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Nora McCarthy

Nora McCarthy has thus far had a very productive and significant musical career. A poet and a songwriter in addition to being a highly original singer, she is an important force in the advanced New York jazz vocal scene since 1996 when she recorded her first CD, red&blue. Her collaboration with alto-saxophonist Jorge Sylvester began in 2001 and the synergy of their near telepathic level of communication has produced several unique and groundbreaking projects: A Small Dream In Red, an innovative expressionist voice and saxophone duo; ConceptualMotion Orchestra, a 20-piece all original music ensemble; and the Jorge Sylvester ACE (Afro-Caribbean-Experimental) Collective, a sextet of improvising musicians consisting of: alto saxophone, voice, trumpet, piano electric bass, and drums. The ACE Collective performs original, new and experimental compositions that draw from the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora, jazz and the free music art forms.

Additionally, Nora leads the following creative ensembles: Manna For Thought – a free form improvisational trio with Dom Minasi and Ras Moshe; Back To The One – conceptualized improvisation group – saxophone, piano, drums and pedals with original compositions and poetry, Jorge Sylvester, Pablo Vergara and Jay Rosen; and the HeartStrings Project that honors the poetic singer/songwriters of the past 50 years featuring: guitarist, composer, educator, Andrew Green, electric bassist, composer, Donald Nicks and renowned percussionist, Kenny Grohowski; The Nora McCarthyQu’ART’et featuring: John diMartino; Jeffrey Carney-Bass and Tony Jefferson-Drums; Lyrical Duosity with pianist Joshua Wolff. that repertoire that includes treasures from the Great American Songbook with a lot of emotion, spontaneous interplay and subtle surprises. Nora and her various groups have appeared in concerts, festivals and club dates in NYC and elsewhere in the world.

Nora has performed with artists: Trombonist Kuumba Frank Lacy’s Vibe Tribe; Trombonist George Brandon and the Blue Unity Ensemble; Gunter Hampel’s European Trio, Conductor, Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris’ A Chorus Of Poets (2005-2010); the Next Legacy Jazz Orchestra; Bassists: Dominic Duval, Santi Debriano, Gene Torres, Juini Booth, Andy McCloud, Calvin Hill, Reggie Washington, Ken Filiano, Essiet Okon Essiet, Donald Nicks; Vibraphonist Bill Ware, John Pietaro; Pianists: James Weidman, John diMartino, James Hurt, Eric Lewis, Pablo Vergara, Donald Smith, Carlos McKinney, Chip Crawford, Joshua Wolff, Richard Clements, Rahn Burton; Guitarists: Barry Wedgle, Dom Minasi, Marvin Sewell, Andrew Green; Drummers: Dave Gibson, Gene Jackson, Derrik Phillips, Dafnis Prieto, Michael Wimberly, Mark Johnson, Francisco Mela, Jay Rosen; Percussionist: Neal Clark as well as the legendary Bluesman, Wilson Pickett among many, many other notables.

On December 6, 2010, Nora performed in concert at the illustrious Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria debuting her original poetry as well as new compositions with Jorge Sylvester’s ACE Collective–their new CD, Spirit Driven was released on foUR Records in the Spring of 2013 along with In The Language Of Dreams. This is Nora’s newest offering with her voice and saxophone duo, A Small Dream In Red. It is a tribute to Ornette Coleman, Wassily Kandinsky and the people of Japan and recently made the list of the Best Jazz of 2012 for Female Singer and Top Vocal Jazz Album categories. . Nora is the featured vocalist on trombonist, composer George Brandon’s new CD, Toward The Hill Of Joy (May, 2011) with the Blue Unity Ensemble. Circle Completing (2009), is an exquisite duet CD with pianist John diMartino that features several of her original compositions and poetry including her tribute to the great jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott and includes her original composition, “Faith in Time – Jimmy’s Song,” her homage to Scott.

In 2009 Nora was featured in Italy’s foremost jazz magazine, The Jazz Magazine, alongside luminaries Ahmad Jamal and Phil Woods and her composition “My Dream” from her CD, red&blue, was included on the accompanying compilation CD. From 2009-2010, Nora hosted, New York Jazz Expressions, for UKJazz Radio, an online radio program presenting over 15 shows that featured a vast array of vocal and instrumental jazz recordings from early jazz to the avant-garde and free music art forms highlighting those artists currently on the cutting edge of the New York City jazz music scene.

Through her vast experience in the jazz and creative music field, Nora has developed a unique approach to teaching voice and improvisation. She is founder of, The Modern Voice Studio © and The Zen Of Singing…The Spiritual Path To Finding Your Voice, ™ and currently teaches privately, conducts workshops, master classes world-wide.


*McCarthy has penned lyrics to a dozen jazz standards and countless others.

*McCarthy’s has written over 20 compositions some are tributes to: Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Grover Washington, and Jimmy Scott.


