Carmen Lundy is a world-renowned musical polymath: She is a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer (with over 100 songs to her credit, she even has her own songbook), actor, visual artist, and instructor. She is also the sister of bassist Curtis Lundy.
A Miami native, Lundy began singing early, inspired by her mother, the lead vocalist in the gospel group the Apostolic Singers. She studied music in high school and took vocal lessons, initially concentrating on classical music, although blues, jazz, and gospel remained passionate pursuits in her spare time.
While studying opera at Miami University, she worked steadily on the city's jazz scene. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Studio Music and Jazz, Lundy relocated to New York in 1978 and immediately began working in jazz circles throughout the Tri-State area. One of her first high-profile gigs was with Ray Barretto, before forming her own trio in 1980 with pianists John Hicks and Onaje Gumbs. She also began collaborating with an ever-increasing number of artists including Kip Hanrahan, whose Days and Nights of Blue Luck Inverted she appeared on in 1988. (She subsequently contributed to the vast majority of his recordings.) Lundy recorded her debut album, Good Morning Kiss, for Blackhawk in 1985; it featured her brother, pianist Harry Whittaker (who also served as co-producer), drummer Victor Lewis, saxophonists Bobby Watson and Rene McLean, trombonist Steve Turre, and trumpeter Jon Faddis, among others. Lundy signed to Sony for 1988's Night and Day, which featured the late Kenny Kirkland on piano. The restless vocalist/composer relocated to Los Angeles. She signed to Arabesque where she recorded 1992's Moment to Moment and enlisted Gumbs, Chico Freeman, and Kevin Eubanks as some of her sidemen. During the '90s, she also appeared in the plays Sophisticated Ladies and They Were All Gardenias -- portraying Billie Holiday in the latter.
Lundy moved over to JVC for 1995's Self-Portrait and 1997's Old Devil Moon. She also did a remarkable amount of side work, appearing on albums by Fred Wesley, Hanrahan, Paul Haines, Ernie Watts, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and her brother Curtis. In 2000, she was credited as "Carmon Lundy" on Courtney Pine's Back in the Day and Charles Austin-Joe Gallivan' Peace on Earth.
The following year, Lundy made her debut for Justin Time. Entitled This Is Carmen Lundy, the date featured her brother on bass, Watson on alto, Anthony Wonsey on Fender Rhodes, and Ralph Peterson and Lewis alternating on drums. She issued two more albums for the label -- Good Morning Kiss was reissued in 2002, and in 2003, a new recording appeared: 2003's Something to Believe In.
The following year Lundy undertook one of the most significant changes in her career by taking over complete control of it. She and producer/business partner Elisabeth Oei formed Afrasia Productions, the singer's permanent label. Her debut on her new label was the globally celebrated double-length Jazz and the New Songbook: Live at the Madrid, featuring a sextet and a string quartet as her backing ensemble. The two pianists on the date were Billy Childs and Robert Glasper, while Nathan East and Phil Upchurch split electric bass duties. After intense touring and displaying her own artwork in prestigious galleries, Lundy returned to recording with 2008's aptly titled Come Home, which featured Turre on conch shells, Lage Lund on guitar, and Geri Allen in the studio cast. 2010's Solamente was unique: Not only did Lundy write all the album's tunes, she played all the instruments as well. Originally conceived as a complete set of audition demos, those who heard the songs were so moved, they convinced her to release the record as it stood. (One of its tunes, "Show Me a Sign," was featured on Terri Lynne Carrington's Grammy-winning Mosaic Project in 2011.) Lundy purchased her own masters and reissued Night and Day the same year. The now iconic sextet date Changes was released in 2012. Its lineup included Oscar Castro-Neves on acoustic guitar, Wonsey on pianos and George Bohannon on trombone. Soul to Soul, her 2014 date, offered an even wider array of talent than was her norm. Alongside her rhythm section of Darryl Hall and Jamison Ross, Lundy handpicked an all-star cast that included Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, Randy Brecker, Bennie Maupin, and Warren Wolf (among others) in a set that ranged stylistically from samba to blues, from soul to post-bop. As an artist intensely tuned into not only history but current events, Lundy couldn't help but respond to the cyclic nature of racism that was showing itself in international politics in 2015 and 2016. Issued in early 2017, Code Noir was a song cycle whose title referenced the "Black Code" enacted by the King of France, Louis XIV, in 1685 -- decreeing it illegal for Negroes to integrate or mix in white European society. That decree found its way into North America, becoming a law in Louisiana in the mid-18th century and spreading throughout the American south and eventually the north. Lundy sang and played various keyboards and acoustic guitar, and handled string programming. Her band included Rushen on piano, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Kendrick Scott, and guitarist Jeff Parker. Her producer and business partner Oei provided backing vocals. Its critical reception was universally positive. ~ Thom Jurek