family moved to the suburb of Melvindale in 1932. Times were bleak in the 1930s and she had her first job at the age of 7 delivering newspapers. She also took piano and tap dancing lessons. She went to public schools in Melvindale and in Detroit when the family moved back in 1940, and then later attended high school at Kingswood School Cranbrook.

Barbara's whole family was musical and there were always pianos and ukuleles in the house, which everyone took turns playing. Her father had been a clarinetist; her brother played trumpet and harmonica. The family entertainment was gathering around the piano and singing while her mother played. By the age of 6 or 7, she had decided on a career as a singer....
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Awards:

1956 Best New Singer DownBeat International Critics' Poll

2009 Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award

”Twenty years ago a very promising young singer named Barbara Lea, who reminded some listeners of Lee Wiley, was beginning to make an impression on records and in clubs such as the Village Vanguard. But suddenly nothing more was heard of her-- because, it now turns out, she began studying acting to improve her presence as a singer and, through this, went into the theatre. Two decades have changed Miss Lea from a demure, sweet-faced college girl fresh out of Wellesley to a mature, assured, strong-featured woman. And her voice has grown to match her appearance. There are still echoes of Lee Wiley when Miss Lea sings, but her voice has acquired a depth, a deep velvet sound in her chest tones that carries smoothly into the upper register, enabling her to color her songs with exquisite shading and dynamics. Along with this, she has a jazz singer's ability to lift a dull song, to kick it into life after she has given it the obligatory straight first chorus. She almost invariably succeeds but her full qualities-- her easy range, her polish, her sensitive phrasing, the power she can call on-- flow brilliantly. There are some things that have to wait for their proper time. Miss Lea's singing seems to be such a thing and the time, finally, is now. She has become the exemplification of what most singers hope they will sound like but rarely do.” --John S. Wilson, New York Times, August 16, 1975

Barbara Lea has no superior among popular singers. -- Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker

Out of all the performers to be seen in New York clubs this weekend, none is more artistically distinguished than Barbara Lea...The foremost custodian of an easygoing jazz vocal style... One of the great jazz singers of our time... -- Stephen Holden, New York Times

Which brings us to the sublime vocalist, Miss Barbara Lea. A jazz singer in the grand tradition, she would be at home in any era, with any jazz group. Specializing in superior show tunes, she was effective in any setting that she was involved in during the weekend. -- Bill Garts, Meadville Tribune

A singer does not arrive easily at that stage in a career when she can be said to hold court during her nightclub appearances. Mabel Mercer was a prime example of one who did, and Barbara Lea, even without Miss Mercer's regal bearing, has developed that rare aura. -- John S. Wilson, New York Times

Lea was just short of astonishing. Closing a medley of songs from Porter's 1935 Broadway hit Jubilee with “Begin the Beguine,” she treated the tune to a novel reinterpretation by taking to heart its lyrics about romantic chances wasted and singing them with genuine feeling. ..The performance forced you to reconsider the virtues of a song you thought you'd have been perfectly happy never to hear again. -- Francis Davis, Philadelphia Inquirer

Aside from the sheer enjoyment of listening to superb music expertly executed, ...Barbara Lea can teach you more about music and about singing a song in one hour than you'll get out of a year of voice lessons. -- Bob Harrington, BackStage

Lea's voice and delivery, her beautiful intonation and interpretations are unsurpassed. Captivating... -- Phil Elwood, San Francisco Examiner

Barbara Lea is that rarity in this day and age, a singer whose voice is a musical instrument, whose reading of a lyric makes complete sense, who knows how to phrase and shade, has style, charm, and the ability to evoke the opulent glamour of a night on the town with caviar and champagne. -- Mike Butcher, Melody Maker, London

Barbara Lea, one of our finest singers, is simply superb in her rendering of the classics... a great actress... -- Bob Goodman, Cab Magazine

...her gift for understatement, her ability to invest a song with a subliminal jazz flavor while avoiding the trap ofbending it out of shape... She can sing “I Got Rhythm” as if she were unaware that it is not supposed to be a ballad, nor is it customary to whistle, as she did, an ad-lib solo in the second chorus... -- Leonard Feather, L.A. Times

She's terrific... a fine singer, with good intonation and excellent diction. She takes liberties with time and phrasing, but never to the detriment of the words. Even by cabaret singer standards, Lea has an amazing talent for seeking out fine songs, most from the '30s through '50s, with exceptional lyrics. -- Todd Everett, L.A. Herald

Her voice is mature without ever seeming old; it has strength, with a touch of fragile huskiness that adds humanity. She brings understanding and emotion to her material, but always with a subtle touch. -- On Stage

The glow on the New York cabaret scene seems to be especially bright these days... Lea is often classified as a jazz singer... While she has a jazz musician's understanding of and appreciation for music, her renditions are uncommonly direct and pure... with sensitivity, intelligence, and an artistry that is so commanding there is a majesty about it. -- Roy Sander, Back Stage

