"GOD, CAN THIS WOMAN SING! It's as if a vocalist from the great post-war blues and jazz combos had been transported to the end of the century." Blues Access Magazine
"Kim Nalley has pipes to burn and works the stage like she means it." San Francisco Chronicle
"Sultry voiced Kim Nalley brings an irresistibly sexy sense of swing, rhythmic dexterity and beautiful sound to the classic, with her crisp diction and playful delivery of earthy lines." Down Beat
Awarded "Most Influential African American in the Bay Area" in 2005 and "Best Jazz Group" in 2013, vocalist Kim Nalley is already being called "legendary" and "San Francisco institution." No trip to San Francisco is complete without seeing Kim Nalley perform. With an international reputation as one of world's best jazz & blues vocalists, she has graced concert halls from Moscow to Lincoln Center. A true Renaissance woman, Kim Nalley has also been a featured writer for JazzWest and SF Chronicle's City Brights, shortlisted for a Grammy nomination, a produced playwright, a former jazz club owner, an accomplished stage actress, a Ph.D. candidate in history at UC Berkeley, and an avid lindy hop & blues dancer. Her many philanthropic endeavors include founding the Kim Nalley Black Youth Jazz Scholarship.
In looks, Kim Nalley exudes the aura of a diva from a by-gone era. Vocally, she has pipes to burn packing a 3 1/2 octave range that can go from operatic to gritty blues on a dime, projection that can whisper a ballad yet is capable of filling a room with no microphone, and the ability to scat blistering solos without ever losing the crowd's interest or the intense swing. She has been compared to all the greats, but in the end, it's Kim Nalley and no one else - an unforced instrument with clarity and jazzy musicality, effortlessly delivered, and a sense of humor to boot.
A born singer from a family that boasts several generations of jazz musicians, Nalley was taught piano by her great-grandmother and studied classical music and theatre in high school before relocating to San Francisco in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead. Working her way through college by singing in small dives and jam sessions, Nalley learned all of the intricacies of jazz the old fashioned way. Music critic Phil Elwood and San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas quickly discovered Kim Nalley and brought her to national attention after they noticed her singing nightly at the Alta Plaza to packed audiences - without amplification. Tilson Thomas hired Kim Nalley to sing a program of Gershwin with the San Francisco Symphony and recorded her farewell concert at the Alta Plaza.
Since then, Kim Nalley has performed globally, including major jazz festivals such as Monterey, Umbria Jazz and Lincoln Center and lived in Europe for several years before returning to San Francisco to re-open the jazz club Jazz at Pearl's. During her tenure from 2003 to 2008, Nalley raised the club to iconic international acclaim as the owner and artistic director.
She has collaborated with artists such as Rhoda Scott, David "Fathead" Newman, Houston Person, James Williams, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. She has recorded several on both major and indie labels, including She Put A Spell On Me, which was short-listed for a 2006 Grammy Award, and Million Dollar Secret, which charted in the Jazz Top 40.
Nalley often combines music and history to create historiographical concerts , including her award-winning "Ladies Sing the Blues*," "She Put a Spell on Me: Tribute to Nina Simone," "Freedom's Song: Music of the Civil Rights Movement," musical director and curator for the Martin Luther King Institute's Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and "The Heart of Lady Day," a Billie Holiday biopic. As a playwright she has written "Ella: the American Dream" a bio-musical about Ella Fitzgerald which premiered in 2008. As an actress she portrayed Billie Holiday in the dramatic play "Lady Day in Love," Blues Speak woman in Zora Neale Hurston's "Spunk" and has starred in Teatro Zinzanni as Madame Zinzanni, a role subsequently filled by Joan Baez and Sandra Reeves-Phillips.
Kim Nalley is on faculty at the California Jazz Conservatory. She is a Ph.D candidate in UC Berkeley's history department with plans to write her dissertation on the Globalization of Jazz and Black Cultural Politics.
Festivals: Umbria Jazz, Monterey Jazz, Tokyo Jazz, Lincoln Center, Pacific Rim Festival Honolulu, Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Vancouver, Du Maurier JazzFest, Tuno, Denmark, ImFluss Switzerland and many others.
Radio: NPR Mountain Stage, NPR Joy to the World, KCSM Sunday Night Suites, Desert Island Jazz
Stage: Swing!, Trial by Jury, Teatro Zinzanni, Lady Day in Love, Cabaret, SPUNK!, Ella the American Dream
Book and Film features: The Jazz Singers: Ultimate Guide by Scott Yanow, Swing! the new Retro-Renaissance by V. Vale, FaultLine by Barry Eisler, Growing up with Jazz by W. Stokes, Living Blues, Swing in America:a documentary film, Penguin Guide to Blues
Kim Nalley has performed and/or recorded with: Rhoda Scott, David Fathead Newman, George Coleman, Harold Mabern, Eric Alexander, James Carter, Roy Hargrove, Johnny Frigo, Giovanni Tommaso, James Williams, Hank Crawford, Jimmy McGriff, Billy Higgins, Lisle Atkinson, Buddy DeFranco, John Handy, Harold Jones, Wyatt Ruther, Merle Hoover, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, James, Carter, Ray Drummond, Alvin Atkinson, Johnny Nocturne Band, Eric Reed, Red Holloway & Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra
* Ladies Sing the Blues" is a trademark registered by Kim Nalley.