Nancy King is a rare songbird among jazz singers. Not many vocalists can say they’ve earned high praise from Jon Hendricks, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis (to name a few). She’s comfortable singing in any key, improvising with scat syllables or lyrics, spinning as many choruses as her fertile imagination allows. Nancy’s signature sound is vulnerable, husky and warm. She slides seamlessly in octave jumps up and down, with a drummer’s mastery of polyrhythms. The mention of her name brings knowing smiles from all who know her, and inquisitive glances from those who don’t. She is real-life cult figure, an underground vocal doyen – hard to reach and never easy to find (even with a smartphone).
I began this interview in October 2017 after receiving exciting news from pianist Randy Porter about his new release: Porter Plays Porter, Randy Porter Trio With Nancy King. (I’ve included some of Randy’s observations at the end of this article.) I downloaded the project immediately, and I loved it. To my delight, it has received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.