The first time I met Nancy King, I was on the faculty of the Frank DeMiero Jazz Camp at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. She sang an intimate duo concert with her long-time musical partner Steve Christofferson for the campers and staff. The night was magical. I immediately started building my collection of Nancy King recordings.
The second time I met Nancy King, I was an adjudicator at the Salem High School vocal jazz festival in 2000 (perhaps). I clearly remember her holding court in the hallway with a Dum Dum lollipop in her mouth. She turned around to greet me with an exuberant, “Kiss me liver lips. Nothing makes me sick!” I don’t know what surprised me more, what she said or the fact that she remembered me. Her concert that night with Steve was another lesson in inspired musical conversation.
I got to know Nancy better during the 2002 Port Townsend Jazz Workshop. I was assigned to be the house bass player in Nancy’s vocal room. It was a luxurious treat to watch her perform, hear her stories, and interact with her the entire week. I think I learned more than the students.
Along with Sheila Jordan, she is one of our few living legends. She is still out there, bringing beauty and joy to us all. She exudes spontaneity, heart, and a deep understanding of music that can’t be described in any kind of theoretical or technical terms. The lessons you learn come from sitting at the feet of the master. As a student, you can’t come in with a laundry list of things you want to learn in the way you want to learn them. If you watch and listen closely enough, you get more than you ever expected.
Nancy King turns 80 today.
Honoring Nancy’s musical contributions, I hope I’m just singing to the choir and you are all fans of hers. If that’s the case, let me know your favorite recordings you have of hers. If she is “new to you”, you are in for a wonderful treat.
My original intent was to make a Spotify Playlist with my personal “top ten” spanning her career. Unfortunately, most of her recordings can’t be found there. I made a playlist for you with some wonderful selections. I’ve also made links where you can support her by purchasing the music. (I get no kickbacks from the purchases you make. I share the links because I want to support the music.)
Nancy, you are loved and appreciated. I hope your 80th birthday brings you joy. You’ve certainly brought it to me.
Check out Nancy's Discography
While I have my favorites, you should definitely find your own. Find her discography HERE.
Nancy loves her some “two-fers”. You get two songs for the price of one. The mash ups have been a consistent part of Nancy’s career. On her first recording, she comes out of the gate with “Scrapple from the Honeysuckle”. You can also hear other mash ups as follows:
“Scrapple From the Honeysuckle”
First Date (Inner City Records, 1976)
Steve Wolf / Jack Sheldon / Frank Strazzeri / Ray Brown / Nick Ceroli
I have an mp3 of this in my personal collection, but I haven’t seen it floating around on the internet anywhere. If you find it, buy it!
“Dee Dah / This Can’t Be Love”
Dream Lands (Vol 2)
Stellar Sound Productions
Clifford Brown’s “Dee Dah” is used here as the intro and ending. It is such a simple way to spice up an arrangement without needing to reharmonize the whole thing.
One of the great bass / voice duos in our jazz family are Nancy King and Glen Moore. The colors and textures that Glen pulls out of the bass combined with Nancy’s flights of fancy are wonders to behold.
Art Lande / Glen Moore / Gary Hobbs
“King on the Road”
King on the Road
Glen Moore & Rob Scheps
A whole song. Just Nancy. A cappella. Wow!
“Just One of Those Things”
Porter Plays Porter with Nancy King (*Grammy nominated)
Randy Porter / John Witala / Todd Strait
(Apple Music Link)
These two videos come from a performance Nancy gave in October 2019 with the Steve Christofferson Trio (Tom Wakeling (b) / Charlie Doggett (d)).
I Sing For You (composed by Nancy)
I love the lyric for this standard tune that you already know. “You can’t create yourself. That job’s been done. You can compose yourself. It’s kind of fun.”
Spotify Playlist Recommendations:
Learn More About Nancy King
Roseanna Vitro had an insightful conversation with Nancy in 2019 for JazzTimes Magazine.
Thank you for “You Are”. And you are an inspiration. I was at Centrum when you taught I think in 2005 maybe before. I’ll never forget how terrified I was when all of us singers had to line up and scat with you one on one. I couldn’t imagine how I would do that but somehow you made us all feel valued and something came out of my throat that was at least in the same key. And Steve was also wonderfully encouraging as well. So thank you and Happy Birthday.
That comment was for Nancy King so I hope you can pass it along to her. I remember you as well and the great drummer the summer I was at Centrum
I just got an email from Steve Christofferson. She doesn’t really do the internet thing, but he’s going to make sure she gets the love and messages.