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Nora McCarthy is a composer, poet, lyricist, an adept and exhilarating improviser, and educator.
"An intrepid and experimental vocalist, with a sound reminiscent of the great voices and horns in jazz. A devotee of classic jazz, global rhythms and the fine arts, McCarthy is a musical colorist eager to push the envelope."  Carlo Wolff
"On her newest CD, blesSINGS, she gets in plenty of memorable scatting, and emotionally, she expresses herself in different ways: as a performer and lyricist, as a composer, an arranger, and as a formidable scat singer." Alex Henderson, Jazz Inside Magazine
“There are many fine solos heard throughout the set with the singer taking her turn next to the instrumentalists. The music includes moody ballads and heated romps. Nora McCarthy’s adventurous improvising is on a high level along with the intelligence of her lyrics, making blesSINGS, one of her most rewarding recordings.” Scott Yanow, L.A. Times 



Nora McCarthy is a composer, poet, lyricist, writer, an adept and exhilarating improviser, and educator.

A devotee of classic jazz, global rhythms, and the fine arts, Nora is a musical colorist, and interpreter of the lyric—a beautiful balladeer in the tradition of the great Jimmy Scott. Her burnished alto voice is steeped in tradition and rich with a distinctive style that cuts a broad swath from classic jazz, the Great American Songbook, modern jazz, bebop, post-bop, soul, rhythm & blues, and beyond. An adept and exhilarating improviser, her sound is reminiscent of the great voices and horns in jazz.

McCarthy performs in every situation from duo to a twenty-piece large ensemble, from straight ahead jazz to the free and avant-garde idioms. Her original compositions and arrangements are stunning works of art, and she is a gifted poet and lyricist as well. Her powerfully moving delivery of the spoken word and interpretation of the lyric reflects a deep and intense emotional capacity that communicates directly to her audience heart to heart.

"McCarthy possesses the earthiness of an early blues singer, and the articulation, phrasing and timbre of a jazz trumpet."  Ramsey Ameen, Violinist with the Cecil Taylor Unit, Composer

VARIOUS RECENT PERFORMANCES: Ms. McCarthy and her Trio performed regularly at The Bar Next Door, a well-known jazz listening room in Greenwich Village. Other recent performances include:  The Triad Theater, NYC; El Taller Latino-Americano, NYC; Arete Venue and Gallery, Brooklyn; The Medicine Show Theatre; NYC; Joe’s Pub, NYC; Michiko Studios Music Series; NYC and for the past two decades McCarthy and her groups have performed at the top jazz venues, concert halls, galleries, theatres, performance spaces, universities and music cafes throughout New York City. Ms. McCarthy performed at North Hampton’s Jazz Shares Concert Series for UMass with the Jorge Sylvester Afro-Caribbean-Experimental Collective, a group she has been a member of since 2003; Roulette Performance Space in Brooklyn for the International Society for Improvising Musicians with Jane Ira Bloom as well as her voice and saxophone duo, A Small Dream In Red; the Blue Note with the ACE Collective, Birdland with her quintet, The Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria; La Platea, Panama, and the American Culture Center, Podgorica, Montenegro.

POET: Nora has been writing prose, poetry and word art for several decades which are intermingled with her other singing and vocal improvisations at her performances and in conjunction with her original compositions and those of the other projects and artists she is involved with such as the highly renowned Chorus Of Poets conducted by the late visionary Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris that Nora was a member of from 2005 to 2010.

McCarthy began writing the living poem, "Today In America" in 2001. It is a time lapsed look at ongoing events written in a protest poetic style with a broad and far reaching scope: government, politics, societal, racial, and cultural issues, civil and human rights, and environmental issues, with prophetic and philosophical overtones, anger, and outrage. Written for the composition of the same title composed by alto-saxophonist, Jorge Sylvester.

RADIO: Nora was the featured guest on Mitch Goldman’s DEEP FOCUS program on WKCR Columbia University Radio, NYC where she talked about one of her earlier influences, the great Jimmy Scott who she wrote an extended composition for entitled, "Faith In Time Jimmy's Song." Nora has also been featured on: WCPN, Cleveland, Ohio, Coffee Talk Jazz Radio L.A.; WMUR, Manchester, NH; UK JAZZ RADIO, WUSB Stony Brook, NY, WFDU – A Broad Spectrum – the Ladies of Jazz, Teaneck, NJ, AccuJazz Radio, Good Morning Montenegro TV show and Bourbon Street Jazz TV Show in Hartford, Connecticut.

