Mary StallingsView in iTunes
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Greatly influenced by Carmen McRae, San Francisco native Mary Stallings is a passionate, robust singer who isn't nearly as well known as she should be. The niece of saxman Orlando Stallings, she started singing as a child and sang jazz in Bay Area clubs during her teenage years, when she performed with Louis Jordan & His Tympani 5 and shared the stage with such greats as Wes Montgomery and Ben Webster. One of Stallings' admirers was vibist Cal Tjader, whom she teamed up with in 1961 for Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings on Fantasy. But regrettably, albums by Stallings were few and far between. After stints with Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Eckstine in the 1960s, Stallings toured with the Count Basie Orchestra as a featured vocalist from 1969-1972. The singer was still in Basie's employ when, in 1971, she gave birth to her only child, R&B singer Adriana Evans (whose self-titled debut album on RCA was among the finest R&B releases of 1997). Pharoah Sanders became Evans' godfather, and Stallings went into semi-retirement from music to stay home and raise her daughter. Though she performed occasionally when Adriana was growing up, it wasn't until the late '80s that Stallings seriously resumed her career. She made a long overdue return to record stores with Clarity Recordings' 1990 audiophile release Fine and Mellow, and in 1994 Stallings signed with Concord Jazz and recorded I Waited for You. Some equally memorable Concord dates followed (including Spectrum in 1995 and Manhattan Moods in 1996), and Stallings' admirers were glad to see her recording regularly after so many years of obscurity. She was back on Clarity in 1998 for Trust Your Heart and returned in 2001 with the concert album Live at the Village Vanguard on MAXJAZZ. She then teamed with pianist Geri Allen for the 2005 Half Note release Remember Love. In 2010, Stallings delivered Dream on Highnote, featuring pianist Eric Reed, who also produced the album. ~ Alex Henderson