The daughter of a Baptist preacher came into contact with the music of the African-American churches at an early age and soon developed her love for Gospels, Spirituals and Jubilees. During her school years, she sang the Motown hits of that era in various bands, but she also dedicated herself to sport and became Maryland State Hurdles Champion. In addition to her admiration for the singing of Aretha Franklin, she soon found an enthusiasm and fascination for the singer Sarah Vaughan, which is still going strong today, just like her love for gospel music.
She studied acting, dancing and singing at the Howard University College of Fine Arts and she moved to Europe for work immediately after completing her studies. She then worked in Zurich (Opera House), Berlin (Theater des Westens) and Vienna (Volksoper). Carole Alston played numerous leading roles in musicals such as Kate in “Kiss Me, Kate”, Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar”, Aldonza in “Man of La Mancha” or Anita in “West Side Story”. At the same time, she also worked as an actor at the spoken theatre (alongside Karl Schönböck or Karin Dor among others) or as a singer on TV shows (with Josè Carreras among others). Carole Alston has been teaching jazz dance at the ballet school of the Vienna State Opera for many years. As a jazz singer, she has performed at the Salzburg Autumn Jazz Festival, Jazzland and Joe Zawinul’s Birdland in Vienna and most recently in clubs in Prague, Paris, Warsaw and Istanbul. She has worked together with Richard Oesterreicher, Michael Starch, Andi Weiss, Aaron Wonesch, Erwin Schmidt, Herbert Pichler, Heribert Kohlich, Christian Havel, Hans Strasser, Harald Putz, Uli Langthaler, Heinz von Hermann, Thomas Huber, Martin Fuss, Thomas Kugi, Joris Dudli and Walter Grassmann.
born on 31 August 1957 in Washington D.C.
is an American jazz singer and actor.
She lives in Vienna.
Born in Memphis in 1895, Alberta Hunter moved to Chicago at the age of twelve. She kept her head above water with jobs like peeling potatoes, but she was determined to become a singer. After starting out in cheap establishments, she was given a job at one of the most exclusive clubs in the city, the Dreamland Café. She was already a celebrity in Chicago in 1919. She began to focus more on her public image, where rumours were circulating about her preference for women. She met Army veteran Willard Saxby Townsend at a performance in a club in Cincinnati. They got married on 27 January 1919 in Covington, Kentucky. However, the marriage was not actually fulfilled. Two months after she moved back to Chicago, Townsend filed for divorce, which then took place in 1923. From that moment, Hunter lived in New York with the love of her life, Lottie Tyler. The biggest success of her career as a singer and song writer came in the 1920s and 1930s. She performed in clubs and onstage in New York City and London. Her most-famous songs include the raunchy ballad My Man is Such a Handy Man.
After the war, her musical career began to stagnate. At the start of the 1950s, after the death of her mother, she completely gave up music. She began training as a nurse by lying about her age and submitting a fake high school diploma.
She was sent into retirement at the age of 81 in 1977. In 1978, at the age of 83, she recorded the album The Amtrak Blues and began to perform again. A two-week booking at the The Cookery, a small club in New York Greenwich Village, was extended indefinitely because of the unexpected success. This was followed by new recordings, television appearances, invitations from all over the world (e.g. Berlin Jazztage 1982 with live TV coverage by ARD), tours and a performance in the White House. Alberta Hunter performed until shortly before her death on 17 October 1984. Her life was the basis for the musical Cookin’ in the Cookery by Marion J. Caffey.
“Alberta Hunter is a phenomenon. One of the bravest of them all.
Black. Female. Self-professed lesbian, who ran away from home at the age of twelve.
She was always incredibly straightforward, she never denied herself and she was always
“the girl from the South”.
She really lived the Blues and you can hear it in her music.”
born on 01 April 1895 in Memphis, Tennessee; died on 17 October 1984 in New York City, New York
was an African-American blues and jazz singer and song writer.
