Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins is a saxophone colossus. The revered tenor saxophonist first received that appellation via the name of his 1956 Prestige Records album. Even then, at age 26, the title seemed fitting. He had already played and/or recorded with bebop giants Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and J.J. Johnson—and had established himself as the prominent young voice on his instrument via recordings and performances as a leader.

Walter Theodore Rollins was born in New York City on September 7, 1930; his name has been incorrectly stated as Theodore Walter, a switch Rollins made in the mid-’50s. A child of music-loving parents of West Indian ancestry, Rollins first played piano then turned to saxophone at around age 7. One of his uncles, Hubert Myers, a professional saxophonist, helped him pick out an alto saxophone. Young Sonny was enthralled.

“I used to play for hours and hours at home,” the mostly self-taught Rollins recalled recently. “I was in my own world, my own reverie. I did a lot of free association, just ideas that came to my mind, which is why I have told people—what I told Joshua Redman [in Jazz Times]—that I consider myself a free musician.”

By age 12, Rollins began to play in groups with “like-minded boys my age,” including saxophonist Jackie McLean and drummer Arthur Taylor. He worked his first professional job at age 14. At age 15, enamored by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, Rollins bought his first tenor, a King Zephyr. “It was what I wanted,” he said.

Four years later, Rollins was in the jazz big leagues, recording with singer Babs Gonzales, then trombonist Johnson, and Powell—whose Blue Note date also spotlighted trumpet marvel Fats Navarro and fiery drummer Roy Haynes.

In 1951, Rollins began to record as a leader, first for Prestige. His nine albums, including Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness (with John Coltrane) and featuring Monk, McLean, and others, have been collected in the 7-CD set, The Complete Prestige Recordings.

The era found Rollins working with Davis, Monk, and the Clifford Brown–Max Roach band as well before stepping out as a leader. He also recorded for Blue Note, Riverside, and Contemporary Records. Recordings from the latter two are gathered on The Freelance Years.

In 1959, Rollins took a sabbatical from performing to further develop his musicianship. He lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and often practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge. He returned to performing in 1962 and released The Bridge (RCA), a classic featuring guitarist Jim Hall and Bob Cranshaw, his bassist almost nonstop ever since.

Rollins also later led a quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins, both of whom had played with maverick saxman Ornette Coleman; and recorded with his idol, Hawkins. In 1966, he wrote and performed a jazz score for the film Alfie, and, in 1969, took another sabbatical, this time traveling to India and studying with a guru.

In 1972, with the encouragement and support of his wife Lucille, whom he had met in 1956 in Chicago and married in 1965, Rollins again returned to performing and recording—beginning his up-to-the-present association with Milestone Records.

That association has resulted in a bevy of superior recordings that touch on such genres as straight-ahead, funk, pop, and, of course, calypso. Among these are Next Album, Don’t Stop the Carnival, G-Man, Sonny Rollins +3, Global Warming, and This Is What I Do, which earned Rollins his first performance Grammy.

In November 2004, Rollins suffered a tremendous loss when Lucille, who had not fully recovered from a stroke, died. “We were together 48 years,” he said. “I miss her.”

In the wake of Lucille’s death, Rollins has maintained his performing schedule of 20-25 dates a year, playing recently in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and on Long Island. Listeners have reported that Rollins is playing with characteristic vitality, furthering his position as a musical colossus.

Son Volt

Formed by frontman Jay Farrar following his split from alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt provided Farrar (and fellow band members, drawn from musical stablemates Wilco) with a vehicle for his songwriting and over the course of 6 albums the band has carved a niche for itself as one of America’s most critically acclaimed acts.

Son Volt’s sound world is drawn from elements of the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, early period REM, The Byrds and Little Feat, sprinkled with Farrar’s own southern story telling.

American Central Dust is another great work from one of America’s great songwriters.

Slaid Cleaves

“There’s a certain prejudice out there when it comes to albums like this.” At a cozy corner restaurant in his native New England, far from his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas, songwriter, singer, and guitarist Slaid Cleaves is reflecting earnestly on the implications of his album, Unsung. “More than anything, I just want people to think of it as the new Slaid Cleaves album. It’s something of a new direction for me. It’s the first record I’ve made outside of Austin since I moved there 14 years ago. And the songs…the songs are less driven by narrative storytelling. More emotional, more expressive.”