...quite different, quite special vocal gifts... a striking ability to make lyrics sound immediate... thoroughly inimitable... -- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review

Her voice has grown steadily in depth and resonance, and her timing and diction are flawless. She works by hand, and she is a masterly craftsman. -- Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker

As a Leader

A Woman In Love
Audiophile/Riverside
1955
Tracks:
Personnel: Johnny Windhurst: trumpet; Jimmy Shirley: guitar; Earl May: bass; Percy Brice: drums; Barbara Lea: vocals


Barbara Lea
Fantasy/Prestige
1956
Tracks:
Personnel: Dick Cary: alto horn; Johnny Windhurst: trumpet; Al Casamenti: guitar; Al Hall: bass; Dick Hyman: piano; Osie Johnson: drums; Barbara Lea: vocals


Lea In Love
Prestige
1957
Tracks:
Personnel: Dick Cary: alto horn,piano ; Ernie Caceres: clarinet, bari sax; Garvin Bushell: oboe, bassoon; Adele Girard: harp; Johnny Windhurst: trumpet; Jimmy Raney, Al Casamenti: guitar; Beverly Peer, Al Hall: bass; Jimmy Lyon: celeste, piano; Osie Johnson: drums; Barbara Lea: vocals


The Devil Is Afraid Of Music
Audiophile
1977
Tracks:
Personnel: Bob Mitchell: clarinet; Mel Alexander: bass; Loonis McGlohon: piano; Tony Cooper: drums; Barbara Lea: vocals.


Remembering Lee Wiley
Audiophile
1978
Tracks:
Personnel: Bob Mitchell: clarinet; Mel Alexander: bass; Loonis McGlohon: piano; Tony Cooper: drums; Barbara Lea: vocals.


Hoagy's Children
Audiophile
1981
Tracks:
Personnel: Richard Sudlater: cornet; Art Baker: reeds; Jay Leonhart: bass; Bob Dorough: piano; Ronnie Bedford: drums; Barbara Lea: vocals.


Do It Again
Audiophile
1983
Tracks:
Personnel: Billy Butterfield: trumpet; Tommy Cecil: bass; Vic Dickenson: trombone; Larry Eanet: piano; Steve Novosel: bass; Johnny Mince: clarinet; Wayne Wright: guitar; Barbara Lea: vocals.


You're the Cats!
Audiophile
1989
Tracks:
Personnel: Yank Lawson: trumpet; Jake Hanna: drums; George Masso: trombone; John Bunch: piano; Bob Haggart: bass; Kenny Davern: clarinet; Al Klink: tenor sax; Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; Barbara Lea: vocals.


Sweet and Slow
Audiophile
1990
Tracks:
Personnel: Yank Lawson: trumpet; Jake Hanna: drums; George Masso: trombone; John Bunch: piano; Bob Haggart: bass; Joe Muranyi: clarinet; Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; Barbara Lea: vocals.


At the Atlanta Jazz Party
Jazzology
1994
Tracks:
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Ed Polcer: cornet; Marty Grosz: guitar, Bob Haggart: bass; Allan Vache: clarinet; Ken Peplowski: tenor sax; Bob Havens: trombone; Johnny Varro: piano; Joe Ascione and Brooks Tegler: drums.


Fine and Dandy
Challenge
1996
Tracks:
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Keith Ingham: piano.


Barbara Lea and Keith Ingham Are Mad About the Boy: The Songs of Noel of Coward
Challenge
2000
Tracks:
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Keith Ingham: piano.


The Melody Lingers On
Barbara Lea
2002
Tracks:
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Boots Maleson: bass; Wes McAfee: piano; Dave Ratajczak: drums


Our Love Rolls On
Thpops
2004
Tracks:
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Saadi Zain: bass; Wes McAfee: piano


Celebrate Vincent Youmans
Challenge
2004
Tracks:
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Greg Cohen: bass; Keith Inghams: piano; James Chirillo: guitar.

Deep in a Dream
Cape Song
2005
Tracks:
Personnel: Jon-Erik Kellso : trumpet; Dick Miller: piano; Barbara Lea: vocals.


Black Butterfly
Self Published
2006
Tracks: Black Butterfly; Together; Bend A Little My Way; Restless; My Foolish Heart; How Will I Remember You; It's So Peaceful in the Country; Blame It On My Youth; When They Ask About You; 'Round Midnight; All By Myself; Blackberry Winter; If I Love Again; Mother May I Go Out to Swim; Just Squeeze Me; I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart; Come Rain or Come Shine.
Personnel: Barbara Lea: vocals; Seneca Black, Irv Grossman, Brian Pareschi, Randy Sandke, John Eckert: trumpet; Mike Christianson, Eddie Bert, Bobby Pring, Brent Wallarab: trombone; Jack Stuckey: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Jon Gordon: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Chris Madsen: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Mark Lopeman: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute;Loren Schoenberg: tenor saxophone and piano; Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Steve Ash: piano; James Chirillo: guitar; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.

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