Samara Joy

“The close precision and frothy power of her voice stand out immediately … so does the depth of her comfort within the jazz tradition”
– The New York Times

With her upcoming Verve Records debut, Linger Awhile, 22-year-old Samara Joy makes her case to join the likes of Sarah, Ella, and Billie as the next mononymous jazz singing sensation recorded by the venerable label. Her voice, rich and velvety yet precociously refined, has already earned her fans like Anita Baker and Regina King, appearances on the TODAY Show and millions of likes on TikTok — cementing her status as perhaps the first Gen Z jazz singing star. On Linger Awhile, Samara will introduce that massive audience to a slew of classic standards several times older than she is through her timeless, irresistible sound.

Samara is still relatively new to jazz. Growing up in the Bronx, it was music of the past — the music of her parent’s childhoods, as she put it — that she listened to most. She treasures her musical lineage, which stretches back to her grandparents Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon, both of whom performed with Philadelphia gospel group the Savettes, and runs through her father, who is a singer, songwriter and producer who toured with gospel artist Andraé Crouch. “Sometimes I catch myself when I’m singing — I’m like, ‘Whoa, that was a dad moment’,” Samara quips. Eventually, she did follow in the family tradition, singing in church and then with the jazz band at Fordham High School for the Arts, with whom she won Best Vocalist at JALC’s Essentially Ellington competition. That led to her enrolling in SUNY Purchase’s jazz studies program, where she fell deeply in love with the music.

Though she’s young, she relishes the process of digging through the music’s history and learning new standards. “I think maybe people connect with the fact that I’m not faking it, that I already feel embedded in it,” Samara says. “Maybe I’m able to reach people in person and on social media because it’s real.” The gatekeepers of the jazz world tend to agree: in 2019, she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and she’s since performed with legends like Christian McBride and Bill Charlap. Legendary late pianist Barry Harris was a particularly important influence and mentor. “You inspired me as well as many others with this fire for teaching and playing that couldn’t be dimmed by anything or anyone,” Samara writes in Linger Awhile’s liner notes, dedicating the project in part to Harris’ memory.

Samara is accompanied by esteemed veterans on Linger Awhile as well: her former professors, guitarist Pasquale Grasso and drummer Kenny Washington, form the core of the band, which also includes bassist David Wong and pianist Ben Paterson. With ease and a preternatural assurance, Samara swings right alongside them through understated yet powerful renditions of this creative collection of standards. 

There are burnished, gleaming versions of chestnuts in “Misty,” “Linger Awhile” and “Someone To Watch Over Me,” transporting listeners to some romantic, long-lost supper club. Those familiar tunes are listed alongside some more unusual, if equally vintage selections: “Sweet Pumpkin,” a Ronnell Bright tune performed by the likes of Blue Mitchell and Gloria Lynne, and “Can’t Get Out Of This Mood,” which Samara uncovered on a collection of Sarah Vaughan rarities, add a lilting, upbeat bent to the album’s selections. 

“When I heard the lyrics, I was like, ‘OK, this is positive — it’s not as much about heartbreak,” Samara says of “Mood.” “I liked the way I felt after hearing her singing it, and hopefully I can create the same feeling for people when they hear that song.”

Samara aims for the opposite on a spine-tingling version of “Guess Who I Saw Today,” originally popularized by Nancy Wilson. This gently grieving rendition showcases the young singer’s exceptional control and range, as well as her refined, distinctive style. 

Marrying Samara’s interest in classic standards as well as crate-digging is her take on the iconic Thelonious Monk tune “‘Round Midnight” — instead of the traditional lyrics, Samara sings those written by Jon Hendricks, which she had only heard in a vintage TV performance by Carmen McRae. “Those lyrics haven’t been recorded that much — so even though it’s a song that a lot of people know, this is a different take on it,” Samara says. It’s the only song on the album that includes a horn section, including trumpeter Terell Stafford, trombonist Donavan Austin, and finally tenor saxophonist Kendric McCallister, who is responsible for the arrangement, a transformation of Cootie Williams’ original.

A concept that will likely be foreign to Samara’s TikTok following is that of vocalese, a jazz technique showcased across Linger Awhile. “Nostalgia (The Day I Knew)” was the product of a jazz transcription class she took with trumpet master Jon Faddis at SUNY Purchase, in which she took down Fats Navarro’s solo from the original 1947 recording and wrote her own lyrics to that melody — inspired, she quips, by the teen romance novels she was reading. She went through the same process with “I’m Confessin’,” combining that song’s original lyrics with her own, set to Lester Young’s 1952 solo. Especially for a contemporary listener, hearing how seamlessly Samara transforms these instrumental lines into breezy lyrics is astounding.

Also included on Linger Awhile is “Social Call,” co-written by vocalese pioneer Hendricks and Gigi Gryce — a fitting, beautiful tribute to those who paved the way for Samara’s exploration of this often-overlooked subgenre. 