Befitting his reputation as a songwriter who diligently labors over each word, each chord change, each detail in a song’s storyline, Cleaves is choosing his words carefully when describing Unsung. “I’ve given early copies of this record to a few close friends and fans,” he relates. “And the feedback has been really positive. One even said it was one of the strongest sets of songs I’ve ever recorded…”
“Then I had to tell her I didn’t write any of these.”

Don’t say “covers record” to Slaid Cleaves. Unsung is something else. Some days Slaid calls it a tribute album. But most days he doesn’t try to categorize it, as it is a logical extension of what he has done his entire performing career. “I’ve included other writers’ songs in my repertoire since the very beginning,” he explains. “At first it was because I had only a handful of my own songs and I was playing four-hour bar gigs. For every original song I played, I’d do probably one song by a hero, like Hank Williams or Bruce Springsteen; one song by a local songwriter friend like Josh Russell or Darien Brahms; and one that was fairly current.”

Unsung avoids the first trap door of songbook projects by focusing on those seldom-heard local voices. As the title implies, these are not well-known songs. Many have yet to see commercial release. These are songs from the songwriter trenches – compositions Cleaves first heard at late-night song-swaps, open-mic nights, during downtime at recording sessions, and on modest self-released CDs. Thanks to the work of producers David Henry and Rod Picott (a long-time Cleaves cohort and fellow Mainer), the performances and backdrops on Unsung are as evocative and captivating as the songs themselves. Cleaves’ gifts as an interpreter are such that the line between singer and song vanish completely.

Slaid Cleaves’ music is marked by both the quirky blend of isolated eccentricity and steely resilience of his Yankee upbringing and the weathered soul of Texas, the state he has called home for over a decade now. First registering on the national folk scene by winning the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk competition in 1992, Cleaves released his national debut No Angel Knows (Philo/Rounder) in 1997, following a string of self-released albums and many nights logged in folk clubs as both a performer and a soundman. Met with effusive critical praise, No Angel Knows was followed by Broke Down (Philo/Rounder) in 2000, which expanded his audience exponentially by virtue of its exceedingly well-crafted songs and rugged Gurf Morlix production. In addition to the title track, a Picott collaboration that won Song of the Year at the Austin Music Awards in 2001, Broke Down featured a couple of interpretations of other writers’ songs that paved the way for Unsung, including a poignant reading of fellow Austinite Karen Poston’s “Lydia.”

2004’s Wishbones (Philo/Rounder) followed, a richly detailed exploration of life’s darker corners where still a ray of hope somehow shines. It was after the recording of Wishbones that Cleaves began to consider the endeavor that became Unsung. “Over the years,” Cleaves explains, “as I grew as a songwriter, my songs began to make up the bulk of my sets. But I continued to throw in the odd song by a hero or friend, both in my shows and on the records I made. I did that partly out of tribute to my influences, but also to give my set, or album, some context and some variety.”

“When I finally decided to pursue this project,” he continues, “I had to find the right songs. I already had five or six that I had been playing on the road that worked for me. The next step was finding another five or six that would compliment those. So I began going through CDs and cassettes, and, most importantly, through my memory – thinking about all the people I’ve shared bills with over the years.”

“I came up with 25 or 30 songs from that trawl,” he continues, “which I just started playing. I played them around the house, at shows, and made four-track recordings. It wasn’t about finding the good songs – they were all good by this point. I was looking for songs that worked, that fit my style of playing and singing. Not everything did. Even if it was a great song, it didn’t always click with my style. So I came to Nashville with about 20 songs, and Rod, David, and I further weeded them down to the 12 that are on the album.”

The songs that made the cut are a vivid lot. Steve Brooks’ lacerating character study “Everett” is marked by a dark sense of humor and droll perseverance that registers clearly through Cleaves’ terse vocal and a clattering percussive background. “Millionaire” comes from the pen of David Olney. “He has received a lot more recognition than anyone else on this record,” Slaid says, “but still not as much as he deserves.” Cleaves has sung the praises of singer/songwriter Adam Carroll for some time, and here delivers a warm version of Carroll’s affectionate “Racecar Joe.” “Adam played his first ever gig opening for me at a coffeehouse in his hometown of Tyler, Texas,” Slaid recalls. “Lydia” author Karen Poston is represented by the bittersweet “Flowered Dresses,” which Slaid sang harmony on in the author’s original recording. “In the studio,” he says, “I kept choking up on the line about ‘hugging my knees, holding my breath.’”

