When people ask me about my music and how I got started, I tell them that my singing career really started by accident. Music was never something that I planned to do or something that I picked. It just happened. After all that I've experienced, and all of the wonderful people that I've met, I don't think I would trade this gig for any other in the world.
One day a shy girl from Philadelphia, PA, was sweeping her front stoop and sweetly singing Summertime” when a guitarist/writer from Philadelphia International Records walked by and heard her singing. He was so impressed by what he heard that he auditioned her, hired her and the rest is history. That was the beginning of a singing career that would WOW people in Brazil, France, Africa, Japan, Turkey, and other places around the world.
With no formal vocal instruction, it’s apparent that she was born to sing. She was introduced to Jazz at age twelve by an uncle who had an extensive collection of Jazz LP's. Her studies involved hours of listening to the Jazz greats, both vocalists and instrumentalists. Denise borrowed phrasing styles from Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. She gained an appreciation for lyrics from Lil Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McCrae and Nina Simone. The early gigs were difficult in that she was painfully stage shy.
But with the help of Sam Reed, sax man and leader of the legendary Uptown Theater Orchestra she overcame her stage fright. Her early experiences involved sharing the stage with many legends, Butch Ballard, Arthur Harper, Sam Dougherty, Cecil Payne, Jymie Merritt, Bootsie Barnes, Lex Humphries and many, many more. They taught her the importance of having something to say every time she stepped up to the microphone. Their instruction paid off. While performing at Zanzibar Blue in Philly, Denise met Dexter Wansel, writer, producer, which opened the door to many recording experiences at Philly International Records.