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Jazz Singer, Composer, Poet, Lyricist, Writer, Actor
A striking woman of unusually elastic voice, Nora McCarthy infuses her music with poetry and theatricality that’s both stark and sensual and has thus far had a very productive and significant musical career. A poet and a songwriter in addition to being a highly original singer, she is an important force in the advanced New York jazz vocal scene since 1996 when she recorded her first CD, red&blue.
Her collaboration with alto-saxophonist Jorge Sylvester began in 2001 and the synergy of their near telepathic level of communication has produced several unique and groundbreaking projects: A Small Dream In Red (voice and saxophone duo), a 20-piece all original music orchestra ConceptualMotion, and the ACE (Afro-Caribbean-Experimental) Collective.
Nora has performed with Kuumba Frank Lacy’s Vibe Tribe, Lawrence D. Butch Morris’ A Chorus Of Poets, the Next Legacy Jazz Orchestra, Dominic Duval, Santi Debriano, Juini Booth, Andy McCloud, Reggie Washington, Ken Filiano, Essiet Okon Essiet, Donald Nicks; Vibraphonist, Multi-Instrumentalist Gunter Hampel; Pianists: James Weidman, John diMartino, James Hurt, Eric Lewis, Guitarists: Barry Wedgle, Dom Minasi, Marvin Sewell, Andrew Green; Drummers: Gene Jackson, Derrik Phillips, Dafnis Prieto, Michael Wimberly, Jay Rosen as well as the legendary Bluesman, Wilson Pickett among many other notables in addition to her own Qu’ART’et and has appeared in concerts, festivals and club dates in NYC and elsewhere in the world.
Nora is featured on a new 2011 release,Toward The Hill Of Joy, with trombonist, composer George Brandon's Blue Unity Ensemble.
Coming out in 2012 on RedZen Records is a powerful and dynamic CD appropriately titled, Spirit Driven. Nora is a partner and member of Jorge Sylvester’s ACE Collective. Nora wrote and delivered the poetry as well as the composition, In The Light Of Truth's High Noon and sang on all the tracks, freely improvising and as part of the horns front line on 8 of the 9 tracks.
Also being released in February, 2012: In The Language Of Dreams - A Small Dream In Red, a minimalist innovative voice and saxophone duo. http://www.asmalldreminred.com A tribute to Ornette Coleman and Wassily Kandinsky.
The content is comprised of original compositions, poetry and improvisation as well interpretations of five of Kandinsky's masterpieces graphically and spontaneously composed in the moment. There are also several covers of choice music - a Celtic hymn, a jazz chestnut and ORNETTE's music with lyrics written by McCarthy. The duo employs various techniques they discovered working in this format as well as other techniques employed by all art forms. Deconstruction, dimunition, expansion, elaboration, symbolism, line and design among others. Intuitive and symbiotic, the two altos enter into each work with absolute freedom from preconception and create within and outside the form, context and texture of each piece.
All the songs recorded at The Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in Brooklyn, NY. Recorded in the same room with individual mics. No overdubs complete with the magic of the moment in tact.
Nora’s CD “Circle Completing”, 2009, is an exquisite duet CD with pianist John DiMartino that features several of her original compositions and poetry including her tribute to the great jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott.
The HeartStrings Project, is a collaboration with bassist,extraordinaire Dominic Duval and guitarist Andrew Green.
Through her vast experience in the jazz and creative music field, Nora has developed a unique approach to teaching voice and improvisation and is founder of The Zen Of Singing...The Spiritual Path To Finding Your Voice ™ and currently teaches privately, conducts workshops world-wide and offers on-line instruction. (www.thezenofsinging.com)
The unique and richly soulful music of Nora McCarthy is gaining recognition around the world.
Spirit Driven – 2012 In the Language of Dreams - 2012 Toward A Hill of Joy, 2011 Circle Completing, 2009 A Small Dream In Red, 2005 red&blue, 1998
“…McCarthy is a fearless singer who deftly refuses to be categorized as she explores personalized means for expressing ideas; she travels infrequently heard avenues for exploring thought and adapts vocal technique to fit the circumstances of her message. Bill Donaldson for Jazz Improv NY, 2008
...McCarthy's vocals often recalled the soft, strained desperation of another Cleveland vocalist, the great Jimmy Scott. The album is, in fact, something of an homage to Scott, ending with the McCarthy original, Faith in Time (Jimmy's Song). …The singer closed with a barn-burning version of Willie Dixon's Little Red Rooster that left the crowd crowing for more and nicely upset, in every way.4-18-2010, All About Jazz/ 31st Tri-C Jazz Festival, Matt Marshall
“...Her shaping of pitch often foregoes the fluid note-bending of the jazz singer in favor of the full press of a sculptor’s touch against viscous clay. Ramsey Ameen/The Gathering Of The Tribes Magazine, 2005
…The ballad Too Late Now (Lerner/Lane) from her CD, Circle Completing, is a charmer. Reminding me very much of the late lamented Irene Kral, Nora provocatively sings this melancholy ballad in full throttle. Dan Singer, In-Tune International Magazine-UK, 3/2009
…McCarthy’s vocals are rich and subtle and laced with varying degrees of earthy blues and soulful phrasings. Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com, 2/2009
“…Circle Completing is a moody suite that deals with the evolution of life, coming to a place of forgiveness, letting go, and ultimately moving on to the next level. Nora's adventurous singing, the spontaneous interplay with John diMartino, and the unpredictability of the music result in the innovative duets being full of subtle surprises. Scott Yanow, Jazz Critic & Author, 2008
“…McCarthy, who works in every setting from a bass and vocal duo to a twenty-piece orchestra, demonstrates that she is not one to simply serenade with the usual mix of standards.” Dan Bilawsky/Jazz Improv Magazine’s New York Jazz Guide, 2008
“…Nora is a wonderfully focused musician, singer composer. Her original compositions are splendid examples of modern and traditional jazz song. I highly recommend her as a fellow artist.” Dom DuVal, musician / composer / bassist.“ April 9, 2009
…You can hear this woman's life in her voice… Walter Kolosky, Jazz.com/2009 “…She plays her tender voice like a musician trying to get the best out of some favored, old horn.” Edward Hill/The Cleveland Plain Dealer “…Nora McCarthy delivers with the improvisational intuition of Betty Carter and the compassion of Billie Holiday. McCarthy tackles harmonically complex material of Thelonius Monk with relative ease then easily slips into a relaxed Latin style that owes much to Brazilian samba queen Astrud Gilberto.” Edward Hill/The Cleveland Plain Dealer
McCarthy has penned lyrics to a dozen jazz standards and countless others. *McCarthy's has written over 20 compositions some are tributes to: Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Grover Washington, and Jimmy Scott.