Artist Spotlight: Anita Baker

Anita Denise Baker was born on January 26th, 1958 in Toledo, Ohio. The American singer-songwriter was to begin her career in the 1970’s. Chapter 8, was the funk band she had joined and eventually she would later release her first solo album, The Songstress, in the year 1983. A couple of years later she would release her platinum-selling album, Rapture. Her album would include her Grammy winning single “Sweet Love”. Up until now, Baker has won a total of eight Grammy Awards and has quite the credit under her belt, with five platinum albums and one gold album. 

With a vocal range of contralto, Baker would begin singing R&B at Detroit nightclubs at the tender age of 16. At one of those performances she would be discovered by David Washington, a bandleader that would have her audition for a spot in the funk band, Chapter 8. 

Anita would join the group in 1975 and would obtain a deal with Ariola Records in 1979. The first album, Chapter 8, would feature duets that band members Anita Baker and Gerald Lyles would partake in. Sadly, short after the album release, Ariola Records would be bought out by Artist Records and Chapter 8 would be dropped from the label solely because they believed that the groups lead singer, Anita, did not have “star potential”.

Anita would return to Detroit and obtain jobs as a waitress and receptionists for law firms. As a former band mate of Chapter 8, she was reached out to by former members and persuaded her to start her solo career. She began her solo career with Beverly Glen label and would release her first solo album, The Songstress, in 1983. She had much success with her singles such as, “No More Tears”,  “ Will  You Be Mine” and “Angel”. Her mainstream success began in 1986 with her second album release of, Rapture. She would release multiple singles as well and would soon then begin promoting her first tour. Her album had sold 8 million copies worldwide, while 5 million were in the United States alone.Up until now Anita has had great success, from appearing on Frank Sinatra’s Duets album, to returning to the charts in 1994 with Rhythm of Love.

To André, Anita has been such a great influence to his life, as the light that emanates from Anita, emanates from André as well. Baker has been so passionate about staying in the R&B roots, and with those roots being so embedded into her passion for singing and songwriting, it is something that André is passionate about as well. Anita was always so gracious and inviting to André, she always had a hug waiting for you and her vocal ability was forever present on stage.The sweet and funny songstress would be one of the greatest interviews that André would have on Stevens-Thomas with Notes, a radio show André produced. One interview that would leave such a positive impact on André.

Artist Spotlight: Morgana King

Maria Grazia Morgana Messina, who many have come to know as Morgana King, is a beloved actress as well as an American Jazz Singer. Born on June 4, 1930, in Pleasantville, New York, Morgana was one of five siblings. Her singing career began at the tender age of sixteen, she first sang at a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1953, where a record label would take interest in her for her multi-octave range. Three years later, she would release her first album, For You, For Me, For Evermore.

Morgana would go ahead and headline many clubs, hotels and concert halls. She would tour the United States, Europe, Australia and South America. She would perform at many venues that would benefit AIDS Research, along with annual Jazz Festivals. King would also perform records with over 36 other musicians over her career. Some musicians would include: Ben Aronov, Clifford Carter, Don Costa, Eddie Daniels, Ted Nash and many more. It is said that she holds more than two hundred songs and has produced more than thirty albums. She was a Grammy Award Nominee for Best New Artist in 1964.

Along with singing, Morgana has also participated in films like The Godfather Parts I and II. She portrayed the Italian- American wife of Vito Corleon. Portraying Carmela Corleon gave her the opportunity to display her vocal skills during the film. She acted as Vitos wife of 40 years and the mother to their four children: Sonnie, Fredo, Michael and Connie

Her voice is quite notable for her four-octave range and continued to pursue new music trends with her voice. She has influenced many people throughout her life and continues to do so today.

Some 15 – 20 years ago Andre would have the opportunity to meet Morgana King, they would spend many wonderful times together. He credits her for teaching him the ropes about show business. Andre till this day remembers her kindness, that she would even cook for him his favorite – Italian Sausage (a pot full with onions). Morgana King would leave an impression and a true mark on André Stevens-Thomas to continue his dream of becoming the Contemporary R&B/Jazz artist that he has become.

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Artist Spotlight: Mose Allison

Mose John Allison, Jr., was born on November 11th, 1927 in Tippo, Mississippi. Mose is a singer and songwriter, along with being a jazz blues pianist. Beginning piano lessons at only five years of age, Mose had not only picked it up very well, but began playing other instruments in high school, such as the trumpet. The current 88 year old wrote his first song at the tender age of thirteen. From high school he then went on to college, where he then graduate from Louisiana State University in 1952 with a degree in English Studies.

Allison’s career began in 1956 when he moved to New York. His career began by performing with Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Stan Getz. Prestige Records issued his debut album in 1957 titled, Back County Suite. His record label then went ahead and released his next album in 1963, which was composed of only vocals which was titled, Mose Allison Sings. Allison was later then marketed as a pop star, but later records such as Columbia and Atlantic saw him more as a blues artist due to his previous albums. Mose sang tribute to many influential artists such as Mojo Triangle and Jimmy Rogers.

The Long Island Music Hall of Fame then inducted Mose Allison in 2006. His albums had stopped for quite some time, but in 2010 Mose released his newest album, The Way of the World, after not releasing an album for nearly 12 years. Mose’s music has influenced many artists such as: Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, The Who, and The Yardbirds, along with such artists, he has greatly influenced André Stevens Thomas as well. André has never heard anyone sing with such a melody like Mose does. His impeccable and exciting melody only accentuates his lyrics.

Artist Spotlight: Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) known as the “First Lady of Song” or “The Queen of Jazz,” was arguably the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. Her beginnings were humble: she had a very troubled upbringing, and was homeless throughout her teens. Her luck turned around when one day in 1934, when she was 17, homeless and dressed in rags, she entered a dance competition at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. The other competitors were too good for her to compete against, so Ella decided to sing instead—and stunned the crowd. After being discovered at the contest, Fitzgerald went on to be be Jazz’s best woman singer for decades, and became the first African American woman to win a grammy. She didn’t stop there, however, though and went on to win 13 Grammy awards and sell over 40 million albums.

Her voice had a wide range, incredible accuracy and a timeless sound. Ella sang everything from jazz to ballads, and because of her talent found herself working with the jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, as well as Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman.

Part of Ella’s success can be attributed to her ever-evolving style. As Ella once said, “A lot of singers think all they have to do is exercise their tonsils to get ahead. They refuse to look for new ideas and new outlets, so they fall by the wayside… I’m going to try to find out the new ideas before the others do.”

To this day she is known for her silky smooth voice and technical improvisation. Click the link to hear Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime” – https://goo.gl/Aw1pYh

You can also visit the official website of Ella Fitzgerald by clicking here.