Episode 17: Carmen Bradford

2019 Grammy Nominee, Carmen Bradford, was born in Austin, Texas and raised in Altadena, California. Carmen Bradford grew up with music in her home and in her heart. It was only natural that Carmen would follow in the footsteps of her great family legacy being the daughter of legendary cornetist/composer Bobby Bradford and world-renown jazz vocalist/composer/author Melba Joyce. Her grandfather Melvin Moore sang with Lucky Millender and his Big Band; Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in the 1940’s; and sang with the Ink Spots, making Carmen the third generation of incredible musicians. She has carved out a place in music history for herself and is playing an integral role in this uniquely American art form called Jazz. Carmen Bradford is jazz royalty.

At the age of 22 years old, Carmen was discovered and hired by William “Count” Basie and was the featured vocalist in the legendary Count Basie Orchestra for nine years. She has since performed and/or recorded with; Wynton Marsalis, Shelly Berg, Jeremy Monteiro, John Clayton, along with the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, Nancy Wilson, Lena Horne, Doc Severinsen, Tony Bennett, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Tierney Sutton, Liz Wright, Patti Austin, Byron Stripling, Dori Caymmi, George Benson, Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams, Kurt Elling, Jeff Tyzik, Freddie Cole, Benny Carter, Kenny Rankin, Lou Rawls, James Newton, David Murray, DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Dani Felber Big Band, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, along with the National Symphony, RochesterPhilharmonic, Dallas Symphony, Detroit
Symphony, Vancouver Philharmonic, Philadelphia Pops, and countless artist around the world. Carmen performed on two Grammy Award winning albums with the Count Basie Orchestra in the 1980’s and later collaborated on a third Grammy Award winning album, “Big Boss Band” with guitarist George Benson in 1991. Her soulful voice warmed the hearts of the world through the celebrated performance of the classic duet, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” on the TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson that same year.

Carmen Bradford began another chapter in her illustrious career as a solo artist with her critically acclaimed debut album, “Finally Yours” (Evidence Records) in 1992. The 1995 release of her second solo album, “With Respect” (Evidence Records) established the Atlanta based singer as one of “jazz
music’s most diverse and exciting vocal stylist” proving to the world that Carmen Bradford was a unique voice in her own right.

Carmen Bradford teamed with singer/composer Kenny Rankin for the Benny Carter Songbook Project making history once again on the duet “And All That Jazz”. Some notable artist also on the album were Joe Williams, Ruth Brown, Bobby Short, Peggy Lee, Shirley Horn, Diana Krall, Diane Reeves, Jon Hendricks, among others. Carmen was asked by Benny Carter
to sing “Key Largo” for this Grammy Award winning album. Her Performance on “The Benny Carter Songbook” marked another of Carmen’s beautiful recording collaborations reaffirming her stardom.

On occasion, Carmen Bradford has loaned her talented voice to stage productions and the music of Hollywood films, cartoons for television/radio commercials, and the theater. She sang on the haunting soundtrack for Oprah Winfrey’s “Beloved” and starred in the title role of Duke Ellington’s 
Folk Opera “Queenie Pie” at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music.

Carmen Bradford’s 2004 release, “Home With You” (Azica Records) is a warm and beautiful collection of vocal and piano duets with jazz great, Shelly Berg.  The album is yet another departure for Carmen offering her fans a stripped down, intimate portrait of the artist they have grown to love.

Carmen Bradford returned to her big band roots with the release from “Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra” featured on ‘Live from Jazz At Lincoln Centers Dizzy’s Place.” This also brought Carmen back to her big band family, The Count Basie Orchestra, which she continues to tour with to this day.

Carmen Bradford’s 2015 release with jazz great, John Mills, titled, “Invisible Design” featuring Carmen Bradford is another example of Carmen’s ability to sing all forms of music, be it straight ahead jazz, fusion, blues, and sing it like nobody can. Carmen is doing it all whether it is a duo concert, Big
Bands across the world, or the 2015 Christmas album “A Very Swinging’ Basie Christmas” release with the Count Basie Orchestra Conducted by Scotty Barnhart featuring, Carmen Bradford, Johnny Mathis, Ellis Marsalis, and Ledisi.

In 2016 Carmen was the voice on the album “Imagination Nation” by Darren English. His critically acclaimed album won the, “Pledge For Peace” Award from the Global Peace Song Awards, and Best in Jazz Category.

At Present, Carmen Bradford’s love for working with Big Bands and Symphony Orchestras across the world is keeping her very busy, as she pays tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald in her her show called “A Century of Ella” created and conducted by jazz great Jeff Tyzik.  Carmen Bradford and the incredible trumpeter/vocalist, Byron Stripling, also pay tribute to the greats in their show titled, “Ella and Louis” for which they’ve received rave reviews.

Carmen Bradford has never stopped performing with her Basie family, the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Even after all these years, Carmen has always said, “when they call me, I go” She has never forgotten Mr. Basie who opened that wonderful door, and gave her wings. The 2019 Grammy
nominated album, “All About That Basie” with the Count Basie conducted by Scotty Barnhart on Concord Records, featuring; Carmen Bradford, Stevie Wonder, Kurt Elling, Jamie Davis, Joey DeFrancesco, Jon Faddis, Wycliff Gordon, and Take 6. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Carmen Bradford’s love of teaching has been recognized by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The new Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM Program) has welcomed her with open arms. Carmen is the resident and head of the Jazz Voice Department.

Carmen Bradford’s body of work reflects a vast depth of musical experience and technical brilliance. She is also recognized for the overwhelming passion she brings to the lyric. Carmen Bradford has truly contributed to the perpetuation and preservation of this great American art form called jazz and continues to do so.

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