The release is just one more step for the ascendant vocalist, who will spend the rest of 2022 touring increasingly large stages — still shocked to be performing in front of thousands who hang on every word. “I’m still very much a student, even though I’ve graduated,” Samara says. “So this is only the beginning… there is much, much more to come.”

Walter Smith III

August 5, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
August 25, 2019 Da Camera
Houston, TX, USA

Steve Lehman Trio // "The People I Love" US Tour

September 19, 2019 Kuumbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
September 20, 2019 SFJAZZ Center
San Francisco, CA, USA
September 21, 2019 Constellation
Chicago, IL, USA
September 22, 2019 Bop Stop
Cleveland, OH, USA
September 24, 2019 – September 25, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
September 26, 2019 Regatta Bar
Boston, MA, USA

The Jazz Gallery All-Stars

September 1, 2020 – October 18, 2020 AVAIL Worldwide

Tigran Hamasyan

April 30, 2020 Lawrence University
Appleton, WI, USA

Theo Croker 'Star People Nation'

September 14, 2019 Lodge Room
Los Angeles, CA, USA
September 16, 2019 Springfield Technical Community College
Springfield, MA, USA
September 20, 2019 – September 21, 2019 Blue LLama
Ann Arbor, MI, USA
September 23, 2019 Dizzy's Club (Big Brother Big Band)
New York, NY, USA
October 22, 2019 CBE
Cologne, Germany
October 27, 2019 Grillo Theater
Essen, Germany
November 1, 2019 The Loft, UCSD
San Diego, CA, USA

Gerald Clayton Quartet US Tour

September 23, 2019 – September 24, 2019 Lied Center (Solo)
Lawrence, KS, USA
September 27, 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey, CA, USA
September 28, 2019 – September 29, 2019 Moss Theatre
Los Angeles, CA, USA
October 1, 2019 Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, AZ, USA
October 3, 2019 The Outpost
Albuquerque, NM, USA
October 4, 2019 Santa Fe Music Collective
Santa Fe, NM, USA
October 6, 2019 Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
Half Moon Bay, CA, USA
October 7, 2019 University of Nevada
Reno, NV, USA
October 8, 2019 The Triple Door
Seattle, WA, USA
October 10, 2019 – October 13, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 16, 2019 Blues Alley
Washington, DC, USA
October 19, 2019 The Factory at Franklin
Franklin, TN, USA
November 20, 2019 Herb Alpert Music Center (Solo)
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Buika

August 1, 2019 Patio Theater
Chicago, IL, USA
August 3, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA

JD Allen

January 25, 2020 Jefferson Center
Roanoke , VA, USA

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

September 1, 2019 Detroit Jazz Festival
Detroit, MI, USA
December 13, 2019 – December 14, 2019 JALC with René Marie
New York, NY, USA

Marcus Lewis Big Band

September 3, 2019 Des Moines Jazz Festival
Des Moines, IA, USA

Camila Meza & The Nectar Orchestra

August 4, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
September 14, 2019 Lake George Jazz Festival
Lake George, NY, USA
September 28, 2019 Tempe Arts Center
Tempe, AZ, USA
October 12, 2019 Mondriaan Jazz Festival
The Hague, Netherlands
November 8, 2019 SFJAZZ
San Francisco, CA, USA
November 11, 2019 Arcata Playhouse
Arcata, CA, USA
November 15, 2019 – November 16, 2019 Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Marcus Strickland 'Twi-Life'

August 4, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA

Joel Ross 'Good Vibes' 'Kingmaker' Release Tour

August 3, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
August 30, 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival
Chicago, IL, USA
September 13, 2019 White Plains Jazz Festival
White Plains, NY, USA
October 17, 2019 Kummbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
October 18, 2019 Vashon Center for the Arts
Vashon, WA, USA
October 19, 2019 Earshot Jazz Festival
Seattle, WA, USA
October 20, 2019 Holocene
Portland, OR, USA
October 21, 2019 Brubeck Institute
Stockton, CA, USA
October 25, 2019 BRIC Jazz Festival
Brooklyn, NY, USA
November 21, 2019 Annenberg Center
Philadelphia, PA, USA
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Jazz Festival
Umbria, Italy

Sullivan Fortner Trio

July 20, 2019 – July 21, 2019 Cola Jazz Camp
Columbia, SC, USA
July 28, 2019 Woods Hole Jazz (Solo Piano)
Falmouth, MA, USA
September 19, 2019 Temple University
Philadelphia, PA, USA
September 22, 2019 – September 23, 2019 Boise Jazz Society
Boise , ID, USA
October 1, 2019 Exuberance
Philadelphia, PA, USA
October 3, 2019 – October 6, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 26, 2019 Clermont-Ferrand
Clarmont-Ferrand, France
November 18, 2019 – November 19, 2019 Paris Philharmonie
Paris, France
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Residency
Umbria, Italy
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