Nina Simone was the sixth of eight children of a Methodist preacher and a craftsman. She began to play piano at the age of four. After studying at the renowned Juilliard School in New York City, she wanted to complete her training in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute of Music, but she was not admitted on presumably racist grounds. Nina Simone began singing through her job as a piano teacher, whereby she improvised her own pieces from the outset. She released her first album with Bethlehem Records in New York in 1957, and a concert at the New York City Town Hall in 1959 made her famous in the USA and Europe. Her fans reverently called her the “High Priestess of Soul”. She became involved in the US civil rights movement in the 1960s and she became a musical role model with songs like Mississippi Goddam and To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
However, her own private life shattered piece by piece: She fled from her marriages, searched for her origins in Africa based on a recommendation from Miriam Makeba, went on European tours, which alienated her from her political struggle in the USA, and she was increasingly considered difficult in the record industry.
In the 1980s, she regularly performed at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London (and she also recorded an album there). Her autobiography I Put a Spell on You was published in 1992 and her last regular album was released in 1993. In the same year, she moved to Southern France, where she lived for ten years and she died in 2003 after a long battle with cancer. She was brought to a wider audience by her song My Baby Just Cares for Me, which became a worldwide hit thanks to a Chanel commercial in 1987, 30 years after recording. She had minimal involvement in the sales proceeds.
“When I was a child, she was my history book, especially with her self-penned songs. At that time, she was sometimes too radical for me, but what can you do with so many years of pent-up anger...?”
She was very political in the 60s and 70s, she campaigned for Martin Luther King and offended the First Lady, but she was first and foremost an excellent musician and performer.“
Nina Simone (born Eunice Kathleen Waymon)
born on 21 February 1933 in Tryon, USA; died on 21 April 2003 in Carry-le-Rouet, France
was an American jazz and blues singer, pianist and song writer. She avoided the term ‘jazz’ and she called her music ‘Black Classical Music’.
Sarah Vaughan came from a musical family and she began playing the piano at the age of seven. She soon became the organist and first voice in the church choir in her community in Newark, NJ.
Although it was illegal due to her age, she began performing as a pianist and occasionally as a singer in Newark’s nightclubs. Her nightly performances eventually led to her expulsion from high school. During this period, Sarah Vaughan and her friends visited New York to listen to the big bands in Harlem, which played in the Savoy Ballroom and the Apollo Theatre. One day in autumn 1942, when Sarah was 18 years old, Sarah’s friend Doris Robinson advised her to take part in a nightly amateur competition in the Apollo; she accompanied Doris on piano. Sarah subsequently decided to take to the stage herself, this time as a singer. She sang the standard Body and Soul and won.
Sarah loved noise, movement and commotion and she let herself be carried away by life. “I sing ... I just sing.” Sarah Vaughan, Sassy to her friends, had a vocal range which would turn some opera singers green with envy. The flexibility of her expressive voice allowed her to make daring tone jumps and intricate lines. Her pianistic training gave her a remarkable sense of harmony, which allowed her to sing scat and become the vocal counterpart to the solos of the great Bebop improvisers. This was one of the reasons why Sarah Vaughan was accorded the utmost respect from her musicians. She had her first big hit at the age of 23: Tenderly. Of course she became a diva who loved luxury, but she continually improved her musical skills.
Her managers were always her lovers, which made her life complicated.
The glaring excesses of racial segregation hurt her deeply: “I don’t think in black and white. I think of human beings, people ... My mother raised me this way.”
With her voice, she would have made it as an opera singer. However, black people were virtually excluded from classical music. Nowhere did black and white people mix so freely as in jazz. “If I ever write my autobiography, I will mention the producers, who tried to force me to sing songs which did not fulfil my objectives, by name.” “What I offer the public is music. If I don’t manage this, I am a failure. Music is more important to me than constantly producing new hits.” An absolute professional in the studio, she often delivered the final record version on the second or third attempt. Sarah Vaughan died at the age of 66 on 03 April 1990.
“There is actually only one word: divine”.
“When she sang ballads, it was incredibly skilful, when she sang the Blues, you could feel it in the tips of your toes and she used her voice as an instrument for Bepop.”
“Despite her fame and recognition, she was always very insecure and she was plagued by self-doubt. This is a point that brings her very close to me”.
born on 27 March 1924 in Newark, New Jersey; died on 03 April 1990 in Los Angeles, California
was an American jazz singer and pianist. She is regarded as one of the most important jazz vocalists alongside Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.