She’s been called everything from a “Cult figure” and an “uncompromising artist,” (Earshot Jazz) to “the greatest living jazz singer,” (Herb Ellis). As one of the few improvisers in vocal jazz to master the vocabulary, Nancy King has “indefatigable scat chops and a remarkably elastic range.” (The Oregonian)
Nancy came to the San Francisco jazz scene of the early 1960’s from Springfield, Oregon. It was at the legendary Jazz Workshop that she met Sonny King, her future mate, and joined his band. They headlined Monday nights at the Workshop for two years. Others she worked with in San Francisco included Vince Guaraldi, John Handy, Sonny Donaldson, and Flip Nunez. Another major influence was meeting and studying with Jon Hendricks.
In ‘66 and ‘67, Nancy did the Playboy Club circuit and was a production singer in Las Vegas, then joined C. Smalls and Company, led by Charlie Smalls, who later wrote the music for “The Wiz”.
In the early 1970’s she took a break from touring, settling in Eugene, Oregon to raise her three sons. On weekends she sang in the lounge of the Benson Hotel in Portland with future jazz luminaries Ralph Towner, David Friesen and Tom Grant.
The first recording to feature Nancy King was “First Date”, an outing with saxophonist Steve Wolfe on the Inner City label. Joining them in the studio were Ray Brown, Jack Sheldon, Frank Strazzeri and Nick Ceroli. The record’s release was celebrated at Michael’s Pub in New York City, where the great pianist Bill Evans stopped in to play a few tunes.