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Basking Ridge Church Soloist Among 'Three Jazz Divas' Coming to Arts Center

Three divas, each with own style, including soloist from Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Lauren Hooker. Courtesy of Watchung Arts Center
Lauren Hooker. Courtesy of Watchung Arts Center

The Watchung Arts Center will present "The Three Jazz Divas" the latest offering in its JaZZ in the Gallery Series, at 8 p.m. in the intimate Upper Gallery on Saturday, Feb. 1.

Lauren Hooker, Carrie Jackson, and Nancy Nelson, all of whom previously appeared on stage at the WAC, each will bring her own distinctive style to an evening exploring the extensive, exhilarating world of vocal jazz. Nelson is a choir member and soloist at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge. 

The talent, artistry, and vocal mastery of these Three Jazz Divas will be on full display, according to information from the WAC.

A rhythm section consisting of Fred Fischer, piano, Ron Naspo, bass and Nick Scheuble, drums will accompany the singers. Jackson will be accompanied by pianist Noriko Kamo. 

A dessert reception will follow the concert,  providing an opportunity to meet the performers.

Lauren Hooker, originally from Plainfield, appears regularly as a solo pianist and vocalist, as well as a singer leading her own quartet. She has been featured on a number of radio and television shows including NJN Public Television’s State of the Arts: “Abstractions in Music, Art and Theater” filmed live at the Cape May Jazz Festival and on BCAT "Brooklyn Sings, Brooklyn Swings Series" shown throughout New York’s five boroughs.

Hooker has performed or recorded with some of the best in the business including Rufus Reid, Vic Juris, Bucky Pizzarelli, Reggie Workman and Billy Holiday’s former pianist, Mal Waldron. Awarded Honorable Mention as one of AllAboutJazz-NY's selected Best Vocal CDs in ‘07 for her debut CD “Right Where I Belong”, Lauren is also included in Royal Stokes’ List of Best Jazz Vocal CDs of ‘10 for “Life of the Music” (Miles High Records), which includes mostly original material. 

She has been likened to Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, but with a style uniquely her own and “a voice with its own distinctive character” (AllAboutJazzUK). Ms. Hooker’s arrangements of jazz standards and original compositions include lyricist credits to instrumental standards by Thelonius Monk, Fats Waller, Charles Mingus, Mal Waldron and Wayne Shorter. Lauren’s third CD “My Heart and Soul” is scheduled to come out in the spring of 2014 featuring mostly original compositions.

Carrie Jackson is a New York-based vocalist who rekindles thoughts of America's great jazz history, according to the WAC. She attributes her vocal technique to the Great Ladies of Jazz, Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Carmen McRae, taking a bit of each to create a style that is uniquely her own. With her multifaceted singing style, Jackson can harmonize swing, scat, swing standards with sweet soul, wail the blues, ballads, or Gospel, all complimented by her engaging stage presence and graceful moves. She has a wide range with a strong command of the classic elements of jazz vocalizing.  “Carrie Jackson is an impressive vocalist and her voice swings with life.” (Jazz Improv). 

She also is a gifted lyricist and truly sings from her heart. This versatile singer began performing at age six in children’s and young adult choirs in Newark. She also appeared with WWRL Gospel Choir, and went on tour performing throughout the USA. Jackson was raised in Newark, and honed her many talents in the New York metropolitan areas. She has performed at renowned top jazz venues including the Blue Note, Birdland, Iridium, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center,and the Cape May Jazz Festival. She has performed as actress and dancer for musical theater including "Ain’t Misbehavin’" and "Nunsense," and has also performed for live radio and television.

Nancy Nelson grew up in Summit, and began singing jazz professionally at age 17. She has performed with Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, and many other jazz giants. Her jazz engagements have included the Royal Box at the Americana Hotel and the world-famous Rainbow Room in New York City, as well as many clubs in the New York area. Nelson has performed many times for the New Jersey Jazz Society, at several Newport (now JVC) Jazz Festival picnics, and numerous concerts at the Watchung Arts Center and the Bickford Theatre in Morristown. 

Locally, Nelson performs regularly at Shanghai Jazz Restaurant in Madison, and freelances with many other jazz groups and big bands throughout the area.

She has been the featured vocalist with Marty Eigen’s Beacon Hill Jazz Band for the last seven years, and sings in the NFL Vocal Jazz Trio with pianist Fred Fischer and his sister, Liz. A classically trained singer, Nelson studied music at Ithaca and Kean Colleges. She is a choir member and soloist at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, where she and bassist Hal Slapin have co-led the annual jazz worship service for 21 years.

Nelson has two recordings available: “Sweet and Low Down,” with the Keith Ingham Quartet, featuring songs by Berlin, Porter and Gershwin, and “Songs for the Journey,” a collection of sacred jazz and spirituals with Hal Slapin and pianist Jerry Vezza.

Tickets prices are $16 in advance, $20 ($18 WAC members, $10 students) at door.  Advanced tickets may be purchased online at watchungartscenter.eventbrite. com using a credit card, or by checks made payable to the Watchung Arts Center, 18 Stirling Road, Watchung, NJ  07069.  To obtain more information about upcoming performances, classes and workshops or monthly art exhibitions please visit WatchungArts.org. 

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