Valerie Day

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About Valerie Day

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Singer-educator-arts advocate Valerie Day has a continental, savoir-faire command of American Popular Song, an assured honey-alto delivery, a fierce sense of activism, and an alluring next-door gravitas that has echoes of another Day gone by. With her balance of authenticity, emotional immediacy and here-and-now intimacy, Valerie is more than a little bit of a 21st-century Doris Day. A gifted vocalist, skilled percussionist, and passionate advocate for arts education, she is a generous artist of uncommon talent and dedication.

Born into the fourth generation of a musical Northwestern family, Valerie was blessed to be raised amidst a supportive, arts-rich home life. A supportive musical mother paved the way for a fantastic journey—from the ground-zero trajectory of ‘80s Pop /R&B chartdom with NU SHOOZ, to jazz, big-band and orchestral performances with the Oregon Symphony, Woody Hite, and Tom Grant, to a dynamic career as a celebrated voice-talent, educator and inspiration to aspiring young artists.

Whether singing of love or impatience (“I Can’t Wait), mediating the fine line between pop/dance prophecy and the poetry of Tin Pan Alley, navigating through a vibraphone and cello-thick forest of spy-film suspension and Pan-Am Noir, or losing herself in the depth of a lyric or a melody’s hook—Valerie has the ability (like a great painter or a seasoned jazz artist) to distill and nurture from music essential tensions, create sympathetic magic.

Beginning early with piano lessons, Valerie discovered an affinity for percussion by the age of 16—through Felicidades, a local Calypso band. Music studies at Portland State University and the Cornish Institute for Allied Arts in Seattle in the early 1980s gave her the drive to immerse herself in Portland’s thriving club scene. In 1984, Valerie and husband, John Smith, recorded a self-produced five-song EP as the group Nu Shooz. Their infectious dance track “I Can’t Wait” caught fire in dance clubs and with steady airplay, the album, Poolside, was certified gold in 1986. “I Can’t Wait” reached #3 on the pop charts in the U.S., was in the top 10 in Europe and Britain, and Nu Shooz was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1987.

Nu Shooz success was followed by extensive work as a session musician, as both a vocalist and percussionist for a bevy of artists (including jazz music great Dave Frishberg, the Oregon Symphony, Woody Hite Big Band) and commercial clients (including Nike, Hewlett-Packard and Fred Meyer); a new role as a music-educator, and a mother (she and John Smith have a son named Malcolm).

In addition to her music career, Valerie is one of the founders of Artists for the Arts, a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for arts education in metro-area schools. As an artist fortunate to grow up in a supportive household during a time when art and music program flourished in schools, Valerie’s commitment to arts advocacy and education is one way she has given back to the supportive Portland community that helped nurture her musical gifts.

Some of Valerie’s recent projects and recordings include: “Beginning to See the Light” (2003), a collection of Great American Songbook standards backed by the all-star Knights of Swing, and “Side By Side” (2005), a collection of vocal/piano duets with pianist Tom Grant, a seminal figure in West Coast contemporary jazz. Currently Valerie and her husband John Smith co-lead the NU SHOOZ Orchestra—their recording “Pandora’s Box” was released in 2010.

Outside of her work with the NU SHOOZ Orchestra, Valerie’s most excited about Brain Chemistry For Lovers, a multimedia project with acclaimed jazz pianist Darrell Grant that explores, through music, the firing-on-all-cylinders magic behind the neuroscience of romantic love.

Valerie Day joined the JazzTimes community on Mar 07, 2011