“Some of these songs go back ten years, to when I was doing open mics and the guy in front of me would come on and say ‘I just wrote this song,’” says Cleaves. “But I never bothered to learn one of these songs myself if it didn’t put a catch in my throat or a tear in my eye. If a song moves me in that way, which is a rare thing these days, it usually means I can do a good job singing it.” Finding songs like these and bringing them to the world was the entire purpose of Unsung. These are not obscurities for obscurity’s sake – these are remarkable songs that have been unjustly unsung for too long.

Sergio Mendes

Brazilian music legend Sergio Mendes spins his remarkable magic on his newest recording, Encanto (Enchantment), which is among the maestro’s most beautifully realized in his unparalleled career. The collection refines Sergio’s singular blend of infectious rhythms and irresistible melodies from the great Brazilian Songbook, with his always thoroughly modern arrangements and masterful production approach. The resulting collection is a bona fide Sergio Mendes classic– a kaleidoscopic album that underscores the maestro’s ear for addictive melodies, as well as his ability to cast incredibly talented singers and musicians from all over the world.

“Every time I make a new record, it’s a new adventure.” explains the affable Mendes from his Los Angeles home. “My main motivation,” he enthuses, “is to record wonderful songs. In the process, I enjoy sharing with the world the diversity of Brazilian music– both in terms of rhythm and melody.”
“This time, I wanted to go full circle. So I decided to begin this journey in my homeland, Brazil. I traveled to Rio and Bahia, meeting a number of old friends that I hadn’t played with in quite a while. There’s a very special musically creative environment in Brazil, which inspires me tremendously.”

Mendes was still living in Brazil during the momentous era between the late ’50s and the early ’60s when the samba-based bossa nova was born. In fact, he was one of the first practitioners of the new genre, together with composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, guitarist Joao Gilberto and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes.
True to his desire to go back full circle, Mendes recorded four seminal Jobim compositions: a hip-hop version of “Agua De Beber” with Toninho Horta on guitar, Mendes’ wife Gracinha Leporace on vocals, and the man himself showcasing his instrumental chops on a bewitching Rhodes solo; “Waters of March,” which features Grammy nominated,super talented new artist Ledisi; “Somewhere In The Hills,” with vocals by none other than Natalie Cole and Flugel Horn solo by great German jazz artist Till Bronner; and “Dreamer,” which marks the first time that former mentor Herb Alpert actually plays the trumpet on a Sergio Mendes album, with brilliant vocals by Lani Hall, Alpert’s wife and the original lead singer of Mendes’ Brasil ‘66.

But the most daring cover in the entire album is a new version of Burt Bacharach’s “The Look Of Love,” which Mendes had originally transposed to bossa nova heaven in 1967, when it became his biggest hit with Brasil ‘66. Produced by Black Eye Pea will.i.am, this new interpretation maintains the beguiling melody of the original, bringing the tune to new millennium territory: keeping Sergio’s original bass line intro, with crisp drum programming and a sexy rap/vocal by The Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie.
“I mentioned ‘The Look Of Love’ to Will. I was looking for a way to re-do it, with a dance beat that I heard in Brazil(which is very popular, nowadays, with young people down there) which I thought would be great for the song. Will loved the idea and suggested Fergie to sing it. On Timeless, we had reworked ‘Mas Que Nada,’ presenting it in a different way, and it became an international hit. This time, we did ‘The Look Of Love,’ 40 years later.

will.i.am’s enthusiasm should not come as a surprise. Growing up in Los Angeles, he collected Mendes’ original bossa nova classics on vinyl and was influenced by his smooth, pan-Latin approach to creating dance music with sophisticated arrangements and production values. Their 2006 collaboration Timeless distilled the exhilarating feelings that will.i.am experienced recording an album with his longtime idol.
“I’ve always dreamed of making an album with guest artists from different cultures, singing in their native language, as a way to illustrate the power and magic of Brazilian melodies,” he emphasizes. Besides the glorious singing of Zap Mama(in French), the album also includes a rap by Italian super star Jovanotti, as well as a new song by Joao Donato and Joyce – “Y Vamos Ya,” -sung in Spanish by Juanes, one of the brightest new stars in contemporary Latin pop.