Spirit Driven (foUR Records) – 2013

In The Language Of Dreams (foUR Records) – 2012

Toward A Hill of Joy, 2011

Circle Completing, 2009

A Small Dream In Red, 2005

red&blue, 1998


“…Most of all, McCarthy and Sylvester are dedicated to using art as a means to elevate and celebrate the human spirit; their music is about joy and creativity, and cultivating the finer aspects of the human soul.” Florence Wetzel, All About Jazz, 5/2012

“…A striking woman of unusually elastic voice, McCarthy infuses her music with poetry and theatricality that’s both stark and sensual.” Carlo Wolff, Cleveland Scene, April, 2010

“…McCarthy is a fearless singer who deftly refuses to be categorized as she explores personalized means for expressing ideas; she travels infrequently heard avenues for exploring thought and adapts vocal technique to fit the circumstances of her message.” Bill Donaldson for Jazz Improv NY, 2008

“…McCarthy’s vocals often recalled the soft, strained desperation of another Cleveland vocalist, the great Jimmy Scott. The album is, in fact, something of an homage to Scott, ending with the McCarthy original, “Faith in Time (Jimmy’s Song). …The singer closed with a barn-burning version of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” that left the crowd crowing for more and nicely “upset, in every way.”

4-18-2010, All About Jazz/ 31st Tri-C Jazz Festival, Matt Marshall

“…Her shaping of pitch often foregoes the fluid note-bending of the jazz singer in favor of the full press of a sculptor’s touch against viscous clay.” Ramsey Ameen/The Gathering Of The Tribes Magazine, 2005

“…The ballad “Too Late Now” (Lerner/Lane) from her CD, Circle Completing, is a charmer. Reminding me very much of the late lamented Irene Kral, Nora provocatively sings this melancholy ballad in full throttle.” Dan Singer, In-Tune International Magazine-UK, 3/2009

“…McCarthy’s vocals are rich and subtle and laced with varying degrees of earthy blues and soulful phrasings.” Sounds of Timeless, 2/2009

“…Circle Completing is a moody suite that deals with the evolution of life, coming to a place of forgiveness, letting go, and ultimately moving on to the next level. “Nora’s adventurous singing, the spontaneous interplay with John diMartino, and the unpredictability of the music result in the innovative duets being full of subtle surprises.” Scott Yanow, Jazz Critic & Author, 2008

“…McCarthy, who works in every setting from a bass and vocal duo to a twenty-piece orchestra, demonstrates that she is not one to simply serenade with the usual mix of standards.” Dan Bilawsky/Jazz Improv Magazine’s New York Jazz Guide, 2008

“…Nora McCarthy shines on “Do Something” – a groove piece whose melody and arrangement is reminiscent of a Horace Silver kind of energy; and on the hip lyrics to “In My Own Way” – an ‘electric’ medium groover. McCarthy’s contributions add a shimmering magnetism to the vocal pieces by Brandon. Other highlights include the soft Bossa “Friend In Need.” The album wraps up with the title song “Toward the Hill of Joy” – voice and piano, out of tempo, deep, contemplative and brilliant.” Clark Griffin, Jazz Inside, 2012

“…A good poet can tell a story with a minimum of text. So when Nora McCarthy tells the story of lies that have been “swept under the carpet / all scramble like roaches in the early morning light,” she extends the idea in a couple of directions at once – with a kind of vocalese, aided by skittery piano bits. The presentation says far more than a couple of paragraphs could, that’s for sure.” Mark Saleski/

“…Nora is a wonderfully focused musician, singer composer. Her original compositions are splendid examples of modern and traditional jazz song. I highly recommend her as a fellow artist.” Dom DuVal, musician / composer / bassist.” April 9, 2009

“…You can hear this woman’s life in her voice…” Walter Kolosky,

“…Nora McCarthy has a deep voice, with the timbre and range of Sarah Vaughan….she uses ever-so-subtle pitch-bending and straight tones and just a lovely touch of vibrato.” Julianne Carney/International Society For Improvised Music, 2007

“…Nora is a musical flurry of passion, soul, emotion, soothsaying, truth telling and jazz poetry that takes you on flights of improvisational abandon with grace and wit. She is a force to be experienced!” Sarah James, Musician, Poet, Vocalist, 2009

“…Nora McCarthy, the diva, one of the top singers who shaped the jazz vocal, a superb artist!” João Da Penha (“Jazz & Bossa Nova”, Brazil, 2009 )

“…It’s delightful to hear music that plays so freely with the known and the unknown elements of jazz.” Florence Wetzel/All About Jazz Magazine, NY, 2006

“…A non-generic and exciting vocalist to be aware of.” Alex Henderson/All About Jazz And L.A. Jazz Scene

“…A voice that is alternately liquid, breezy, and lustrous. Sophistication in the same vein as Chet Baker.” Mark Keating, Editor, Sound Views Magazine

“…She plays her tender voice like a musician trying to get the best out of some favored, old horn.” Edward Hill/The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“…Yet another voice in the retro-cool school-almost at times, as cool as Julie London, but with a serpentine edge”. Gary Giddins/The Village Voice

“…Continental and sophisticated, McCarthy is as much chanteuse as jazz singer.” Carlo Wolff/The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“…Nora McCarthy delivers with the improvisational intuition of Betty Carter and the compassion of Billie Holiday. McCarthy tackles harmonically complex material of Thelonius Monk with relative ease then easily slips into a relaxed Latin style that owes much to Brazilian samba queen Astrud Gilberto.” Edward Hill/The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“…The first set featured Jorge Sylvester’s Conceptual Motion Orchestra and they were grand. Great writing and superb singing from Nora McCarthy.” The Vision X Festival, June 14th – June 19th, 2005 – Review By Bruce Lee Gallanter