Beth Duncan - Jazz Vocalist
Beth Duncan s an American jazz singer from Sacramento, California.
Beth Duncan’s love of music began at a young age. She grew up with the sounds of Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Nancy Wilson and Mel Tormé floating down the hall from her older brother’s bedroom. Her mom was always singing around the house, her brother in his school's acapella choir and, for Beth, this meant that singing was a part of her life from an early age. Beth sang wherever she could, in school music programs, in community theatre productions, and at church.
Though choir singing was an enjoyable hobby, Beth always had a desire to sing solo, however, a lack of confidence in her own voice meant that any thoughts of a professional career as a solo singer were quickly dismissed. This all changed when Beth was in her 20s through a chance meeting with ‘vocal coach to the stars’, Judy Davis, who had worked with Barbara Streisand, amongst others. Davis brought out an inner confidence in Beth and gave her the impetus to sing solo.
Throughout the 70s and early 80s, Beth was the frontwoman for several successful cover bands performing funk & soul classics and top-40 tunes. Even with this steady career, something was missing for Beth. The jazz records she had grown up with had given her an itch for improvisation that was proving very difficult not to scratch. While performing and singing to a crowd each night was fun, she didn’t want to sing songs the way someone else had recorded them, she wanted to put her own stamp on it.
However, any dreams were halted rather abruptly when, in the late 70’s, she developed nodes on her vocal chords and her confidence as a musician took a big hit. She didn’t feel like a songwriter, nor did she have the necessary connections to further her career in the twin music metropolis’ of New York and LA, so she took a step back from music. A jazz drummer friend of hers introduced her to a local radio station where he worked as a programmer. Beth’s charismatic voice lent itself well to reading the news, and eventually, a career in radio blossomed. For the next 30 plus years, she worked across the whole spectrum of broadcast journalism, including stints as a reporter, anchor, news director, and managing editor.
It wasn’t until Spring 2002 that singing became more than a side-project in Beth’s life. She decided to plunge back into the music scene by means of a concert to celebrate her 50th birthday. Beth went all out, hiring the best musicians around and taking six months to prepare herself to perform again – and this time it would be all jazz tunes. The response from her friends, family, and co-workers was so positive that she decided to get back into music, this time producing the album Orange Color Sky (2005), a self-released collection of standards sung with passion and style.
Seven years later, she followed it up with a second album Comes The Fall (2012) and it was here that the rebirth of Beth’s career as a jazz singer really began. The album debuted at #26 on CMJ’s jazz top 40 charts, just below Diana Krall, received top honors in the 12th annual Independent Music Awards, and got airplay on more than 110 stations nationally, along with stations in Canada, Kobe, Japan, Australia and The Netherlands. This is no mean feat for an independently released jazz album from a singer who was still holding down a full-time job at a radio station! The album’s mix of inventively reworked standard several new originals by composer, Martine Tabilio, struck a chord with jazz audiences around the world. Beth’s beautiful, powerful voice, with a wide range and the ability to hit intervals perfectly, are matched by her finely honed sensitivity to lyrics, constant creativity, and a swinging style.
The success of Comes The Fall meant that Beth has finally achieved the change in fortunes her talent deserves. She is now a full-time jazz singer working on the follow-up to Comes The Fall, while the radio show on Capital Public Radio is now an occasional job. Looking back, her lifelong love affair with jazz has taken her on this powerful journey. “As a little kid, my older brother loved jazz. He painted his room black, had bongos, and I would hear Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, and Mel Tormé wafting out of his room,” she says laughing. “That music from down the hall led me to the path I am meant to be on.”
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