“I heard about Juanes a couple of years ago and thought that he had a beautiful voice,” explains Mendes. “Fortunately, I was able to hook up with him and have him as a guest in this project.”
In fact, there is one element that unifies the songs in Encanto, and that’s the joy that can be heard in the voices of Mendes’ collaborators. No matter what country, demographic or genre they belong to, they were all thrilled to record with the maestro, which speaks volumes about the timeless appeal of Sergio’s unique style.

“There’s a sensuality to Brazilian Music, a pure kind of sentiment,” he concludes. “The melodies are catchy, the rhythms are intoxicating, the songwriting is peerless and the harmonies are beautiful. There’s a freshness to that sound that simply refuses to go away.”

Encanto is a beautiful Portuguese word that I chose as the album title because it describes the whole project so well. It means: ENCHANTMENT, DELIGHT, CHARM…

Salif Keita

Salif Keita is one of the best known names in African music, and La Difference marks his return as an album artist after a gap of 4 years. M’Bemba, his previous release, is now considered a classic of World music an Moffou made it into The Guardian’s top 10 albums of the last decade.

Born an albino, Salif Keita had a clear skin-colour that was an ill omen in the ancestral Mali where he grew into a man. “I’m a black man, my skin is white and I like it, it’s my difference / I’m a white man, my blood is black, I love that, it’s the difference that’s pretty”, he sings in La différence, the title-track from his new album. He says it all in this hymn to tolerance, a song in which he expresses his artistic convictions as he has rarely done before.

Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder, born in Los Angeles in 1947, is a guitarist, composer and producer, though he gained his world-wide reputation primarily as a Slide-Guitarist.

He played in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, and has also accompanied such artists as Gordon Lightfoot, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Randy Newman, John Lee Hooker and many others.

Although influenced early on by blues, he became a pioneer in resurrecting the traditions of “World Music,” a concept that was entirely new at the time. He devoted himself to Country and Folk music, Cuban, Hawaiian music, Gospel, Jazz, Ragtime and Vaudeville.

Ry Cooder has composed soundtracks for more than twenty films, among them Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas”, and “The End of Violence.”

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove was born in Waco, TX on October 16, 1969. Inspired by the gospel music he heard in church on Sundays and the R&B and funk music that played on the radio, Roy began learning the trumpet in the fourth grade. By junior high school, he was playing at an advanced level of proficiency. At 16, he was studying music at Dallas’s prestigious Booker T. Washington School for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Midway through his junior year, Roy was “discovered” by Wynton Marsalis, who was conducting a jazz clinic at the school. Impressed, Marsalis invited Roy to sit in with his band at Ft. Worth’s Caravan of Dreams Performing Arts Center. Subsequently, Hargrove was able to return to the venue over a period of the next three months, sitting in with Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson. Word of Roy’s talent reached Paul Ackett, founder and Director of The North Sea Jazz Festival who arranged for him to perform there that summer. This lead to a month long European Tour.

Hargrove spent one year (1988-1989) studying at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, but could more often be found in NYC jam sessions, which resulted in his transferring to New York’s New School. His first recording in NYC was with the saxophonist Bobby Watson followed shortly by a session with the up-and-comers super group, Superblue featuring Watson, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Washington. In 1990, he released his solo debut, Diamond in the Rough, on the Novus/RCA label, for which he would record a total of four albums that document his incubational growth as a “young lion” to watch. Hargrove made his Verve Records debut in 1994 on With the Tenors of Our Time, showcasing him with stellar sax men Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Johnny Griffin, Joshua Redman and Branford Marsalis.

Every album Roy has released on Verve has been different from the one preceding it. And the same can be said of the array of talents who have invited him to grace the stage and/or their recordings – from jazz legends Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean to song stylists Natalie Cole, Diana Krall and Abbey Lincoln. From pop veterans Diana Ross, Steve Tyrell and Kenny Rankin to younger stars John Mayer and Rhian Benson to the crème de la crème of jazz divas: Carmen McRae and the late, great Shirley Horn. Hargrove was also commissioned by the Lincoln Jazz Center to compose the piece “The Love Suite: In Mahogany,” which was performed in 1993. He is also a superstar of the international touring scene with his quintet, RH Factor and as a soloist.

