Just over 50 years have passed since 22-year-old Mary Stallings established herself as the finest new voice in jazz with the release of Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings. Since then, Stallings has released fewer albums than the average person has fingers, the earliest dating to 1990. Tempting as it is to ruminate over what could have been, it’s better to celebrate the fact that she has been steadily active throughout the past two decades and remains, at 72, the consummate jazz singer. It’s also tempting to say that her tone and phrasing are strongly reminiscent of Carmen McRae and that her warmth rivals Nancy Wilson. Both statements are true, but comparisons can imply inferiority, and Stallings is second to none.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.