Brenda Earle Stokes: between the piano and the voice

Canada-born, NYC-based jazz pianist and vocalist brings contemporary influences from k.d. lang to Michael McDonald to bear on the traditional format

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The piano-vocalist duo format has been a mainstay of jazz for generations, providing ample opportunity to showcase both singer and pianist, while serving to share the dialogue between the two.

On her latest album Solo Sessions Volume 1, Brenda Earle Stokes explores the less-often recorded format of solo piano and voice, showcasing a mesmerising fluidity as both singer and pianist.

As a follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2014 studio album Right About Now, singer and pianist Stokes sought to challenge herself to dig deep and share the full scope of her talents in the most intimate setting possible.

Captured in a single four-hour session in her hometown of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, the set explores a wide spectrum of material, including jazz standards, original compositions and seldom heard compositions by George Shearing and Steve Swallow. She improvises effortlessly as pianist and vocalist, and creates luminous accompaniments at the keyboard. The album is rounded out with lush jazz arrangements of songs recorded by k.d. lang, Michael McDonald and Huey Lewis, showing the full range of her musical curiosities. 

“I was inspired by many of the great piano-voice duo records – Ella/Oscar, Tony Bennett/Bill Evans and Fred Hersch/all the singers he has worked with. There have been very few albums put out in this voice-piano solo format, which made this project both terrifying and exhilarating”, she says. Her commitment to and passion for the jazz tradition is on full display and mixes with her fascination with contemporary singer/songwriters to create a memorable experience.

This article was produced with the assistance of the artist.