Rickie Lee Jones

From the moment she first appeared in front of us on Saturday Night Live in 1979, Rickie Lee Jones has challenged her listeners and the establishment with an absorbing musical vision that defies border and classification. She rocked the culture of singer-song writerdom with her refusal to conform to the stayed and careful eloquence of the folk rock generation that came before her. Neither punk nor pop, she tottered on a thread of her own devise, jazz – the old musical kind, and R&B – the Motown thread that permeates her work. Her sense of humor, musical dexterity and song craft is all evident on her exquisite new album Balm in Gilead.

Jones, who’s joined on the record by Ben Harper, Jon Brion, Vic Chesnutt, Bill Frisell, Victoria Williams and Alison Krauss among other highly talented friends, has again captured her generation’s common experience. “This record was made for people my age.” says Jones, a single mother living in California. “Neither young, nor old – we fall in between. We love all sorts of music, we’ve experienced life. I’m getting along and I pay my rent. I think my life is like everybody else’s, and I was thinking about the audience, not just myself, as I wrote it. We’re older now. And it’s not all about me, or all about us. It’s about our kids, and our parents who are dying, and the things that are relevant to us at this age. I really wanted to talk to us. To my generation, music is the balm that keeps us going.”

Balm in Gilead’s songs move seamlessly through its roots and R&B fabric, a ‘western noir’, cinematic in scope, expansive in detail, which Rickie only later realized perfectly encapsulated her journey. “These songs speak of that journey, my life in the western U.S., its joy and its downtown urban blues.” The album’s title emanates from an Old Testament passage from the book of Jeremiah that was adapted for an African-American spiritual with the line that promises “there is a balm in Gilead that makes the wounded whole.” Jones reflecting on the new album says “We all share much more than anything that separates us.”

The album’s charms include the R&B-flavored opener “Wild girl” written about her daughter , “The Gospel of Carlos, Norman and Smith” a reflection on society’s racial injustice and its human ramifications; “Old Enough” (recorded as a duet with Ben Harper) and “The Moon Is Made of Gold,” a star-dusted acoustic jazz gem, written by her father decades ago. “That’s my daddy’s song, and I finally got to do it. He wrote it around ’54. They had those record booths in the bus station, and my dad and my uncle went in and recorded it,” she recalled. “A magic thing happened when we did ‘The Moon is Made of Gold.’ I hired this guitar player who really plays the old way that my uncle played, kind of a Mills Brothers thing. And when he was playing it with me, he whistled in the solo. In that recording of my dad and uncle doing that song, my uncle whistled the solo. So when the guitar player did that, I was just: Oh my gosh, they’re here. It was really wonderful.”

Other highlights include the emotionally raw “Bonfires,” the gorgeous ambience of “His Jeweled Floor” (on which she plays all the instruments except bass and accordion) and the wild-dog howl of “Blue Ghazel.”
Rickie Lee Jones, released by Warner Bros. in March 1979, had an immediate and profound impact in the music world and the culture at large ultimately becoming a multi-million selling hit. Following her now infamous debut television appearance on SNL, a successful world tour and the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, Jones secured five Grammy Award nominations (Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, Song of the Year (“Chuck E.’s in Love”), and Best New Artist, which she won at the January 1980 ceremony.

Her second release, the highly celebrated Pirates further pushed the singer-songwriter edges, receiving positively radiant reviews, including 5 Stars from Rolling Stone who put her on their cover for the 2nd time. The album’s artistic ambition, influence and enduring inspiration has only grown in stature since its release evidenced by its inclusion in Tom Moon’s recent book 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. Her third release, Girl at Her Volcano, a collection of jazz and pop standards which includes the definitive “My Funny Valentine,” found Jones again carving her road less traveled.

After moving to France in 1986 she returned to the U.S. to release Flying Cowboys, another stunning collection, this one produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and featuring the hit “Satellites”. Always stretching, yearning and learning to keep herself and her audience in the moment, she followed Cowboys with records designed to blur lines and stay free including Pop Pop, an Argentinean flavored jazz & blues standards record.

In 1988 she was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal for her rendition of “Autumn Leaves” on Rob Wassermann’s Duets album. The following year her duet with long time pal Dr. John on “Making Whoopee”, won both of them a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance. During the nineteen nineties she released the albums Traffic from Paradise with contributions from Leo Kottke, David Hildago and Jim Keltner among others, Naked Songs – Live and Acoustic, a set of her songs performed solo and the trip-hop-flavored, electronic adventure Ghostyhead, released in 1997.

