Cassandre McKinley has a vocal style that walks the line between jazz and soul – a voice that is commanding, vibrant and rich - with “chops” to spare. But, she’s no diva – though she’ll confidently and easily weave her way through The American Songbook and Soul Classics alike, singing with the maturity and wisdom of a veteran performer, she will stop to tell you a story – unwittingly disarming you like the “girl next door” she truly is.
Boston born and bred, McKinley grew up in a small house full of diverse people, culture and music. Her early influences were mainly soul oriented - Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin. She was a natural born singer and, with her supportive Mother’s backing, began studying privately at 14. McKinley attended college at the Boston Conservatory of Music for three years and in 1991, she had already begun pursuing a career, signed with an agent in New York and spent many successful years as a voice over artist, singer, dancer, actress and model.
In her late 20’s, she fell in love – with Jazz. By chance, having heard and met Clay Osborne (oldest of the Osborne children) he introduced her to the phrasing and harmonics unique to Jazz. Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Joe Williams were immediate influences. The relationship with Clay was just the beginning and solidified her deep appreciation and respect for veteran musicians with “old school” sensibilities. By chance or fate, McKinley found herself working with and learning from local legends - made recordings and shared the stage with jazz greats Dick Johnson, Al Vega, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, J. Geils, Gerry Beaudoin, Fred Lipsius (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Jerry Portnoy (Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters) and Herb Pomeroy. “Friendships like these were a gift – those gentlemen shared their philosophies with me – they taught me to trust in myself... how to listen, how to lead, how to follow”.
McKinley’s lessons well learned, her next projects were approached with slightly more insight and depth which inadvertently led to earlier influences taking precedence in her vocal style and arranging. After having released several independent straight-ahead jazz albums (“Right In Front Of You” and “Stay The Night”) McKinley released her third – crossing over with a “soul” inspired album “Baring The Soul-The Music Of Marvin Gaye” which received critics approval in several major music publications. The album caught the attention of well-established jazz label MAXJAZZ and an extended re-release followed titled “Til Tomorrow – Remembering Marvin Gaye”. The album had great success in straight-ahead jazz and cross-over markets both nationally and abroad and legitimized her career as a prominent new artist.
McKinley has toured and performed in venues across the country and her music has been heard on over 500 national and international radio stations, cable and internet music outlets including XM radio, Pandora and iheart Radio.
“There’s a music style called jazzsoul (we made it up) and our anointed queen is Boston native Cassandre McKinley. The Boston Conservatory alum’s vocal influences include Anita O’Day, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Nancy Wilson, and Marvin Gaye; McKinley pays tribute to the latter in her debut album “Til Tomorrow — Remembering Marvin Gaye.” The singer’s version of “I Wish It Would Rain” is moving enough to bring precipitation to the desert.”
“The strained sexual heat of Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” is transformed into five-and-a-half minutes of teasing foreplay”
It is refreshing to hear Boston-based vocalist Cassandre McKinley providing this jazz-friendly tribute to Marvin Gaye. Til Tomorrow: Remembering Marvin Gaye is not straight-ahead jazz; what McKinley does on this 59-minute CD is best described as a mixture of jazz, R&B, and pop (with blues and gospel elements at times). But jazz is certainly an important part of the equation, and McKinley doesn't simply offer note-for-note covers of songs that the late soul icon recorded; she interprets them, offering plenty of delightful surprises along the way. "I Want You" and "After the Dance" receive bossa nova makeovers, and McKinley puts a post-bop spin on "Trouble Man" without sacrificing any of the song's bluesiness. "Let's Get It On" becomes surprisingly understated and torch-like in McKinley's hands, while "I Wish It Would Rain" is given an appealingly bluesy, folkish spin along the lines of Tracy Chapman. "I Wish It Would Rain" is one of the disc's least jazz-minded performances, but again, McKinley never claimed that Til Tomorrow was the work of a jazz purist. It is, however, an excellent example of a jazz-friendly vocalist acknowledging that great popular music didn't end with Tin Pan Alley.
- Alex Henderson/ All Music
Cassandre McKinley's new CD "BARING THE SOUL - The Music of Marvin Gaye" shows just how effective it can be to step back into one's past to reflect and rejoice in it's power - the power of influence, inspiration, idolology, spirituality - all of that which makes up who we are artistically.
This CD showcases the bold, sexual appeal of Marvin Gaye through the eyes and ears of McKinley. She exudes the same sensuality and charm - the evidence of his influence is clear yet McKinley adds a certain magic - like pixie dust - she sprinkles it over and lends her own inner beauty to the work.
Never have I come across a singer so magnetic - McKinley is all she's cracked up to be. She certainly has no problem baring her soulful voice.
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