Boston born and bred, McKinley started a career in film and television upon entering her freshman year of high school. By 16, she had already signed with a New York talent agent, began taking weekly private voice instruction and attended a long series of intensive music programs that specialized in voice performance. After high school, she attended The Boston Conservatory of Music majoring in Musical Theater and has now held an accomplished career spread over 3 decades as a professional singer, dancer, actress, voice-over artist and print model.
McKinley is best known for her powerhouse voice and stylistic versatility and ability to cross genres effortlessly. She is renowned for her spirited and emotional performances with a presence on stage that is exuberant and passionate yet warm and disarming. She has shared the stage, and in some cases, recorded with greats such as Dick Johnson (Artie Shaw Orchestra), Clay Osborne, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Jay Geils, Fred Lipsius (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Jerry Portnoy (Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters), the legendary Herb Pomeroy and others.
After self-releasing several favorable straight-ahead jazz albums, McKinley drew from deeper influences of her youth and revealed a more “soulful” sounding jazz album in remembrance of the late Marvin Gaye. Her expressive work on this album generated a resounding and enthusiastic buzz – soon to follow was a signed record contract and an extended release of the project re-titled “Til Tomorrow - Remembering Marvin Gaye” (MAXJAZZ 2007). Jazztimes Magazine hailed the work as “a rich, sensual salute”. The album steady stream of success both nationally and internationally, legitimizing her standing as a prominent and salient new artist. With a heightened joy for the process of creativity and performance, McKinley is continuously evolving seeking imaginative ways to illustrate her passion and elevate her art.
McKinley has toured nationally and overseas and her music can be heard on over 500 national and international radio stations, cable and internet music outlets including iHeartRadio, Spotify, Pandora and XM Radio.
Currently, she is entering her 3 rd year as Assistant Professor in the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, continues to tour regularly and appear as a guest artist and is working on a new recording to be released in 2017.
“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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