In 2000, she signed with Artemis to release It’s Like This, another record of fearlessly chosen cover songs including Steely Dan’s “Show Biz Kids”, Steve Winwood’s “Low Spark of High Healed Boys”, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”, The Beatles’ “For No One” and Leonard Bernstein’s “One Hand, One Heart”. It’s Like This garnered Jones her eighth Grammy nomination. 2003′s Evening of My Best Day was released by V2, among its highlights: “Ugly Man”, which took direct aim at George Bush and his administration. In 2007 she released Sermon On Exposition Blvd., on which she improvised her own impression of the texts of Jesus Christ, melody and lyric.

At 54, with her deeply ingrained vaudevillian heritage well intact, from the heights of popular music to the deepest respect of her peers and appreciative fans, Rickie Lee Jones was, and remains, a unique artist of undeniable influence on singers and songwriters today. She has worked with artists as diverse as Walter Becker and Mike Watt and all points between. She writes albums, not songs, a rare art indeed in 2009. Celebrating her 30th anniversary making music, Balm in Gilead (released by Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group) promises to be one of the top recordings of the year.

Rhonda Vincent

In the 1990s she branched out into mainstream country music but did not enjoy the success anticipated there. With the release of her album Back Home Again in 2000, she returned to bluegrass with the goal of expanding both the musical reach and the accessibility of the genre. Since then she has seen her popularity and acceptance rise and has received acclaim from several music-industry groups. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) accorded her its Female Vocalist of the Year award for the years 2000 – 2006, plus IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 2001. The Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) designated her its Entertainer of the Year for 2002 – 2006 inclusive. She also performs with her band, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage.

Renee Fleming

Acclaimed by the press as “one of the truly magnificent voices of our time,” American soprano Renée Fleming’s international career spans over a decade. Renowned for her commanding musicianship, intelligence and interpretive abilities, the Grammy Award winning soprano has cultivated a devoted following worldwide for her work on the operatic stage, in concerts and recitals, on television, radio and recordings, and as a champion of new music.

Following performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival and concerts with the NDR Orchestra at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in August, Renée Fleming opens the MET’s 2000-2001 season with performances of Don Giovanni, James Levine conducting, followed by the October 4 season opening gala of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers telecast on PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center from Avery Fisher Hall. A recital tour of North America in late October/early November includes performances at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall, SUNY/ Potsdam’s Hosmer Concert Hall (NY), Duke University’s Page Auditorium (NC), University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Auditorium, the National Arts Centre Opera House in Ottawa, Canada and the Boch Center for the Performing Arts (MA). Ms. Fleming ends the year with performances of Der Rosenkavalier with the San Francisco Opera, Charles Mackerras conducting. In January 2001, Ms. Fleming returns to PBS with another national Live From Lincoln Center telecast. She then travels to Europe for performances of the Verdi Requiem with the London Symphony Orchestra, Anthony Pappano conducting, and the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra, Zubin Mehta conducting, and a new production of Strauss’s Arabella with the Bavarian State Opera in March.

In April, Ms. Fleming travels throughout North America, this time in a duo recital tour with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The six-city tour will include performances at Vancouver’s Chan Centre Concert Hall, San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, the Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana (IL), St. Paul’s Ordway Theatre and Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. Her only spring New York appearance is the Verdi Requiem with the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, James Levine conducting. Additional spring performances include an all-Strauss engagement with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting, and a tour of Japan with the Metropolitan Opera and James Levine, which includes Der Rosenkavalier and a Verdi Requiem. Performances of Manon with the Paris Opera, Arabella with the Bavarian State Opera, and a recital in Munich’s Prinzregententheater follow.

In addition to the standard repertoire, Ms. Fleming has performed many world premieres, including André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Conrad Susa’s The Dangerous Liaisons with the San Francisco Opera, and at the Metropolitan Opera, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles. She also sang Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah in its first productions at the Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In addition to her many appearances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, her voice has resounded throughout the distinguished venues of Paris’ Opera Bastille and Palais Garnier (including the 1996 re-opening performance), the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Barb-ican, La Scala, Bayreuth, Vienna State Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Rossini Festival in Pesaro, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Glyndebourne, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Palau de la Mùsica Catalana in Barcelona, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera and Carnegie Hall, among others.

