A 21st Century Jazz Singer
Soulful, swinging, and stylish, the music of San Francisco-based jazz singer Clairdee epitomizes jazz’s empowering imperative. More than a masterly interpreter of lyrics with a lustrous, velvety tone, she embodies the tradition’s twinned legacy of standing for social justice with glamor and guts. Deeply informed by the music’s departed masters, Clairdee puts a personal stamp on whatever she sings, a gift aptly described by the inimitable Nancy Wilson. “In the tradition of all great vocalists,” Wilson said of Clairdee, “she infuses each song with her own unique style while always remaining true to the song itself.”
She covers a lot of stylistic ground on her latest project, which celebrates the iconic star Lena Horne, one of the 20th century’s most consequent performers. Released in the winter of 2020, her critically hailed album A Love Letter to Lena is a deeply personal tribute to the barrier-shattering African-American actress, singer, nightclub entertainer, World War II pin-up, and civil rights activist who died in 2010 at the age of 92.
“She meant so much to me in so many different ways,” Clairdee says. “The example she set, the role model that she was for many African Americans was very powerful. I learned a lot about what I do and how I present myself on stage just by watching her. She was always dressed impeccably and, despite all the discrimination and mistreatment she experienced, she remained completely professional.”
A 2018 recipient of the Bay Area Jazz and Blues Artist Lifetime Achievement Award, Clairdee has a long track record as a passionate advocate for music education. She is professor of Jazz Voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has taught at the University of California Berkeley Jazz Department, and Diablo Valley College.
Since moving to the Bay Area in 1986, she’s performed almost every style of music, from R&B and cabaret to country and soul. In the mid-90s she decided to focus on jazz, honing a singular sound, having worked with jazz luminaries such as trumpeter Eddie Henderson, saxophonist John Handy, and pianist Roland Hanna. She gained national attention when legendary bassist, manager and NEA Jazz Master John Levy built a show around her and guitarist/vocalist Henry Johnson.
Whether she’s celebrating Lena Horne or delivering a carefully honed program of standards and originals, her aim is the same. “My mission,” Clairdee says, “is to engage, uplift and build community through music —creating narrative that inspires beyond the stage.”
My purpose is to engage, uplift and build community through music — creating narrative that inspires beyond the stage.
“In the tradition of all great vocalists, Clairdee infuses each song with her own unique style while always remaining true to the song itself.”
— Nancy Wilson
"Sumptuous, elegantly restrained."
— The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland)
"Generous spirit and unpretentious sincerity"
— Down Beat
"Clairdee projects an unmistakable aura onstage — regaling the audience with songs interwoven with warm, humorous anecdotes — creating a seamless, wonderful tapestry throughout the concert."
—All About Jazz
“In sassy, solidly assured, crowd-pleasing form, a whole lot of interpretive brilliance."
2020 1st round Grammy® nomination (3 categories), "A Love Letter to Lena"
2018 Bay Area Jazz & Blues Lifetime Achievement
2008 (book) The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide by Scott Yanow
A Love Letter to Lena, Clairdee (Declare Music) 2020
New Holiday Classics, Adrian Cunningham & La Lucha (Arbors) 2020
Jazz Voices of Poetry (JVOP) 2017
Spiritu Sancto, Dimitri Matheny 2007
Music Moves, Clairdee (Declare Music) 2005
Holiday at the Oasis (KUVO Jazz-89 compilation) 2005
This Christmas, Clairdee (Declare Music) 2002
Destination Moon, Clairdee (Declare Music) 2000
West Coast Alternative, Dan Buegeleisen (Corridor) 2000
Santa's Got a Brand New Bag, Dimitri Matheny (Monarch) 1999
Can't Hide Love, John "Buddy" Connor (Seaside/Cat's Paw) 1996
A Piano for All Seasons, Kevin Gibbs (Clarity) 1993
Shine On, Mehler & Nash (Salt Music, Inc) 1993
Edinburgh Jazz Festival, Scotland • Monterey Jazz Festival • Playboy Jazz at the Rose Bowl • Salt Lake City Int'l Jazz Festival • Sarasota Jazz Festival, FL • SFJAZZ Center • Siletz Bay Music Festival, OR • Stanford Jazz Festival • The Jazz Cruise • Blue Note Napa • Catalina's, Hollywood • Dizzy's Coca Cola Club, NYC • Douglas Beach House • Freight & Salvage • Metropolitan Room, NYC • Vitello's Supper Club • Yoshi's • Capitol Center for the Arts, NH • Fitton Center for the Arts, OH • Shedd Institute for the Arts, OR • Spreckels PAC, CA • Staller PAC, NY • Feinstein's at the Nikko, San Francisco • Tempe Center for the Arts, AZ • Tennessee Theatre, TN • Toronto Convention Center, Canada • Venice Institute PAC, FL • Wells Fargo PAC, CA • Three Japan Tours • 2 Russia Tours
PERFORMED, OPENED or RECORDED with
Bernard "Pretty" Purdie • Bill Charlap • Billy Higgins • Boz Scaggs • Bucky Pizzarelli • Calvin Keys • Cyrus Chestnut • David Sanborn • Dena DeRose • Dianne Schuur • Dick Hyman • Eddie Henderson • Houston Person • John Handy • Ken Peplowski • Kenny Washington (vocalist) • Mads Tolling • Marcus Shelby • Mimi Fox • Nancy Wilson • Regina Carter • Russell Malone • Ruth Davies • Wycliffe Gordon • Capital Jazz Orchestra • Hilton Head Symphony Pops • Knoxville Jazz Orch • Novosibirsk Symphony • San Francisco Symphony • Vancouver Symphony • Walla Walla Symphony
EDUCATION / OUTREACH
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Professor of Jazz Voice
SFJAZZ, teaching artist
Jazz in the Neighborhood,
Artist Advisory Committee
Cal State University East Bay, guest artist
Cal State Bakersfield, masterclass
Diablo Valley College, vocal instructor
San Jose State University, guest artist
San Francisco Symphony, teaching artist
Stanford Jazz, Family Matinee
UC Berkeley Jazz Dept, vocal instructor
UC Santa Cruz, guest artist
Walla Walla Symphony, guest artist
Whitman College, masterclass