Over the years, we’ve had many great jazz vocalists sail with us on The Jazz Cruise, including Patti Austin, Marlena Shaw, Shirley Horn, Dianne Reeves, Rene Marie, Nnenna Freelonand many more. In 2023, the exciting vocal phenom Samara Joy will join fellow singers Kurt Elling, Tierney Sutton, Steve Tyrell, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Niki Haris for her debut appearance on The Jazz Cruise.
Samara, who will be performing with the Pasquale Grasso Trio, has exploded onto the international jazz scene since her winning of the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019. A native of the Bronx, New York and its public school system, Samara was raised in a very musical household, thanks to grandparents who led the Gospel group, The Savettes, and her father who toured with legendary Gospel singer Andrae Crouch. “Although I didn’t grow up singing in church, I constantly heard my family singing inspirational music together, which instilled in me an appreciation for my musical lineage,” Samara said.
As a high school student, Samara was chosen as the Best Vocalist at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s renowned Essentially Ellington competition, but she wasn’t necessarily a jazz singer then. That changed when she went upstate to SUNY Purchase, a college with an acclaimed jazz program and a faculty that included Grasso and drummer Kenny Washington. “My friends were all into jazz and started sharing their favorite recordings with me to check out,” Samara explained. “The turning point was when I heard both Sarah Vaughan’s version of ‘Lover Man’ and Tadd Dameron’s recordings featuring trumpeter Fats Navarro. I was hooked.” She soon was transcribing those and other notable jazz solos and ended up developing her own personal style, with firm roots in the jazz tradition, but with her own fresh take on the music.
After winning that competition in 2019, Samara became an in-demand performer at jazz clubs, concert halls and festivals all over the world. Will Friedwald, Tony Bennett’s biographer and perhaps the greatest living writer about jazz vocalists, wrote about Samara: “People are forever using the word ‘timeless’ as if it were the greatest praise ever, but in a way, Samara’s voice and her music seem to belong to all time, like she’s connected to the entire history of jazz all at once – as if she were existing in every era simultaneously, she sounds both classic and contemporary.”
Classic and contemporary, indeed. That well describes rising star and old soul Samara Joy, whom we’re proud to present along with the Pasquale Grasso Trio on The Jazz Cruise ’23.