Featured among her past orchestral appearances are those with the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic,London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, the MET Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among others. She has collaborated with such maestros as Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, James Levine, Sir Charles Mackerras, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Christian Thielemann, Michael Tilson Thomas and the late Sir Georg Solti.

An exclusive recording artist with Decca since 1995, Ms. Fleming’s newest releases for fall 2000 are an album of arias entitled “Renée Fleming;” Massenet’s Thäis with Thomas Hampson, Yves Abel conducting; and she guests on “Two Worlds” by jazz greats Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour, singing Bachianas Aria and Shenandoah. In 1999, Ms. Fleming won her first Grammy in the “Best Classical Vocal Performance” category for her recording The Beautiful Voice (a collection of favorite songs and arias), and was also awarded three Gramophone Awards – the Recital Award for I Want Magic, the Opera Award for Rusalka and Record of the Year for Rusalka. In addition, Rusalka has received top awards from France, Belgium, Germany and Spain, as well as a 2000 Grammmy nomination for Best Opera recording. Also in 1999, Decca released Strauss Heroines, featuring scenes from Der Rosenkavalier, Capriccio and Arabella with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach conducting, and Ms. Fleming made a live recording of Alcina at the Palais Garnier, Paris (Erato). Her recording The Beautiful Voice was awarded the 1998 Prize from l’Académie du Disque Lyrique. Other Decca recordings have received several Grammy nominations as well: Signatures (opera scenes) with Sir Georg Solti conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, Mozart’s Don Giovanni also with Solti conducting the LSO, and Visions of Love (her 1996 collection of Mozart arias) with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.

Ms. Fleming’s televised performances during the 2000-2001 season include the 2000 Season Opening Gala – Great Performers Live From Lincoln Center, and “An Evening with Renee Fleming” on PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center to open the new year. Additional telecasts include an appearance at The White House for the 1999 end of the millennium New Year’s Eve gala, the 1999 Pageant of Peace at The White House, a 1999 PBS Star Crossed Lovers Gala featuring duets with Plácido Domingo and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim conductor/ pianist; the 1998 PBS world premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the San Francisco Opera, André Previn conducting; the 1997 PBS Live from Lincoln Center New York Philharmonic Season Opening Gala; the 1997 PBS Live from Lincoln Center American Musical Theater Gala and the 1996 James Levine 25th Anniversary Gala at the Metropolitan Opera. Televised operatic performances on PBS include Don Giovanni, Otello, The Ghosts of Versailles and The Marriage of Figaro from the Metropolitan Opera, The Dangerous Liaisons from San Francisco Opera, Richard Tucker Foundation Galas and BBC telecasts.

Referred to by the press as “America’s favorite soprano,” Ms. Fleming’s achievements have been recognized within the industry. In 2000, she was honored with the Gift of Music Award from the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the world of classical music, and was named one of the top ten classical singers of the 90’s by the Associated Press. In 1997 she was lauded by Musical America as their Vocalist of the Year, and was saluted in 1996 with the first Solti Prize of l’Académie du Disque Lyrique for her outstanding recording artistry. Outside of the classical music world, her artistry has been acknowledged as well. For 2001, Ms. Fleming makes a cameo appearance in the upcoming Bruce Beresford feature film on Alma Mahler, entitled “Bride of the Wind.” Rolex has chosen her to represent their timepieces in the new Rolex advertising campaign for 2001. The renowned 116-year old women’s magazine Ladies’ Home Journal in 1999 named her one of their “100 Most Important Women.” Couturier Gian-Franco Ferré has designed Ms. Fleming’s stage gowns since 1998. She was the subject for an Anne Klein advertising campaign (1998) featuring remarkable women, and has been featured in Annie Leibovitz ‘s photo essay book “Women” (Condé Nast 1999). In December 1999, master chef Daniel Boulud of the famed New York restaurant Daniel paid homage to Ms. Fleming with the creation of “La Diva Renée,” placing Ms. Fleming in the legendary pantheon of desserts dedicated to superlative talent.

Renée Fleming’s early awards include winning the 1988 Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, the Richard Tucker Award, the George London Prize, the Grand Prix at the International Singing Competition in Belgium, and a Fulbright Scholarship to Germany. She studied at The Juilliard School and holds degrees from the State University of New York at Potsdam and the Eastman School of Music. Ms. Fleming currently resides in Connecticut with her children.