After more than five decades of singing jazz and blues, Ernestine Anderson is at the top of her form. Her two most recent CDs from Qwest, Blues, Dues & Love News (1996) and Now and Then (1993), both received Grammy nominations. An acknowledged virtuoso of the blues -- her rendition of "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" is a classic -- Ms. Anderson is equally superb with ballads and swing.
From intimate trio formats to big band, she does it all with seductive sophistication. Her sultry, sensuous voice is intimate in small club settings and soars with passionate intensity in the festival arena. Whether it's Ellington or Sting, Ms. Anderson's interpretation of a song is infectious. On stage, she's charming and vivacious, her joy in the music delighting audiences from Sweden to Japan. Ms. Anderson has recorded more than 30 albums, performed at all the major jazz festivals, and has received four Grammy nominations.
She was one of 75 women chosen for the book, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America, by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Brian Lanker, joining such company as Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Barbara Jordan, and Toni Morrison.
Born in Houston, Texas, on November 11, 1928, into a musical family, Ernestine grew up listening to the blues. As a child, she joined her father and grandmother singing gospel. When she was twelve, Ernestine entered a talent contest and so impressed trumpeter Russell Jacquet that he hired her on the spot to sing with his big band.
When she was 18, she left Seattle, where her family had moved in 1944, 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. In 1955, she cut a few tracks with alto saxophonist GiGi Gryce, which brought her to the attention of the larger jazz world.
A few months later, she was asked to go on a Scandinavian tour, where she was a huge sensation, the adoring Swedes dubbing her "Stina". Anderson recorded her first solo album in Sweden, which was released here in 1958 by Mercury Records and retitled Hot Cargo. Her star rose rapidly; she was asked to perform in the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958, named "Best New Vocal Star" in Down Beat's 1959 Critics Poll, and was featured in Time magazine. In the 1960s, changing musical tastes made it tough for American jazz musicians, and like many others, Ms. Anderson moved to Europe to pursue her career. After a few years in London, she returned home and went into semi-retirement, performing only occasionally in local clubs.
After joining the Buddhist church, she felt a renewed interest in singing. With the urging of bassist Ray Brown, she resumed her career and signed with Concord Records in 1976.She stayed with the label for fifteen years, making nearly 20 albums. Two -- Never Make Your Move Too Soon (1981) and Big City (1983) -- received Grammy nominations.