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Stacey Kent
Stacey Kent  Biography
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Biography
Stacey Kent, awarded "Best Vocalist" at the 1999 British Jazz Awards, grew up in New York, steeped in the music of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and other giants of the Great American Songbook, singing along to all of them. While studying for her degree in comparative literature, she was all the while grooming and enlarging a repertoire of standards, even before she realized that this was her true calling.

After completing a degree in literature, she traveled to England and auditioned (on a whim) for a one-year postgraduate course at The Guildhall School of Music in London, where her vocal ability was "discovered." Ms. Kent's love of American popular song was soon put to use when she was asked to join the Ritz Hotel's resident big band and in the footsteps of her heroes such as Sinatra, Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day, she, too, served her musical apprenticeship with a big band before branching out with her own band to a highly successful solo career. At this point, Stacey also met the person who was to become the most important influence in her life, her husband, British saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson, with whom she has been collaborating ever since. "Had it not been for Jim, I suppose I might have returned home after that year of music school, returning also to my plan of having a career in the academics. Once I met Jim, it was obvious that I wasn't going anywhere! We were destined to make music together," she laughs!

Stacey appeared, to much acclaim, as the Big Band singer in Ian Mckellen's film version of 'Richard III.' Singing the opening track to the film broadened her following on both sides of the Atlantic. 'The New York Times' loved her appearance in the film and referred to her as the "sultry vocalist who purrs her way through Christopher Marlowe's poem, 'The Passionate Shepherd to his Love.'" Since then, Stacey has also performed on a number of occasions with Big Bands across Europe, and on one particular occasion, was featured on a BBC broadcast at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a show entitled 'Big Band Legends In Concert,' with Les Brown, Billy May and Ray Anthony.

In 1996, Stacey signed with Candid Records. Her first album for Candid, 'Close Your Eyes,' released in May, 1997, received rave reviews and extensive airplay, and went on to become one of Britain's biggest selling Jazz records in 1997. The album also appeared on various critics' "top ten" lists for 1997, including critics from the U.S. publication 'Jazziz' and Britain's own 'Jazz Journal.' Following the tremendous success of 'Close Your Eyes,' Stacey gained a place among Britain's most popular performers. Her second album for Candid Records, 'The Tender Trap,' released in June 1998, prompted 'BBC Music Magazine' to call her "genuine star material," and once again, her album became one of the year's biggest sellers.

Several highly successful tours followed for Stacey, including many trips to Scandinavia, where she is now a regular visitor and performing favorite, returning there several times a year for various concerts and festivals. Stacey has also returned to her native USA, performing around the country and in her home town of New York at Birdland, Blue Note and Joe's Pub. As well as performing, she has appeared on American national television, including one of America's most popular television shows, 'CBS Sunday Morning.' In February 1999, along with the U.S. release of 'The Tender Trap,' CBS aired a documentary profile on Stacey, which brought her immediate recognition across the entire country. 'The Tender Trap' instantly shot into the 'Billboard' charts and reached #1 on many of the leading Internet sites, such as amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and CDnow, making the record go into emergency second and third pressings of the album to keep up with the huge demand.

The following year, Stacey went on to receive the award for 'Best Vocalist' at the 1999 BT British Jazz Awards. Upon the release in Europe of her third album for Candid Records, 'Let Yourself Go' (celebrating Fred Astaire), Stacey immediately hit #1 in the Tower Europe Jazz Chart and again, was named among the best albums of the year by several of the leading Jazz publications. Following the U.S. release of 'Let Yourself Go,' Stacey's interview on NPR was broadcast across the USA. The response was so great that within hours, 'Let Yourself Go' was catapulted to #1 at amazon.com, with her two other releases also joining it in the top ten, 'The Tender Trap' reaching #5 and 'Close Your Eyes' reaching #9. Later that week, 'Let Yourself Go' entered the 'Billboard' Jazz Chart at #2.

When asked to describe Stacey's style, one fellow musician replied, "It's cooking ... with the lid on!" Asked to explain it herself, Stacey said, "Essentially, I sing a song, tell a story, let it swing." This natural and uncomplicated approach is Stacey's hallmark. She delivers a song with a relaxed assurance, respecting the composer's intentions, but with her own remarkable, interpretative gift, Stacey sounds like no one but herself.

Stacey has recently appeared on the British television shows, 'Parkinson' and 'Open House' with Gloria Hunniford. She has guested several times with the Humphrey Lyttelton Band as well as being the house band on the BBC 4 Radio series, 'Live From London,' hosted by Simon Fanshawe. In April 2000, Stacey was honoured to join the regular BBC Radio team and began hosting a new series on BBC Radio 3, called 'Jazz Lineup.' She was also chosen as one of Chairman of British Telecom, Sir Peter Bonfield's, Desert Island Discs. This year's highlights also included Stacey and her band supporting George Benson on his UK tour, and a string of sell-out performances including The New Morning Club in Paris, The Gothenburg and Linkoping Festivals in Sweden, PizzaExpress and Ronnie Scott's in London and a televised concert at the SWR Festival in Germany. And after a highly successful visit to the Brecon Jazz Festival, Stacey, along with husband, Jim, was asked to join the 'Friends of Brecon' as honorary Vice Presidents.

This year's successes look set to continue for Stacey, with the release of her latest album, 'Dreamsville.' The album is a collection of ballads and is dedicated to all the fans and friends who requested the songs for this project. This typifies the kind of relationship that Stacey has with her public. What with intimate style and natural and approachable manner, people feel they can write to her, and they often write with ideas of what they'd like to hear her sing next. And she listens! "I regularly receive emails from people around the world who have my albums but who haven't seen me perform live before or sometimes from folks who've just come from one of my concerts. They write so enthusiastically that they've come straight home and immediately sat down at the computer to write to me about how they loved what they just heard, which just warms me!" (on the very morning of this interview, Stacey showed me a few fan mails that had just appeared in her email box, from directly after the previous evening's concert-- her sell-out show at the Snape Malting's Prom). "And then they might send a 'PS,' would I consider singing this or that. So, I started to put a list together of these songs people said they wanted to hear me sing. Some were songs I already knew but had never sung before, like 'You Are There,' others were in my repertoire but I hadn't yet recorded, like 'Little Girl Blue.' The one thing that these requests had in common, was that they were practically all ballads, probably ninety percent! I didn't realize how much people loved to hear the ballads. I was really flattered by this and I thought how nice it would be to make an album of just these requests, and a great programme of love songs." Each song had been requested, even the lullaby from the musical, 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,' which was actually a request that came, not from an online stranger, but from one of Stacey's sisters. Stacey grew up singing with her siblings. "We constantly sang in harmony, anywhere and everywhere, making up songs or "riffing" on nursery rhymes. We were simply being playful but I guess that was great training for my ear and for where I am now. And 'Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang,' was one of our favorites as kids, so I was thrilled to include it for her. It was a great request." Stacey added, "I hope the people who write to me and who have given me so much love and support throughout my career enjoy the surpirse!"


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