GROUPS: Currently Nora leads the following creative ensembles: The Nora McCarthy Trio with guitarist Marvin Sewell and bassist Donald Nicks; The Nora McCarthy Qu’ART’et; The People of Peace Quintet, Manna For thought Improvising Trio and Modern Voice Ensemble..

Additionally, Nora co-leads several unique and groundbreaking projects: A Small Dream In Red, an innovative expressionist voice and saxophone duo; ConceptualMotion Orchestra, a 20-piece all original music ensemble. She is an integral member of the Jorge Sylvester ACE (Afro-Caribbean-Experimental) Collective, a sextet of improvising musicians consisting of: alto saxophone, voice, trumpet, piano electric bass, and drums. The ACE Collective performs original, new and experimental compositions that draw from the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora, jazz and the free music art forms; Trio and Quartet Imagination; and Spontaneous Expressions that is a combination of solos, duets and octet improvised music.

PODCAST: “Nora’s Jazz Show," "What's New?" and "Conversations," radio podcasts for Cadence Jazz World ( has presented the music and most recently, interviews, of creative jazz and avant-jazz, world jazz artists, singers and poets. She includes established and emerging artists.

PRODUCER: From 2017 – 2019, under the auspices of MIC~ART Productions, Nora produced Take It OUT!! Tuesday, a creative music series that presented New York City avant-garde instrumentalists, vocal artists, visual and movement artists, and poets at the legendary Medicine Show Theatre on 52nd Street in NYC.


COMPOSER | LYRICIST: Nora has penned lyrics to dozens of jazz standards in addition to her original music and that of other jazz composers. She has written over 30 compositions—some are tributes to:  Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Grover Washington, and Jimmy Scott. Others are graphic compositions, soundscapes and poetic architectures.

DISCOGRAPHY: Currently McCarthy has ten CDs out—seven as a leader.


Spontaneous Expressions - (RedZenRecords™) upcoming release 2021

Manna For Thought  (RedZenRecords™) - 2018

blesSINGS  (RedZenRecords™) - 2016

A Time For Love  (RedZenRecords™) - 2013

Spirit Driven  (RedZenRecords™) - 2013

In The Language Of Dreams  (RedZenRecords™) - 2013

Toward The Hill of Joy  - George Brandon-Blue Unity Ensemble (Blue Unity Music) - 2011

Circle Completing  (RedZenRecords™) - 2009

A Small Dream In Red  (Sundown Jazz) (RedZenRecords™) - 2005

red&blue  (RedZenRecords™) - 1998




  • MORAL SUPPORT a drama by Bill Considine  at Medicine Show Theatre, NYC,  January - February 2019 DIRECTOR, Félix E. Gardón ;

  • JAZZ STORIES w/ David Haney and Bernard Purdie, Steve Swell, Yael Archer Modiano, Adam Lane, at The Public Theater/Joe’s Pub February 2017;

  • LISTEN TO ME -- AN OPERA – (Music by: Rainy Orteca - Text by Gertrude Stein),12/3,4/ 2016, Medicine Show Theatre, 549 W 52nd St., New York, NY 10019.

  • A sold out performance with the Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective Spring 2016 in Northampton, Mass. for Jazz Shares, at the Parlor Room.

  • A sold out concert at the illustrious Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria debuting her original poetry as well as new compositions with Jorge Sylvester ACE Collective;

  • Podgorica, Montenegro with A Small Dream In Red, for Jazz Month as well as an appearance on Good Morning Montenegro.

  • McCarthy performed twice at the annual ISIM (International Society for Improvising Musicians), in 2013 with Jane Ira Bloom and her global ensemble at Roulette, Brooklyn, NY

  • ISIM Festival, 2014 with her innovative voice and saxophone duo, A Small Dream in Red at New School University, NYC;

  • Vision Festival, NYC, 2005 & 2010 with the ConceptualMotion Orchestra and Butch Morris’ Chorus of Poets respectively;

  • The Will Connell Memorial Residency at The Stone and St. Peter’s Church, NYC with the ACE Collective, in December, 2014 and January 2015 respectively.



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