A Love Letter to Lena

March 6, 2020 (OFFICIAL RELEASE)


Jazz singer Clairdee has admired Lena Horne since she was four years old. Her mother and father instilled in her their admiration for Horne’s intelligence, dignity, talent, and willingness to fight for what’s right – qualities they wanted to see in all of their eight children. Clairdee pays homage to Horne on her newest project, A LOVE LETTER TO LENA, a spirited and inspiring album that integrates inventive arrangements of songs by Billy Strayhorn and contemporary composers with Clairdee’s compelling storytelling.

A mainstay on the San Francisco jazz scene, Clairdee has been performing for over 25 years in concert halls, festivals and nightclubs around the country and around the world. In addition to leading her world-class touring band, she has performed with some of America’s most notable jazz masters. Clairdee’s three previous CDs as a leader all received critical acclaim and helped cement her reputation as one of the top singers on the scene today.

Clairdee began thinking seriously about putting together a very special project to honor Horne back in 2009. “The 2016 election helped me decide how I wanted to approach the Lena project. It had to be more than merely a tribute album of her greatest hits. It was clear to me that the album should reflect my parents’ hopes for their children through the lens of Lena’s efforts for civil rights and equality. I also wanted to include a few songs from Lena's wide-ranging repertoire that listeners may not be so familiar with. This album is not only my way of saying thank you to Lena for how she touched the lives of my family and me, it is a way to honor my parents’ legacy and those of the millions of women and men that fought for civil rights. The lessons of their lives are resoundingly relevant right now and it is up to us to keep up the work. This is my 21st century call to acknowledgement and action.”

Clairdee and producer-arranger Jon Herbst feature a colorful and varied palette of instrumental and vocal textures throughout: rhythm section, saxophone, trumpet, string trio, narration, background vocalists, and special guest, MacArthur “Genius” award recipient, violinist Regina Carter.



"Over a century after the birth of Lena Horne, how gratifying to see her legacy perpetuated with as much musicality, originality, heart, and fighting spirit as Clairdee shows on this album."  
 —James Gavin, author of Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne 

 “In creating her exquisite, deeply heartfelt, sensual and rhythmically energizing and soul empowering homage A Love Letter to Lena, Clairdee does more than pay homage to a personal cultural hero. She waited until the sociopolitical climate was just right to use Horne’s inspiration to create a visionary masterwork that would draw on and build from her classic catalogue to fashion an impactful, relevant statement for our time…This is one love letter you’ll fall deeply and madly in love with!” 
 —Jonathan Widran, The JWVibe

“Clairdee gives us a most spirited and inventive jazz vocal set in tribute to Lena…a rich vocal style that will thrill your ears!” 
Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews

"A recording that fulfills not just from good-sounding music, but with unexpected heartfelt sentiments... by amplifying the musical performances with notes from the artist to be honored, she not only entertains audiences, she teaches them. That does not always happen in any music genre. ' A Love Letter to Lena' certainly shows Clairdee's appreciation of Horne. It shows through in every note, every word." 
—Dodie Miller-Gould, Lemonwire

"For her latest release A Love Letter to Lena Clairdee paints a loving, and at times fierce, biographical portrait of one of the most beloved artists of the 20th century, vocalist-actress-social activist Lena Horne, who certainly wore proudly the label race woman. Seldom considered in the pantheon of jazz singers, nonetheless Lena certainly earned her stripes in that arena, but tribute projects like this one are rare."  
—Willard Jenkins, Independent Ear

"This is not only a passionate tribute to Lena Horne. The spoken interludes remind us of the struggles of the civil rights era. As lovely as the music is, the words may make you angry, too. Listen to those words, both spoken and in the lyrics. Stand up to ensure such an era doesn’t repeat itself and their progress was not in vain.”
Jim Hynes, Making a Scene


Album Personnel

Clairdee, vocals
Jon Herbst, piano/keyboard
Ron Belcher, bass
Doug Miller, bass
Deszon Claiborne, drums
Lance Dresser, drums
John Hoy, guitar
Dave Bell, guitar
Mario Guarneri, trumpet
Charles McNeal, tenor saxophone
Philip Santos, violin
Emily Onderdonk, viola
Paul Hale, cello
Margo Hall, narrator
background vocals:
 Ashling Cole, Bryan Dyer, Zoe Ellis
Guest vocalists:
 Tony Lindsay, Janice Maxie-Reid, and
 Kenny Washington
Special Guest: Regina Carter, violin 

Track Listing

1.   Old Devil Moon
2.  Home (spoken interlude)
3.  I Got A Name
4.  Maybe
5.  Hollywood (spoken interlude)
6.  Sometimes I Feel Like a
      Motherless Child
7.  Seminar with Drinks (spoken interlude)
8.  I Want to Be Happy
9.  Soul Mates (spoken interlude)
10. Something to Live For
11.  I'm Free (spoken interlude)
12. Believe in Yourself
13. The Movement (spoken interlude)
14. Stand Up