Ernestine Anderson (born November 11, 1928) is an American jazz and blues singer. In a career spanning more than five decades, she has recorded over 30 albums. She was nominated four times for a Grammy Award. She has sung at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Monterey Jazz Festival (six times over a 33-year span), as well as at jazz festivals all over the world. In the early 1990s she joined Qwest Records, the label of fellow Garfield High School grad Quincy Jones.
Anderson was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of a construction worker. At age three, she could sing along with the raw tunes of the legendary Bessie Smith; she soon moved on to the more refined environs of her local church, singing solos in its gospel choir.
Anderson tells of her early life in the book, The Jazz Scene (1998):
- "My parents used to play blues records all the time," Ernestine Anderson told me. "John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, all the blues greats. In Houston, where I grew up, you turned on the radio and what you got was country and western and gospel. I don't even remember what my first experience with music was. I sort of grew into it. My father sang in a gospel quartet and I used to follow him around, and both my grandparents sang in the Baptist church choir. And they had big bands coming through Houston like Jimmie Lunceford, Billy Eckstine, Erskine Hawkins, and Count Basie." Ernestine's godmother entered her in a local talent contest when she was twelve years old. "I only knew two songs," she admitted, "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "So Long". The piano player asked me what key did I do these songs in and I just said "C" for some reason and it was the wrong key. In order to save face I sang around the melody, improvised among the melody, and when I finished one of the musicians told me I was a jazz singer."
Her family moved to Seattle, Washington in 1944, when she was sixteen. Anderson graduated from Garfield High School. When she was eighteen, she left Seattle, to tour for a year with the Johnny Otis band. In 1952, she went on tour with Lionel Hampton's orchestra. After a year with the legendary band, she settled in New York, determined to make her way as a singer. Her appearance on Gigi Gryce's 1955 album Nica's Tempo (Savoy) led to a partnership with trumpeter Rolf Ericson for a three-month Scandinavian tour. Ernestine's first album in the United States was made after her debut album, recorded in Sweden and released here by Mercury Records under the title Hot Cargo (1958), which created a huge sensation. In 1959 Anderson won the Down Beat "New Star" Award and recorded for Mercury to more acclaim, before dividing her time from the mid-60's between America and Europe.
- "I don't think jazz ever died. It suffered a setback during the sixties. I had to move to London in order to work because a jazz person couldn't work in the United States when rock 'n' roll became the music. I didn't think it would last this long, and I don't think the rock 'n' roll people thought it would last this long, but it had."
Her re-emergence in the mid-1970s (at which time Ray Brown was her manager) came as a result of a sensational appearance at the 1976 Concord Jazz Festival, a string of albums for Concord Records followed. Anderson has continued her career revival into the 1990s, working with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, amongst others.
In 2008, her home which had been in her family for decades was scheduled for foreclosure for debts of $48,000. The home was saved by donations by friends such as Quincy Jones and Diane Schuur.
Anderson is currently represented by Addeo Music International (AMI).
- 1956: MEP 190 - 7" w/Duke Jordan recorded in Sweden (Metronome)
- 1956: Hot Cargo - (Mercury Records)
- 1958: The Toast of the Nation's Critics - (Mercury Records)
- 1960: My Kinda Swing- (Mercury Records)
- 1963: The New Sound of Ernestine Anderson Collectable Jazz Classic - (Sue Records)
- 1977: Hello Like Before - (Concord Records)
- 1978: Live From Concord To London - (Concord Records)
- 1980: Sunshine - (Concord Records)
- 1981: Never Make Your Move Too Soon - (Concord Records)
- 1983: Big City - (Concord Records)
- 1985: When the Sun Goes Down - (Concord Records)
- 1987: Live at the Alley Cat: With the Frank Capp/Nat Pierce Juggernaut - (Bellaphon Records)
- 1987: Be Mine Tonight - (Concord Records)
- 1988: A Perfect Match With George Shearing - (Concord Records)
- 1990: Boogie Down - (Concord Records)
- 1990: Live at the 1990 Concord Jazz Festival Third Set - (Concord Records)
- 1991: Boogie Down With the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra - (Concord Records)
- 1993: Great Moments With Ernestine Anderson - (Concord Records)
- 1994: Now and Then - (Qwest Records)
- 1996: Blues, Dues & Love News - (Qwest Records)
- 1998: Isn't It Romantic - (Koch International Records)
- 2000: Ballad Essentials - (Concord Records)
- 2002: I Love Being Here With You - (Concord Records)
- 2002: Free Soul: The Classic of Ernestine Anderson - (JVC Japan Records)
- 2003: Love Makes the Changes - (High Note Records)
- 2004: Hello Like Before - (JvVC Victor Records)
- 2009: A Song For You - (HighNote Records)
|Ernestine Anderson Grammy History
||Best Jazz Vocal Performance
||Blues, Dues & Love News
||Best Jazz Vocal Performance
||Now and Then
||Best Jazz Vocal Performance - Female
||Best Jazz Vocal Performance - Female
||Never Make Your Move Too Soon
Ernestine Anderson was featured in an article in Time magazine, August 4, 1958: "the voice belongs to Negro Singer Ernestine Anderson, at 29 perhaps the best-kept jazz secret in the land" after her first album release. She is inevitably compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday. Ernestine invariably rejects the comparisons. "I wish," she says, "they would let me be just me." She is, and "just me" is plenty good enough.
Anderson was one of 75 women chosen for the book, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America (1999), by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Brian Lanker. Within this book Ernestine Anderson joins such company as Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Oprah Winfrey, Lena Horne, and Sarah Vaughan.
She won the Golden Umbrella award at the Bumbershoot Seattle arts festival in 2002. The award honors artists from the Northwestern United States "who have significantly contributed to the cultural landscape of our region."
Anderson was chosen by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Recording Academy (an organization best known for the Grammy Awards) to receive its 2004 IMPACT Award. The IMPACT Award honors Northwest music professionals whose creative talents and accomplishments have crossed all musical boundaries and who have been recognized as an asset to the music community.
In 2012, the Low Income Housing Institute named a housing project the "Ernestine Anderson Place" in her honor, noting Anderson's long residence in Seattle's Central District where the units are located.
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