(11 Nov. 1928 – ), jazz singer, was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Joseph Anderson, a construction worker, and Erma Anderson. She sang as a young child along to her parents’ Bessie Smith and blues records. Her father sang in a gospel quartet in church and Ernestine became active in the church choir, sometimes taking solos. She taught herself to play the piano by ear and loved to listen to the big bands on the radio, and when she heard Sarah Vaughan, she became determined to become a professional singer. She was so enamored of Vaughan's singing that for a short time she sounded just like her, until she realized that the point of it all was for her to carve out her own musical identity, not copy her idol.Anderson began singing professionally quite early. She was fifteen years old when she performed with the trumpeter Russell Jacquet's band in 1943. She moved with her family to Seattle the following year and became part of the local music scene. After graduating from high school, Anderson made her recording debut in 1947 with Shifty Henry's orchestra. She worked with Johnny Otis's rhythm‐and‐blues revue from 1947 to 1949 and also with the pianist Eddie Heywood. Anderson spent a year (1952–1953) singing and touring with Lionel Hampton's big band during the period when the orchestra included the trumpeter Clifford Brown and the arranger Quincy Jones. After settling in New York, in 1955 she gained recognition for her singing on a record date with the altoist Gigi Gryce, which was highlighted by a notable version of his “Social Call.”Anderson toured Scandinavia in 1956 with the trumpeter Rolf Ericson's group for three months, staying for an additional three months as a soloist. While tempted to move permanently overseas, she returned to the United States when her mother became ill. While in Sweden, she recorded her first album as a leader, Hot Cargo, with Harry Arnold's orchestra. Hot Cargo became a strong seller when it was released in America in 1958, gaining her some recognition in the music world. She recorded a string of well‐received sets for the Mercury label and worked regularly in the United States in the early 1960s, at least until the rise of rock resulted in her brand of soulful jazz becoming less popular. After work started drying up, Anderson moved to England in 1965. For the next decade she alternated between Europe and the States, spending some time outside of music, and was largely overlooked in the jazz world by the early 1970s.That all changed when Anderson made a major comeback in the mid‐1970s. She was heard singing at the Turnwater Festival in Canada by the bassist Ray Brown. Brown became her manager, arranged for her to be signed by the Concord label, and had her booked for what would be a triumphant performance at the 1976 Concord Jazz Festival. From that time on, Anderson was never short of work, becoming a regular attraction at jazz clubs and festivals.During the fifteen years that she recorded for Concord, Anderson became very influential on other singers who wanted to cross over the boundaries of jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues. She consistently displayed the ability to turn any song into the blues and to uplift standards and make them personal by adding her own brand of soul. Her conversational style was very accessible yet never completely predictable. She made every note count and, like another one of her favorite artists, Billie Holiday, believed in every word that she sang.Anderson had opportunities to record with such notables as the pianists Hank Jones (Hello Like Before, 1977), Monty Alexander (Sunshine, 1980), Gene Harris (When the Sun Goes Down, 1985), and George Shearing (A Perfect Match, 1988); the tenor saxophonist Red Holloway (When the Sun Goes Down); the altoist Benny Carter (Be Mine Tonight, 1986); and the Capp‐Pierce Juggernaut big band. She also worked with the Clayton‐Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Philip Morri Superband, and a variety of jazz all‐stars. By the 1980s, Anderson's “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” (which she recorded twice) had become her trademark song. She could be quite sassy on bluesy material yet put plenty of feeling into ballads, even on her later recordings for the Qwest and High Note labels.While her voice gradually aged during the 1990s and early twenty‐first century as she entered her eighties, Ernestine Anderson's breath control, ability to hold notes for a long period of time, and highly expressive qualities remained very much intact, and she became a legendary jazz figure.
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