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About Yolanda Duke
Yolanda Duke––La Duke
The lights go down, the band strikes the opening notes of the first song and for the next two hours Yolanda Duke mesmerizes the crowd with her mastery of Latin jazz, Merengue, Ballads, Bossanova, Salsa and Bolero.
While that is a very real scenario today, it was but a recurring dream for young Yolanda growing up in New York City. She was the gifted little girl with the big voice, who––after taking singing lessons––began to take command of her talent and gain confidence in her ability to entertain.
In her early teens she entered singing contests and eventually won a local competition. Soon after she began her singing career, performing in local clubs in NYC and Toronto. This lead to her being booked as the headliner of a Vegas-style show at the number-one showplace in the Caribbean, La Fuente Nightclub, at the prestigious Hotel Jaragua, where she refined her performing skills and stage presence, beginning her transformation into ‘La Duke.’ She followed the success of that appearance by recording a hit tropical album for RMM/SONY Music.
Yolanda then recorded a tribute to the famous Latin songstress La Lupe, who gained international fame performing with the Tito Puente Orchestra. A copy of the cd made its way to Tito, who was so impressed that he invited young Yolanda to appear as a guest vocalist at several concerts over the next few years. Then he made her an offer she couldn’t refuse––becoming a permanent singer in the band from 1994 -97, thrilling audiences all over the world. La Duke had the privilege of sharing stage with the likes of Ray Charles, BB King, Arturo Sandoval, Dianne Reeves and Al Jarreau.
As her fans will attest, what sets Yolanda apart is that she doesn’t just interpret a song, she takes it and makes it her own. Her voice is a wondrous instrument that yells with exuberance, cries with soul and whispers with intimacy. In the course of one song, she can inspire your mind, touch your heart and move your feet like no other singer.
Today, Yolanda carries on Tito’s legacy, performing in venues around the world with the Tito Puente Latin Jazz Orchestra. She continues her prolific recording career as well, recently producing a new Big Band recording of standards. The little songbird might be all grown up, but deep inside she is still a young girl singing her heart out for the entire world to hear.
Yolanda Duke––La Duke
Yolanda Duke joined the JazzTimes community on Jun 17, 2013