Robin McKelle is a vocalist who has straddled the line between classic rhythm & blues and traditional pop music, but her love of swing and big-band jazz has been even more pronounced. A young Robin McElhatten grew up in Rochester, NY, the daughter of a liturgical vocalist. She took classical piano lessons and played French horn for ten years, and her early influences included Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight. By her late teens she was more intrigued by the content of jazz harmonies, and McKelle was taken over by singers Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, and Nancy Wilson. She attended the University of Miami from 1994 to 1996, headed for Boston and the Berklee College of Music, and graduated in 1999. Living in Los Angeles, she toured as a backup singer, then returned to Boston to teach voice classes at Berklee for three years.
Taking third place in the 2004 Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C., she established her career as a leader. As a result, doors opened up to McKelle, including an audition for Blue Note Records. The list of artists she has worked with since includes the Boston Pops Orchestra, BeBe Winans, Jon Secada, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Pete Christlieb, Andy Snitzer, Bob Shepard, Joe Magnarelli, Wayne Bergeron, Darren Hayes, David Bowie, Carly Simon, Don Grusin, Lonnie Plaxico, Carl Allen, and Michael McDonald. Her recordings include the independently released Never Let Me Go, followed by Introducing Robin McKelle and Modern Antique for the Cheap Lullaby label, the latter recording issued by the Blue Note label in France. She embarked on an extensive tour of Europe in 2008. ~ Michael G. Nastos