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 9-2016
NORA McCARTHY BIO 2020
Nora McCarthy is a composer, poet, lyricist, an adept and exhilarating improviser, and educator.
Nora McCarthy has been a steady fixture on the New York music scene since 1996 when she recorded her first CD red&blue with pianist John diMartino, bass-Essiet Okon Essiet, drums-Alvester Garnett, t-sax-Mike Lee and percussionist, Sato Takeishi. She and her various groups have appeared in the top jazz rooms, performance spaces, concert halls, clubs, cafes and galleries in the city and elsewhere in the world.
McCarthy possesses the earthiness of an early blues singer, the articulation, phrasing and timbre of a jazz trumpet. An adept and exhilarating improviser, she 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 (over 30) are stunning works of art and she is 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.
“Nora’s vocal identity, aside from a basic jazz orientation, defies classification, and makes spare use of reflexive stylistic mannerisms. In the placement of her voice, Nora can evoke the power of a Malian Diva’s fearless candor, or perhaps a Corsican Voceratrice’s call to invisible worlds in the language of dreams. Her shaping of pitch often foregoes the fluid note-bending of the jazz singer in favor of the full press of a sculptor’s touch against viscous clay.” Ramsey Ameen, Violinist
VARIOUS RECENT PERFORMANCES: For the past seven years, Ms. McCarthy and her Trio have 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: In December 2019, Nora was the featured artist on world-renowned drummer William Hooker’s podcast, “The Lost Generation Outside the Mainstream” where she talked about some of her influences and her unique approach to improvisation. In January 2020, 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 in 2003. 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 - a free form improvisational trio with guitarist Dom Minasi and saxophonist Ras Moshe; and, The 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: For the past two years, “Nora’s Jazz Show”, a radio podcast for Cadence Jazz World () has presented the music of creative jazz and avant-jazz, world jazz artists, singers and poets. She includes both new and old works from both 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.
BOOK | EDUCATOR: Through her vast experience in the jazz and creative music field, Nora has developed a conceptual, and profoundly spiritual and personal approach to singing and improvisation. She is currently in the process of finalizing a practice guide for the creative singer called, The Spiritual Path To Finding Your Voice ™. McCarthy is also the founder of The Modern Voice Studio© and currently teaches privately, conducts workshops, and master classes.
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
Notable musicians Nora has performed with include Jazz Legends: Bassist Reggie Workman, Vibraphonist Warren Smith, renowned Tubist Jose Davilla, Drumming Great, Ronnie Burrage, Drumming Legend, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie.
Nora also has performed with the following outstanding jazz and creative musicians in her various groups and others of which she is a member: SAXOPHONE: Hayes Greenfield, Jay Rodriguez, Salim Washington, Craig Harris, Tim Armacost, Willie Smith, Mike Lee, James Stewart, Gene Jefferson, Ras Moshe; TRUMPET: Waldron Mahdi Ricks, Duane Eubanks, Josh Evans, Michael C. Lewis, Matt Shulman, Mac Gollahan, Chuck Mackinnon; TROMBONE: Al Patterson, Curtis Fowlkes, Steve Swell, Kuumba Frank Lacy, Craig Harris: TUBA: Aaron Johnson, Jose Davilla, Marshall Gilkes, Terry Greene; BASS: Jeffrey Carney, Santi Debriano, Gene Torres, Juini Booth, Matt Pavolka, Jennifer Vincent, Andy McCloud, Calvin Hill, Reggie Washington, Ken Filiano, Essiet Okon Essiet, Donald Nicks, Hill Green, Dominic Duval; GUITAR: Marvin Sewell, Dom Minasi; VIBRAPHONE: Bill Ware, Gunter Hampel; PIANO: Ray Gallon, Mike Longo, James Hurt, Lucian Ban, James Weidman, John diMartino, Andrew Bemkey, Eric Lewis, Pablo Vergara, Donald Smith, Carlos McKinney, Chip Crawford, Joshua Wolff, Tom Pernice, Richard Clements, Rahn Burton, Neal Creque, ACE Carl Carter; GUITAR: Marvin Sewell, Marvin Horne, Andrew Green; Barry Wedgle, Ron Affif, Dom Minasi; DRUM: Ronnie Barrage, Kenny Grohowski, Elliot Humberto Kavee, Dave Gibson, Gene Jackson, Derrik Phillips, David Silliman, Dafnis Prieto, Michael Wimberly, Mark Johnson, Francisco Mela, Jay Rosen; AFRICAN PERCUSSION: Neal Clark and Elymi Byrd, including the legendary Blues and Soul man, Wilson Pickett.
Nora graced the highly-coveted cover of the 2016 February/March issue of Jazz Inside Magazine as the featured artist; Nora was also featured in Italy’s foremost jazz magazine, The Jazz Magazine, alongside luminaries Ahmad Jamal and Phil Woods and her composition “My Dream” from her CD, red&blue, was included on the accompanying compilation CD. In addition, she was featured in Biltin, a jazz magazine in Podgorica, Montenegro.
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.